JOURNALS

Sharon Kennison

 

            She stood, slightly apart from the crowd, her eyes sharply following the box on the table. She knew it would be auctioned soon, and didn’t want to miss getting the bid. She frequently attended these auctions, a chance for people to clear out their houses and storage sheds, a chance for them to gain more room to gain more stuff. Bits of history that they neither cared about or knew about. Family heirlooms thrown away like yesterday’s news. But she knew what something was worth, what history it told. And often, in buying these items, she would find things even she wasn’t expecting. That is what made this all the more fun.

            Pulling her mind back to the present, Debra watched the progression of the box on the table, edging ever closer to the auctioneer. The box contained only one item that she was interested in, a small, circular metal plate. Time had not been friendly to this plate, as evident by the accumulation of rust and nicks. To many, just a piece of junk. But to her trained eye, she saw it as it was when it was new. Several hundreds of years old. So many miles it had traveled, to end up here, in this box. Now, she just needed to make sure it finished the journey to her home.

            As she waited for the item to come up for bid, she glanced around at the crowd. A typical mix of those interested in things and those that just drop in, hoping for a bargain. No one else had seemed to express an interest in the plate, as none had picked it up. That was a good sign, at least for now it was. But she herself had not touched the plate, only having looked at it from a side glance. She hoped not too many others had done the same thing.

            Her thoughts were quickly brought back to the present, as the auctioneer picked up the box which contained her treasure. She listened as he started to describe the item, and released a small sigh as she realized that even he did not know what he was holding.

            The auctioneer was not having any luck getting bidders on the plate, and just as she was ready to bid, he dropped the box which held her plate on top of another box, which held she knew not what. They had tried to sell the other box, with no bidders. As was their style, they often combined boxes to sell, anything to get it all cleared up. She had lugged home many a box of extra stuff even she didn’t want to get the item that she did. And if that is what she had to do, she would.

            Just as the auctioneer was ready to no sale the items, she eased her hand up, doing the minimum bid. The auctioneer caught her slight movement, thanking her for her bid, and continuing his sing-song style. No other bids were forthcoming, and in a short length of time, she was the proud owner of two boxes of stuff. She carried her treasure to her car, and placing it in the trunk, drove away towards home, unaware of how this purchase was going to change her life forever.

 

            Debra spent the rest of the evening cleaning her new found treasure, until the plate shown like it did when it was new. She tried to straighten the dents as best she could, but time had not been kind to the plate. She knew it deserved a place of respect and rest, so she carefully placed it in its new home, inside her lighted display cabinet, where it found a home with many other treasures rescued from unwanted boxes all across the state. Standing back, she admired her new piece of history, taking careful note of where she had put the identifying numbers and letters from the back of the plate, ready to head to the library tomorrow to do as much research as possible on the history of this plate. As it was Saturday, and she didn’t have to work, she intended to spend all day there if necessary, gathering what ever she could find. In her mind’s eye, a perfect way to spend the day.

            She stepped back and towards the table, where sat the remaining purchases from the auction. She had not spent time yet with the contents of the other box, it just being a means to an end, which was the plate she really wanted. But now that she had it, she felt a tug towards the box, to see what was inside it. Never one to avoid a mystery, she sat down, and pulling the box towards her, opened the lid to see inside.

            She slowly reached inside the box, removing old newspapers. She read the dates across the top of each page, dating back to the 1930’s. Some were very yellow and difficult to read, many were shredded, as if torn to protect something else. There were old catalogs, and old receipts from the grocery store. Like someone had just emptied a drawer into the box. She lifted each piece out, glancing at them, but not finding anything interesting in what she was viewing. Until she reached the bottom of the box.

            Her hand closed around a book, brown covered and well worn. No writing was on the outside of the book. She glanced back into the box, and saw to her amazement several similar books, each with the same brown cover, devoid of writing. Taking the top book out of the box, she turned it over, looking at the back, which again had no words or markings, except for having been handled many times.  She eased back in her chair, and carefully opened the front cover. On the inside of the front cover was a simple sentence……Next chapter in my life.  She moved her eyes to the first page, and saw handwriting. The lines were bold and confident, moving in a continuous motion, as evidenced by lack of blobs of ink, which occurred when someone hesitated while writing, leaving the pen touching the paper. Intrigued, she started to read.

 

            February 24, 1922

            Happy Birthday to me. Wasn’t sure I would ever live to see this day, but here it is. Today I am 71 years old. In some ways it seems like a long time, especially given my life. But in many it seems like just yesterday that Jed and I were running the back roads between our houses, hunting adventure and a way of escaping those never ending chores. I guess if we had known how our lives were going to change, we wouldn’t have minded doing chores as much. But being kids, all we could see was how it interfered in what we really wanted to do. Life does have a way of playing tricks on all of us.

            But lately, life has been good to me. I enjoy being surrounded by family and friends, doing what I can manage to do these days. Too many hours spent in a saddle and sleeping on a hard ground have taken their toll on my body, and I don’t move as well as I used to. But luckily, my mind remains as sharp as ever, for which I am very grateful. So I spend my days, telling stories of how the west used to be, teaching the young men the secrets of playing poker, and reliving the days of old with my best friend. I guess that is what helps to keep me young. Missing the one thing which would make my life complete. But guess one can’t have everything.

 

            She stopped reading, frowning. Now what did he mean by that? And who could he be? This must be some kind of diary, a journal through his life. Could the other books be earlier journals? She reached into the box, pulling out 3 more books. Easing each open carefully, she scanned the dates at the top of the page.   1896, 1880, 1864. She closed each book, carefully holding them in her hands. She marveled at the history which much be contained inside each book, the thoughts of someone long since gone. A true walk through past times. This was going to be interesting. She rose, and taking the four books with her, placed them on her nightstand, intending on beginning her reading this evening. With tomorrow being Saturday, and the only plans she had included the library, she could stay up late reading, and possible find more information about the writer. She nodded her head, stepping away to fix herself something to eat.

 

            Later that night, she took a long, hot bath to relax, and dressing in her comfortable jammies, crawled into bed, placing her cup of herbal tea on the nightstand. She adjusted the light to best reduce glare, and picking up the top book, having earlier placed them in chronological order, carefully opened the front cover and began to read.

 

            October, 1864

            Jed and I been here for almost a month now, and I hate it. Jed is so small, and the others try to hurt him. I try to protect him, but it ain’t easy. I hear him cry for his Ma, and I also want mine. But they are all gone now, it is just him and me.

            Peoples said it would be better for us heres, but I can’t see how that is possible. It is cold, there aren’t blankets to keep warm, not like there were at home. Jed is so skinny, I’s try to share my food with him. I’s don’t tell him I am hungry, else he wouldn’t take it. He needs it more than I. I’s gets too scared that he will not live to see the next day, than I will really be alone. I have to find a ways to gets us out of here, but I’s just don’t know how to do that. I miss my mom and dad so much, she squinted to try to make out the writing, but it was smeared. Maybe with a tear? She tried to make out the writing, but decided to just move ahead, hoping what was missing would be filled in later.  hit him and call him names and it makes me so mad. The last time I stood up for him, well, she beat me instead, buts I am stronger and can take it. Jed can’t. Will this ever end?

 

            March, 1865

            We keep hearing about the war and how things are turning. Looks like the south will lose. All those dead for nothing. I keeps hearing about the Raiders, and know that someday I will meet up with them, and will repay them for what they did to my family, and to Jed’s.

            Jed remains smaller than the other boys, but they leave him alone, most of the time. When they don’t they answer to me. I have started to make night raids into the kitchen, bringing back enough food so’s that Jed isn’t as hungry. They noticed it was gone, but can’t figure out who is doing it. They aren’t as smart as me. Soon, we will be leaving. Not too soon enough for either one of us.

 

            February, 1867

            Happy Birthday to me. Today I am 16, and it is time to leave this place. The guys I have been running with are going to be here tonight, and Jed and me’s leaving. I can’t take him with me, but I can get him out of here. He won’t understand, but he is too young. But he will be okay. He has grown over the last few years, and is taller now. He practices with that handgun every day, and is getting good at drawing. James’ parents said he could stay with them for a while, until he is ready to head out on his own. Don’t know what I am going to do without him. But headed for what I am, it is too dangerous. I don’t want him hurt, or worse yet killed. He’s gonna hate me, but at least he will be alive, and out of here.

 

            April, 1867

            It is cold tonight, can’t build a fire because it might be seen. That means cold coffee and hard tack, again. Can barely see to write this, as the moon is not too bright tonight. Running away has been harder than I thought it would be. But still not as hard as the Boys school. The worse part, I miss Jed. He wasn’t happy when I rode away and left him. I was watching the house when he got up the next morning, and read the note. He yelled and screamed my name, he hates me so much. I almost went to him, but know that would not help, only make things worse. He needs to make his own way now, and it isn’t the road that I am headed down. The guys are talking about robbing a store to get some money and supplies. I don’t like that idea, but not sure what else to do. Too many years of being hungry just kinda gets to a man after a while. I hope Jed forgives me one day.

 

            She closed the book, aware that the private thoughts were exposed to her. Still she didn’t know this person’s name, or where he was from. She was amazed at how his writing had progressed from young boy to young man. And the feelings he had for the younger boy named Jed were apparent. Did he ever find him again? Guess she would have to read to find out. She took a sip of her now cold tea, and reopened the book, moving to the next page.

 

            December, 1870

            Christmas is nearing, and with it is the sadness. Sadness of being alone, even with this bunch of guys. Sadness of not being able to be with Jed, or my folks. Not being able to talk to others about them. Because it hurts too much.

            The last few months and years have seen a lot of changes. I ride with the Plummer Gang now, and if I don’t really like what I do, at least I am learning, and I eat, most of the time. It seems I have a nack with numbers and cards, having learned recently a game called Poker. Figures come easily to me, and I am often the one to figure out how much each ones take is from the jobs. I have been listening to the tumblers of a safe too, trying to figure out how to open one without having to use force. The numbers make a sound when they click into alignment, and that is what I listen for. The guys are also starting to teach me about dynamite and how to use it without betting blowed up.

            I read everything I can find to read, and I really like it. It takes me away from here, to a time when things were better. In my mind, I am that knight on a shining horse, riding into rescue the girl. I read the dime novels too, laughing at what is said about some of the “heros” of the time. Will I ever be one of those heros?

            Snow is starting to fall, and with it, sadness returns. Jed loved the snow, to make snowmen, and snow angels as Ma taught us. I wonder where he is now? I ride back that way every once  in a while, to the place where I left him. I even knocked on the door once, but the person who answered was not someone I knew. She said the family had left many months before, taking everyone with them. She didn’t remember a corn-colored hair young boy, tho. So I guess Jed is lost to me forever. I hope that, where ever he is, he is safe, and happy, and not hungry.

            They gang is planning a job tomorrow, so I guess I had better get some sleep. Merry Christmas Ma, and Pa, and wherever you are too Jed.

 

            July, 1873

            I guess sometimes miracles do come true, at least this time it did. I was in town the other day, and when I looked up, I saw him. Standing there with his back to the wall. He had grown taller, filled out some. But it was him. He wore a gun strapped to his hip, tied around his leg. And he wore it as if he knew, really knew how to use it. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we each understood.

            We spent hours talking over a couple of beers in the saloon. The barkeep didn’t want to serve him, cause he looked so young, but when you ride with a hard gang, you get hard in the process. And they finally served him. Jim Santana is running the gang now, and things are getting better. We spend many hours talking, and planning on jobs. It is good.

            Jed caught me up on his life, and I on mine. But we skirted the real issue for a long time. Finally, I explained to him what happened and why. He said he understood, and I think he did. At least I hope he does. I guess, In a way, we both have grown up too fast and too hard. I just hope that we can make a fresh start of it now.

            Jim was not happy when I brought Jed back to the Hole. They clashed in a lot of ways, and that can’t be good. But we are together again, and I intend it to stay that way. The boys of the gang really made fun of Jed, called him Kid, and laughed at him, cause he looks so young. But I can tell you, that stopped when he drew his gun. Man, he is fast. And accurate too. Now, they call him Kid Curry. And he doesn’t seem to mind. It is good to have him back with me again.

 

            August, 1877

            Things have gotten bad over the past few years, what with Jim in prison. I have tried to run the gang, and things are getting better. With Kid at my back, I at least don’t have to watch from that direction. Kyle and some of the boys are OK with me and Kid running things. Wheat, well that is another matter. Some of the boys have left, and there are some new ones. And as always, there is that adjustment time. Often ending with Kid showing them just who is boss. Even outlaws learn to respect the gun.

            The last few jobs have been good ones. We are really getting the hang of this bank and train robbery thing. I run the tumblers when ever possible, even though we still do some daytime back hold ups. Trains, now they are getting faster and harder to stop. I wish sometimes that I could get out of this, but not sure how to do that. Good at the dynamite, but don’t want to do that forever either. Have been working with Nitroglycerin, and it works, but that can kill, so really am careful with that. Have to find a better way for Kid and myself. Not sure, but know it is out there somewhere. Have to go now. Lom is here and ready to talk about the next job. I don’t see him hanging around much longer either. He is a good guy. He needs a good life.

 

            She closed the book, at the end of the pages in this first journal. She was a litle closer to finding out the answer to her questions, she now had a name, but she wanted the name of the person’s who’s thought were filling the pages with memories. She might not know his name yet, but knew she was going to enjoy the journey into finding the answers.

 

           

            She slipped out of bed, refilling her cup with hot tea, finding that even though the tea was herbal and usually caused her to fall to sleep easily, she was wide awake. Anxious to find out more about her mysterious writer, she climbed back into bed, and picked up the second journal. Carefully opening the front cover, she began to read.

 

            September, 1880

            Well, we did it. We talked to Lom, and he talked to the Governor of the Territory of Wyoming about amnesty. Just think about it, amnesty. To be able to ride the country free men, without posses chasing us. No more worry about getting shot and killed. Able to live a life like other men, with a home and a family. Kid isn’t sure we can get it, but I think we can. Lom spoke to Gov. John Wesley Hoyt, who has been in office for 2 years now. He says to stay out of trouble for about a year, and than we should be able to get a clear record. We only stayed in town long enough to help Lom out. He is our friend, so we don’t want to get him in trouble. He is worried about us, but I think he trusts us too. I think Kid developed a crush on Miss Porter from the bank but we both know that until this is resolved, we have to remain unattached. Well, hopefully soon I can write of how it feels to get the amnesty, and how it feels to once again start a new life.

 

            She read through the pages and saw stories in her head. How they had met Big Mac McCreedy and Senior Armanderez, and the bust of Caesar. She read the tales of Mary Cunningham, and finding Jim Plummer in the town of Wickenburg. Story after story held her spell bound, as she got to know this strange man and Kid Curry better, through the writings of a man she still didn’t know what to call. She knew that Kid was now referred to as Thaddeus Jones, an alias to help hide them when out in public. His marksmanship had increased, and he was one of the most feared gunmen of his time. He seldom had to shoot, but when he did, he was accurate. The amazing thing, they never shot or killed anyone during a hold up, and did their best to continue that through the years.

            One more entry she read before closing the second journal. It was the final entry in the book, and filled with sadness.

 

            July, 1887

            There are times when it seems this nightmare will never have an end. In the past seven years, we have seen six different men hold the title of Governor of Wyoming. And with each successive appointment, our plight was once again brought to the attention of the governor by our friend Lom. We thought we had it made when George Baxter was appointed, only to have him removed in the same year. This year, Thomas Moonlight was appointed Governor, and I fear that we will never see our amnesty. It seems that granting amnesty to two former outlaws doesn’t rank high on the list of things to do. Will it ever happen? Kid is as disappointed as I am, and we are both starting to think it won’t. Lom is hopeful, but I see it in his eyes at times too. He is still sheriff of Porterville, and we occasionally drop in to see him. But for the most part, stay out of Wyoming. I miss the boys at the Hole, and often wonder how Kyle and  the rest are doing these days. Maybe it would be easier to go back to the outlaw life, but after so many years, it does get to be a habit. So will stick it out a little longer to see what happens.

 

            She closed the book, and returned it to the nightstand. Clicking off the light, she reflected on what she had read. Did they ever receive their amnesty? Would she ever figure out who was writing those pages? How would their story end?

 

            The early morning sun was peeking through the window, but even as early as it was rising this morning, she was already up and dressed. She found she had trouble sleeping, having troubling dreams which included faces she couldn’t see, names she couldn’t hear. Safes, and banks, and trains, and guns. And a room with a door, one which was closed and locked. The key was in her hand, but she couldn’t find the lock. The lock, she decided, was in the remaining journals.

 

            Picking up her coffee cup, she sat at the kitchen table, and carefully opened the next book, starting to read the entries.

           

            May, 1896

            Well, it has happened. Never thought it would, with me being an old 45, but today it did. Today, I got married. Kid was there as my best man. Lom was there too. I was hoping the Devil’s Hole Gang would have made it, but I haven’t heard from Kyle and the boys for a long time now, so not even sure they are still alive. And getting married was the last thing I intended, at least not until after the amnesty came through. But we are still finding ourselves waiting. And we no longer hope.

            I met this lady quite by accident, and fell in love. I avoided her for a while, but began to realize that if I wanted a future, I had to go after it, and not wait any longer. She knows the truth, who I really am. We are married using my other name, Joshua Smith. I hate that she can’t carry my real name, but we both know that would not be smart. The wanted posters are still out there, abet covered by dust now. Some people have never heard of Hannibal Heyes and the Devil’s Hole Gang, and I like it that way. But there are still a few. The Pinkerton agency still searches for us, as does the Bannerman Detective Agency. Ole Harry, he drops around every once in a while, but never stays long. Doesn’t want to be recognized, just like always. He does get into trouble, and expects us to help him get out. And we don’t mind. Not like we have a lot of friends who know who we really are.

            Kid lives just down the road, continues to use his alias as well. He married a few years ago, and has a couple of kids, one which looks just like he did when he was small. The baby, a girl, looks like her Ma, except she has Kid’s yellow hair and curls. He does well at ranching, something he has always loved to do. Growing things in the ground, raising horses. It is a good life.

            I work in town, keeping books at the local bank. Yeah, it is funny, they don’t know the truth. If they ever knew that Hannibal Heyes was keeping books at the local bank, can you imagine the sparks that would fly? But I keep quiet, and do my job. Which I do like. It was good we got out when we did. Banks are more safe, security guards are everywhere now. Tumblers are quiet. Trains are faster. Life is changing.

            Life in general is changing. Everywhere I look around I see it. Telephone lines are being strung between towns. Soon you will be able to talk across the country to someone living in New York. I would like to get to New York someday. Like to see what it is all about.

            But for now, I will content myself to my wife. Hopefully, soon, we will have some kids too. Can’t let Kid one up me. It is a good life. Only one thing missing.

            Governors keep coming and going. Francis Warren was elected Governor of the new state of Wyoming, and we both thought we had a chance, but heard the same song and dance again. We have stopped hoping. Lom feels bad, but it isn't his fault. He tried. But I don’t think he tries anymore. That’s ok too. He has a life as well, a wife and kids. He still does some sheriff work, but mainly works as an advisor. And raises some cows. He has made a good life for himself. A true example of how someone can change their life around. I just wish….but I guess it doesn’t pay to wish too much. Just be grateful for what I do have. My wife, my good friend, and some memories both good and bad. I read my past writings from time to time. I am amazed sometimes at everything we did. I have never let my wife read them though, cause I am afraid it will make me look bad in her eyes. She is so wonderful, and I do so love her. Better she not know everything. Safer that way.

 

            She continued to read through the journal, marveling in his adventures. The birth of his son, than his daughter. The land he acquired and tended. Kid’s family, and his place. The Sunday’s spent together. The private hours of grief remembering the one thing he didn’t receive. And his feeling of lose over not being able to present to his wife a clean slate. She read about the celebration of when his daughter married, and the sadness when he buried his first grandchild. Seems sorrow was destined to follow him somehow. She read through the stories of the changing of the governors, and how each one made him feel even sadder. Because no matter what he was able to achieve, this one thing seemed to always elude him. And his life was not totally complete because of this.

 

            Early morning found her picking up the last of the books, turning the pages past what she had already read. This book was shorter than the rest, ending after one more entry. She noticed that the handwriting was decidedly female, not the bold male stroke she had become accustomed to reading. Tears filled her eyes as she completed the last entry.

 

            October, 1925

            Today is the saddest day of my life, because today I buried my one true love. I only had him for 29 years, but they were the best years of my life, and I will be forever grateful to him for those. My husband, for his 74 years, lived a very adventurous life. He has done more in those years than most people would be in twice that length of time. But for the 30 years that I have known him, he has carried a secret. One which he thinks went to the grave with him. But I knew. I knew of his secret past, and his desire for amnesty, a clearing of his name. He never knew I read his journals, never knew I understood his secret pain.

            I see Thaddeus walking to the cemetery now as I write this. I don’t know how he is going to be able to survive without Joshua. I have never seen two men so close, they actually read each other’s minds. I don’t imagine Thaddeus will be around long now, as he doesn’t seem to have any drive left. It was like it died with Joshua. I only hope that it will be a peaceful passing.

            I would like to do for my husband that one thing he was not able to do when he was alive. But as I don’t know how long I myself will be on this earth, I am not sure I will be able to do it. I can only hope.

            I did as he asked, put the name Joshua Smith on the headstone. But in smaller letters, I had them write…in loving memory H. Heyes. Someday I plan to tell the kids the truth. I suspect that they know already. What with the stories that their Dad used to tell them. But they never let on to him. They won’t love him any less. They have always been proud of him and knowing how he has turned his life around will only increase their pride in their father.

           

            She closed the book slowly, tears falling down her cheeks. To have died, without ever achieving his true goal of amnesty, that has to be the worse feeling ever. She slowly wiped her face, trying to make sense of everything.

            Reaching out, she picked up a pen and paper and wrote the names Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry on the top sheet. Picking up her purse, she left the house, headed towards the library. The plate was long forgotten in her quest to find whatever information she could on this pair of outlaws which time seemed to have forgotten.

 

            Hours later, armed with page after of page of information, she knew a lot about this pair of outlaws. Their misdeeds, their plan to change their ways, and their unsuccessful bid for amnesty. She also found out that living relatives of these two lived in this very town, and they were buried in a cemetery not an hour from here. Stopping to fill up her car, she drove to the cemetery, camera in hand. It took a while, but at last she was able to find the markers she was looking for.

 

            Bending down, she eased the grass from in front of the gravestone.  Reading the marker, she found that tears once again filled her eyes.

 

            Joshua Smith

            1851-1925

            Beloved husband and father

           

            In loving Memory, H. Heyes

 

            And to the left, not two markers away, another stone.

 

            Thaddeus Jones

            1853-1925

            Beloved husband and father

 

            In loving Memory, J. Curry

 

            She could tell that Mrs. Smith had been right, that Kid didn’t last long without Heyes around. At least, in the end, they were together.

            She spent some time, pulling weeds, taking some pictures, and placing flowers at both markers. And while she was sitting there, a plan began to develop. One which, she hoped, would help ease the hurt of many years. And hopefully finally bring a lasting peace to two very deserving men.

 

            She spent the next many months making telephone calls and driving to meet people. She had some doors closed in her face, as some people didn’t want to bring up the past. In the end, she managed to meet with almost every member of Heyes’ and Curry’s families, gathering information, stories, details of their lives. And gathering family feelings regarding her planned task. She just hoped she was up to the task.

 

            Debra sat quietly in the chair, watching the proceedings. Surrounding her were some of the most influential people of the state of Wyoming. They were the ones that dictated how everyone’s lives would flow, in a fashion. She had never attended one of these sessions, but was pleased when she was placed on the docket so quickly. She glanced up into the balcony, where her eyes moved from person to person, each interested in this case, each hoping for some closure to the saga which had gone on for far too long. She looked at each face, both young and old, each with the same look of pain and hope. She prayed that she was going to be able to ease the former from their faces.

 

            “The next case on the docket……A review of Amnesty for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.” The speaker paused, frowned, and said, “Who?”

            She stood up, approaching the podium in the middle of the floor, placing her briefcase on the floor beside the stand.

            Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. You’ve never heard of them?”

            The speaker’s face flushed red, “No, I can’t say that I have.”

            “Than let me educate you,” and turning her eyes to the remaining members on the panel, “and to the rest of you that might need it.”

            She sorted her papers on the stand, keeping them in order for referral. She had practiced this speech for weeks, and doubted that she would need the prompting, but was leaving nothing to chance from here on out.

            “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were two famous men, who were born in the mid-1800’s. How did they become famous you ask? Well, many would say they were famous for robbing banks and trains. But I am here to say that they are famous for all the good deeds they accomplished, the families they raised, the people that they protected. In all their years, they did so much more good than they ever did bad. And they wanted only one thing in return, to clear their names.”

            She stepped away from the podium.

            “In 1880, John Hoyt, than appointed governor of the territory of Wyoming, made an agreement with them. If they would stay out of trouble for a year, he would grant them an amnesty, a pardon for their crimes. See, in all the banks and trains they robbed, they never shot anyone. In fact, they seldom ever shot anyone, for any reason.”

            She paced the floor, moving from side to side, making eye contact with each member of the panel, who would decide this case.

            “But the problem comes in that this governor didn’t keep his promise. He was in office until1882, and never once granted these two men amnesty. And it was passed down from Governor to Governor, each promising the same thing, and each breaking their promise.”

            She moved again towards the podium.

            “And most people would have given up, returned to a life of crime, reverting to a past life. But not these two, no. They continued to live a good life. They never gave up hope entirely, even taking it to their graves.”

            She turned her hands towards the balcony, encompassing the members of the audience there.

            “These are the descendents of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. They have numerous stories to tell about their ancestors, the deeds that they did, the lives that they changed. Stories which will be passed down through history of a pair of wonderful guys who just loved life, and lived it to the fullest. Fathers who danced at their daughters’ weddings, husbands who held the hand of their wife when she was in labor. Grandfathers who rocked the babies to sleep with tales of the old west.”

            She turned towards the panel once again.

            “And men who could not tell people their greatest secret, who they really were. Families which have lived with alias’ their entire lives, because they couldn’t afford for people to know who they really were.”

            She picked up pages of paper, lifting it high enough for the members of the panel to see. From the side doors entered two young men, each carrying a stack of folders. They started passing out the folders, one to each member of the panel.

            “You are now receiving copies of the documents of which I am speaking. Some are from the history books, some from the court house, information which is part of the public record. Some are copies of pages from journals written by Hannibal Heyes, in which he describes their bid for amnesty, as well as events of their lives. Also contained in those folders are accounts from family members. Memories of these two men. Unfortunately, no one is left living who actually knew these two. But many have heard the stories from those that did know them.”

            She stepped away from the podium once again, easing a walk in front of the panel of men.

            “Also, contained in those folders, are stories of the people that these two men helped. I have contacted as many family members of those people as possible, and have attached their responses. You will see that as a whole, people are very willing to give an account of two very good people, who were willing to help others, even if it might mean a bad outcome for themselves.”

            “Now, it is your turn. It is time for the Governor of this state to step up to the plate, to correct a terrible wrong. To do what your predecessor promised, and never did. It is time to grant to these two, an amnesty. Grant to the family a clean slate for their ancestors. Let them be able to proudly proclaim that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were honorable men, good men, and let the history books record that the state of Wyoming has granted them the amnesty they deserved.”

            She turned and looked up, once again, towards the family members in the balcony. She could see tears flowing down the faces of many, hands grasped by several.

            “Will these,” waving her hand once again towards the balcony, “family members love their ancestors any more or less, based on this decision. No. They know the kind of men these two were. And nothing that is done or said here will ever change that. They want the resolution and closure for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. These two men went to their final resting places with only one thing missing in their lives, their amnesty. Please grant them ever lasting peace now.”

            She turned towards the panel.

            “Do what your previous members didn’t have the nerve to do. Abide by an agreement made many times in the past. Finish this chapter. Grant to Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry their amnesty. Give them their final freedom.”

            She stepped back towards the podium as a hush fell over the room. Than, ever so slowly, a clapping started from the balcony. Than another, than another, until the entire room erupted in applause. She smiled and bowed her head. She had done everything she could do. Now, the decision lay in the hands of men and women of the panel, people who could right a terrible injustice, could free ghosts of the past. She only hoped that they would understand.

            The speaker stood. As the applause died down, he started to speak.

            “This session is now going into executive session, so discussions on this matter can begin. Please, everyone, wait in the hallways while the members of this panel debate this issue. When a decision has been made, we will notify the party involved.”

            She took a deep breathe, and gathering her papers and picking up her briefcase, stepped out into the hallways. She was greeted by members of the Heyes and Curry families, each hugging her and smiling.

            She felt a tap on the shoulder and turned to find April standing there, moisture on her face. “I want to thank you for everything you said in there. I know that Grandpa would appreciate someone trying. He never did give up belief in getting the amnesty. Grandma used to say he would talk about it to her when no one was around. How it would make him rest easier in the afterlife knowing that a life of crime was no longer hanging around his neck. So know that, no matter what happens, Grandpa would be so very proud of you.”

            “I just hope it was enough. For all of your sakes.”

            She reached down to pick up her briefcase, turning it sideways so she could open it.

            “I want to give you these.” She picked up the journals, holding them in one hand while she placed the briefcase on the floor. She lovingly stroked the cover of the top journal before pushing them in the direction of April. “These belong to your family. Thank you for allowing me to borrow them for a short time. I will be forever grateful.”
            April took the journals, and meeting Debra’s eyes, smiled.

            “Thank you. In all these years, no one has believed as much as you. I know how hard this has been, for all of us. You have given us closure. And we will be forever grateful to you for that.”

            Any further discussions were brought to a halt with the announcement that the panel was returning from executive meeting, and all interested parties were invited to return to the room. April and Debra looked at each other again, and with a nod in each other’s direction, stepped back into the room, awaiting the outcome which would effect so many lives.

 

            She sat in the chair, eyes directed at the panel of men and women, those which had decided the fate of the case. Butterflies were now apparent in her stomach, and she hoped that she didn’t get sick before hearing the results of the  case. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to relax, as the chairman of the panel started to speak.

            “In the case of the amnesty of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. We have reviewed all the evidence which was presented, as well as evidence we had previously collected from the transcripts of previous governors. We have been able to find reference to the amnesty of which you spoke, as well as follow up entries made.”

            The chairman stopped to remove his glasses, rubbing his eye, before replacing his glasses on his face and continuing.

            “We can see no reason to debate this issue any longer, and have come to a decision. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry did engage in an agreement with the Governor of this state, in fact with several governors, as you so rightly pointed out. And while it is true that Heyes and Curry were wanted outlaws, none of the facts presented in either this testimony or the writings of past governors suggest any reason to believe that they didn’t, in fact, abide by their agreement. So it is the decision of this panel to grant, on this day and posthumously, amnesty to Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Let history show that this amnesty will be retroactive to the year 1882, and that these men died as free men, with no criminal deeds unresolved.”

            He smiled as the sound of applause and weeping could be heard. He easily tapped his gavel for attention, and the sounds resolved.

            “And I want to apologize to the families of Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry for the injustice done to these two men and their families down through the years. This should have been done so many years ago. I can only hope that you and they can forgive a government which seems to have forgotten them.”

            Debra smiled towards the man, and mouthing Thank you, turned and slowly walked out of the room.

 

            She found herself kneeling down in front of a grave, talking once again to the soil. She found herself here often, a place where she could think more clearly. But today, she was here to relate the news to the boys, just in case they didn’t know yet.

            “So I hope you two can rest easier now. You can now close that final chapter in your lives. And know that you did accomplish what you had planned. Your family loves you both very much, and the tales of your deeds will forever be passed down from generation to generation. So in a way, you will never be truly gone. And I, for one, am glad to have had the chance to meet each of you. Thank you for that.”

            And she stood and walked away, pausing a few steps from the headstones to turn and look towards the newly turned soil. She read the stones, and smiled, turning to once again start walking back towards her car. She didn’t really need to read the stones, she knew what they said. And now everyone else would know what they meant.

 

           

            Hannibal Heyes

            1851-1925

            Beloved husband and father

           

            In loving Memory, J. Smith

 

            And to the left, not two markers away, another stone.

 

            Jed “Kid” Curry

            1853-1925

            Beloved husband and father

 

            In loving Memory, T. Jones

 

           

 

The following story followed factual information as much as possible. The Raid on Lawrence Kansas occurred in 1863, led as we all know by Quantril and his raiders, of which Jesse James was a member. John Wesley Hoyt was Governor of the Territory of Wyoming from 1878-1882. Francis Warren was Governor from 1885-1886, than the first elected Governor of the State of Wyoming from 1889-1890. George Baxter was appointed in 1886, but removed from office shortly thereafter. The famous Thomas Moonlight served from 1887-1889.