Chapter Sixteen: The Shootout at Blazer’s Mill
Within a few minutes, Paul had regained his composure and was himself again. He began to laugh as they strolled back down the main road in Lincoln.
“You know, Captain Purington really did make a fool of himself that day. He had no idea that Dr. Leverson had political connections. After their confrontation, the good doctor went back to his room and wrote two very strong letters. One was to the secretary of the interior, Carl Schurz, and the other to President Rutherford B. Hayes himself. I don’t know who invented that saying about the pen bein’ mightier than the sword, but it was sure true in this case. Dr. Leverson’s pen was mighty powerful indeed.”
“So what happened?” asked Jenny.
“The folks in Washington, D.C. began to take more of an interest in what was happenin’ around here in Lincoln County. And I got a new commanding officer. His name was Nathan Dudley.” He sighed. “At the time, I thought he would make things better. But I found out he was even worse then Captain Purington.”
“Did Captain Purington get fired for what he said about the Constitution?” asked Luke.
“Nah. Although I reckon he would’a had it comin’. But he’d already decided to go home to Ohio on an extended leave.”
“Yeah, he sure looked like he needed a vacation,” added Jenny. All three burst into laughter. Then, as they looked around, they realized it was morning once again.
“It’s been three days since Sheriff Brady and Deputy Hindman were gunned down,” announced Paul. “And the Lincoln County War is far from over. So who’s ready for another ride?”
“We are!” said Luke and Jenny together.
“Can I call Delilah this time?” asked Luke.
“I don’t see why not,” replied Paul.
Luke cupped his hands around his mouth. “Delilah! Here Delilah!”
His calls were answered by the sound of a distant whinny. Then once again Delilah appeared from a cloud of mist. Paul mounted the horse and helped Luke and Jenny aboard. They headed off into the mountains and soon came upon a lone traveler. He was riding a mule and leading a packhorse.
“That’s one of Dolan’s men,” said Paul. “He just sold his ranch and he’s leavin’ town. Apparently he’s one Dolanite who’s seen enough.”
”Who is he?” asked Jenny. “He looks familiar.”
“His name is Andrew Roberts. He goes by the name Buckshot Roberts. He’s probably killed more men than smallpox.”
All three starting laughing, then Paul explained that Buckshot Roberts was part of the posse that went after Mr. Tunstall, and his name was on one of Squire Wilson’s arrest warrants. No doubt the Regulators would still be after him. They rode further up into the mountains and came upon a riverbank dotted with several buildings. Paul told them they were on the upper bank of the northern Tularosa River, right on the edge of the Mascelaro Apache Indian Reservation. The place they were looking at was a sawmill called Blazer’s Mill It belonged to a former dentist by the name of Dr. Joseph Blazer. Dr. Blazer, he explained, had leased his big two-story house to an Indian agent whose wife would cook for passing travelers.
“You mean strangers could just knock on her door and she would invite them in and cook a meal for them?” asked Jenny.
“Uh huh,” said Paul.
“Wow,” she said. “Things were sure different in your time, Paul. We’d never do anything like that. Luke and I aren’t supposed to talk to strangers, much less invite them in the house. We’re not even allowed to open the door unless it’s someone we know.”
Buckshot Roberts had dismounted his mule in front of the main house. Paul rode up beside him, and while the three were dismounting Delilah, a man approached Roberts.
“Can I help you?”
“Good morning, Dr. Blazer,” replied Roberts. “I just sold my ranch and I’m waiting on my check. I’m hoping the mail carrier will have it for me today. Once it arrives I’ll be leaving for Las Cruses. Do you mind if I wait here for him?”
“Sorry, you’re going to have to move on. I’ve just gotten word that a band of men is heading this way. I suspect they’re Regulators, and I don’t want any gunplay on my property.”
“Thank you kindly for the warning, doctor.”
Roberts soon left, heading off on one of the smaller trails instead of the main road. A short time later, the Regulators arrived. Luke and Jenny noticed that both Billy Bonney and Jim French looked uncomfortable in their saddles. With the passing of only three days since they were shot, their wounds were still fresh.
The Regulators dismounted their horses. One of them knocked on the door and asked for a meal. The others took the horses to a corral. It was across the river and surrounded by a high board fence. Once their horses were settled, they went inside to eat, leaving John Middleton to stay outside to guard the house. As he sat on the doorstep, a dog came up to him.
“Hey there fellow, how are you today?”
While he was busy petting the dog, Luke, Jenny, and Paul sat down next to him. They noticed the dog seemed to be staring at them.
“Can the dog see us?” asked Luke.
“I’m not sure,” replied Paul. “Maybe. Dogs can see lots of things that people can’t.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Jenny. “Look over there.”
She saw Buckshot Roberts tying his packhorse to a tree. He got back on his mule and rode toward a buckboard wagon – the mail wagon – approaching the main house.
“Roberts doesn’t realize the Regulators are still here,” said Paul. “He can’t see their horses behind that high-fenced corral. He must think they’ve already gone.”
John Middleton stopped petting the dog, taking an interest in the man who was approaching the mail wagon. As soon as Middleton heard the man identify himself as Roberts, he jumped up and ran inside the house to alert the others.
“There’s a mighty well-armed man on a mule out here! I heard him say his name is Roberts.”
They could hear one of the Regulators inside talking and shouting in excitement. One shouted, “I’ve got an arrest warrant for Buckshot Roberts!”
Moments later, Frank Coe went out on the porch and approached Roberts. He had left his pistol and gun belt on his saddle horn, but carried his Winchester in his hand. It was apparent that the two men knew one another as they shook hands and went around the corner of the house to talk things over.
“Whew! That was close,” said Jenny.
“It’s not over yet, Jenny,” said Paul. “Come with me.“
He led Luke and Jenny around the corner to where the two men sat talking on the steps in front of another doorway. The dog sat nearby. They noticed that Buckshot Roberts had his Winchester lying across his lap.
“You must surrender,” said Frank Coe.
“No! I can’t do that! The Kid is with you, and he’ll kill me on sight!” “No, that won’t happen,” said Frank Coe, trying to reassure him.
“I’ll stay right by you. I promise, you won’t get hurt.”
“No! I’m not going to do that. Don’t think I don’t know about what happened to Morton and Baker! I’m not going to end up like them.”
The two men sat and talked awhile longer, but Buckshot Roberts stubbornly refused to surrender himself to the Regulators.
“I guess you can’t really blame him,” said Jenny, “after what just happened with Sheriff Brady, I’d be scared, too.”
They heard the sound of footsteps coming up behind them. Three other Regulators were approaching: Charlie Bowdre, with John Middleton and George Coe coming along as backup.
“Throw up your hands, Roberts!” shouted Charlie Bowdre.
“No!” he shouted, rising to his feet and raising his rifle to his hip.
BANG. Both men fired at the same time. The dog took off running, and Luke and Jenny both ducked. Luke saw a bullet hit Charlie Bowdre’s gun belt buckle. A moment later, they looked up and saw that Buckshot Roberts had been shot in the stomach and George Coe had been shot in the hand. Charlie Bowdre’s gun belt was now lying on the boardwalk. Paul said that Buckshot’s bullet had ricocheted off the belt buckle and into George Coe’s hand, blowing off part of a finger. Other Regulators ran up to the scene as Buckshot Roberts backed away, all the while pumping his Winchester from his hip. He pushed open the door behind him and backed into the doorway of Dr. Blazer’s office. Roberts kept firing. A bullet hit John Middleton in the chest. Another hit Regulator Doc Scurlock’s pistol, still in its holster. The bullet then burned down his leg.
“Yowiee! I’ll bet that smarts!” shouted Luke as he and Jenny ducked again.
“Look, Luke!” shouted Jenny over the gunfire. She rose up and pointed at one of the men. “There’s Billy Bonney!"
Buckshot Roberts saw Billy, too, and took a shot at him, grazing him on the arm. Billy backed away, looked over at Roberts’ mule, and saw the pistol and gun belt hanging over the saddle horn. As soon as Roberts had emptied his Winchester, Billy made a dash for the gun belt. Along the way, he ran across the porch, shoving his own Winchester into Roberts’ chest and squeezing the trigger. But Buckshot Roberts was too fast for him. The very moment the Kid fired, Roberts shoved him in the stomach with the barrel of his empty rifle. Billy was knocked aside, causing his bullet to hit the doorjamb. As pieces of wood flew off the doorjamb, Billy backed away a second time.
For the moment it seemed that luck was on Buckshot Roberts’ side. Although seriously wounded, he managed to stumble into Dr. Blazer’s office, where he found a Springfield rifle mounted on the wall and a box of cartridges nearby.
“He just found himself about a thousand rounds of ammunition,” said Paul.
“This is not good!” shouted Luke. He and his sister watched Roborts pull a mattress from a bed and barricade himself in.
“Go in there and take that man out!” shouted Dick Brewer to one of Blazer’s men.
“No! I’m not going in there.”
“I’ll have that man even if I have to pull this house down!” He turned to Dr. Blazer and the Indian agent “Get Roberts out of the house!”
“No!” shouted Dr. Blazer. “I want you and your men off my property! NOW!”
Brewer ignored him. “What do l have to do? Burn this house down? Fine! I’ll go and get him myself.” He ran off with his rifle, scurrying across the river at a footbridge.
“Is he leaving?” asked Luke.
“Not exactly,” replied Paul.
Luke and Jenny watched as he made his way toward the mills. He was at least a hundred yards away when he came upon a big pile of logs. He crawled behind them.
“From that vantage point, he can see the entire side of the house, as well as the door to Dr. Blazer’s office,” said Paul.
A moment later, Dick Brewer rose up and fired. His bullet hit the wall behind Roberts, knocking pieces of adobe to the ground. Buckshot Roberts looked up to see the gunsmoke rise from behind the pile of logs. He raised Dr. Blazer’s Springfield, aimed at the smoke, and waited – his trigger finger ready. Within minutes, his patience paid off. When Dick Brewer raised his head again, Buckshot Roberts fired. The shot killed him instantly.
“Oh no!” shouted Jenny.
“What happens now?” asked Luke as the smoke cleared.
“Well, after that, no one else was gonna try to take out Roberts. Everyone knew he had a fatal wound, so all they had to do was wait for the inevitable.”
He explained that in the meantime, Dr. Blazer and the Indian agent did what they could for the wounded Regulators. Then they loaded them on a wagon and sent them over the mountain to Fort Stanton. Along the way, they met up with Dr. Appel.
“He’s our surgeon at Fort Stanton,” explained Paul. “Someone from Blazer’s Mill sent for him.”
Finally a little old man waving a white flag approached Dr. Blazer’s office. He managed to convince Buckshot Roberts to lay down his rifle so Dr. Blazer could attend to him. But Andrew “Buckshot” Roberts would die the following day.
“I always thought it was like in the movies,” said Luke. “Someone gets shot and boom! They’re dead.”
“Not always,” said Paul. “Roberts was shot in the stomach. That’s what we call a gut shot. That’s one of the worst kinds’a gunshot wounds you can get. It really messes up your insides, and even in your time, with all your modern medicine, it can still be fatal. In my time, no one survived a gut shot. Even so, it sometimes takes a long time for the person to die, and it can be a very slow and painful death.”
Paul told them that both Dick Brewer and Buckshot Roberts would be given a proper Christian burial behind the big house. But afterwards, public sympathy would again turn against Mr. McSween and the Regulators. Too many folks thought Buckshot Roberts was outgunned and that is was not a fair fight.