Friday, July 24, 2009

Miss Dio's story continued -- life is a series of meetings and partings

The following story was oringally posted on "The Road to Deadwood" forum, and may be seen as a reflection of the soft spot I have in my heart for the American soldier. I think the soldiers of the the old frontier army generally haven't gotten very fair treatment in popular media in the last 30 or 40 years. And the way they are represented in contexts such as SL is usually just downright silly and offensive.

Above is a photograph by Grey Villet of extras on the set of the John Wayne/William Holden film, "The Horse Soldiers," taken in 1958. In my mind, I picture the members of Sepp's provost marshal detail looking something like these guys.

The days had passed into weeks, stretching unnoticed into late summer and early fall. Dio spent at least half of her time out of town, "shamelessly ignoring her responsibilities at the laundry" (according to a certain lady bank manager), in order to spend days riding with Sepp and his provost marshal's detail, looking for signs of hostiles and tracking deserters. She also spent nights camping out with her old one-eyed horse soldier, discreetly bedded down some distance from the rest of the group, so as disturb the sleeping troopers or distract those on watch. It reminded both Sepp and Dio of the old days, when she would join his ranger company on patrols when she was "too goddam pissed off" at Jack to stay at the ranch.

Iniitially, the members of the detail had been somewhat surprised to see First Sergeant Bogart's "lady" falling in with them on their patrols. But the young troopers were quickly disabused of the notion that she would be a hindrance or a distraction from their duties, espcially as she could out-ride and out-shoot most of the them, except maybe Corporal Brill, and was as a good a tracker as either Sergeant Bogart or Dan Wolf, the civilian scout who accompanied them. Any idea that "Miz Dio" was in any need of looking after on the trail began to evaporate when one of them figured out what the odd decorative peices on her saddle actually were. All remaining doubts were finally and completely erased when the detail ambushed a gang of horse thieves, and Dio brought down two of them with three rounds from her carbine, and then finished off the wounded one with her belt knife. Although the Sergeant prohibited her from taking any "souvenirs" that time, they did overhear her telling the "old Dutchman" as they rode away from the scene of the ambush that he "really knew how to show a gal a goddam good time."

By the time the leaves were turning, the members of the detail thought of her as one of them--just one who peridocially had to return to Deadwood to "warsh other folks' soiled knickers fer a spell." Her long stories, the interesting variations of camp cooking she introduced to their routine, and her regular and prolific stream of incredibly profane commentary gradually brought even the most hardened of them to feel a strange attachment to this strange woman. They therefore took it doubly hard on the day that First Sergeant Sepp Bogart, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, was informed that he had orders to turn the detail over to Corproal Brill to lead it on the return to Ft. Fetterman, while he himself was to report to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, to spend the remaining 11 months of his enlistment period training green troopers. They realized they were losing not only the presence of their lead man, but his lady as well. As they tightened saddle girths and checked their gear before breaking that last camp, a couple of the younger ones seemed to be on the verge of getting "a bit maudlin."

Noting this as she shook their hands, Dio smiled and said, "Aw come on boys, don't be so goddam hang-dog 'bout this. Hell, when y'all git back this way y' can come an see me in Deadwood City... and shit, this ol' Dutchman 'll be there too, once his hitch is up, right First Sargeant Bogart?

Sepp smiled as he checked the loads in his revolver, appreciative of the fact that she had finally stopped calling him "Hon" in front of the men. "Absolutely. I 'm sure we'll see each and every one of you gentlemen again before too terribly long."

"Damn right, Hon," she grinned at him. "And it's like m' ol' grandaddy used to say--life is a series o' meetin's an partin's, but what makes it worth livin' is what y'all do with the parts in between. An I reckon we all done some purty good livin' together in this part what we done had betwixt meetin' up and right now."

Sepp grinned back as he swung up into his saddle. "Damn right, Hon," he agreed. "Carry on Corporal..and good luck boys." As he took up his reins, she rode up next to him and leaned over and gave him a long parting kiss, while the provost marshal's detail whistled and huzzahed, and then turned their mounts westward.


  1. "Men in dirty shirt blue, only a page in history books to mark their lives. But wherever they rode, whatever they fought for, that place became the United States."

    She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 1949

  2. Hey Billy, thankye for mentioning that one. Probably my favorite Duke movie of all time, and certainly a refutation of the notion that he couldn't act. And yes, in many ways it's a romanticized view of things, but in so many other ways it offers one of the most authentic and richly detailed interpretations of America's professional frontier army during the Victorian era.

  3. Arrr! This has let me with so many questions! What happens to the boys? When will Dio see Sepp again? Who is patroling the hills now? We need more now :-D

  4. You'll be unsurprised to hear that my rude old Aunty has touched upon the great American fighting man in one of her dire novellas:

  5. All very good questions HB. The army has very limited resources in this period so...well...for now no one is patrolling the hills. The boys are going to be fine (I hope). And Dio will see Sepp again before too terribly long.

    Now I need to check out rude old Aunty's work.