Friday, June 26, 2009

Dio's backstory, part three -- after the War, a wanderer

reposted from The Road to Deadwood Forum

Unaware that Sepp had survived the war and had come looking for her, Dio began months of wandering from place to place, looking for a situation in which she could start her life again. All she managed to do however, was to fritter away most of her small cash reserve on alcohol.

In Missouri, she encountered one of her former ranch hands, a skilled and honest cowboy named Adar Merlin. He agreed to help her look for Jack's grave near Vicksburg, and they spent months trying to locate his final resting place. Dio remembered very little about the trip, as she was drinking even more heavily at the time. Adar claimed they never found the grave, but when asked, he would always refuse to provide any details about what had transpired.

Adar subsequently found Dio a position as cook at a ranch where he was working in Kansas, but her alcoholism eventually led to her being dismissed. After parting ways with Adar, she managed to start making some steady money working with a aging buffalo hunter who was too ill to hunt as successfully as he once had. Dio did most of the shooting, while the man handled the sale of the tongues and hides. Being in the wilds, away from people and sources of whiskey, helped Dio dry out a good bit. Several years passed, and when the old hunter finally "succumbed to his afflictions," Dio had managed to save enough of a nest egg to move to the Arizona territory and make a down payment on some land with the intention of taking up ranching again.

Meanwhile, Sepp had made a deal in which he was cleared of the murder charges in Texas and joined the United States Army as an enlisted man. He continued to seek information about Dio's whereabouts, but kept running into dead ends. Within the inner pocket of his jacket, he carried a locket with Dio's picture--a memento that Jack had carried with him until his death in the war, and which Sepp had reclaimed from his best friend's mangled remains.

By the time he was serving in the U.S. cavalry, he had convinced himself that Dio needed to know how much Jack had loved her, and he became quietly obsessed with finding her someday. Being in the army, however--one of the conditions for having the murder charges dismissed--made spending much time tracking her down somewhat problematic.

Out in Arizona, Dio did her best to make the new ranch a success. However, she lacked the capital to do so and within a few years she started to drink again. One day, in a seedy booze parlor in a grim little mining town, she got into a conversation with a Navajo medicine man who went by the unlikely name of Clyde. Dio enjoyed talking with the wise old fellow and listened with interest as he spoke of his people's belief in the need for balance in all things. They met and talked a number of times, and Clyde--never judgmental, always soft-spoken--asked her questions that made her think very, very hard. In their final conversation, Dio said that she wanted to give up drinking: that she knew her life was unbalanced. She knew she had a serious problem with alcohol, and she wanted--no, she needed his advice and guidance. Clyde listened, smiled, and before he walked out of that saloon, he poured her a shot of whiskey and told her that she "would do what she had to do."

Dio looked at the glass of golden liquor for what seemed an eternity. She picked up the glass and looked harder.

Then she poured the whiskey into a nearby spittoon.

After gently setting the glass on the bar she strolled out into the blinding, dust-flecked sunlight of an Arizona afternoon.

She would never have another drink as long as she lived.

hey, boys and girls, don't forget to check in for the final episode!

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