Once, José was a skinny little boy. Underfed, unfit, some would say sickly. To look at that little boy all grown up now, the sisters of the Tucson mission would swear there had been a mistake. Though hindered somewhat in size by the malnutrition of his youth, José has become a powerful man in compact form, strengthened by more than a decade of fighting to survive by any means possible, and his body reflects that entirely. His skin is relatively light for a Mexican, but it dark enough to identify his origins, especially in a town full of American settlers. He has no idea who his blood parents were, but likely as not he is standard fare as a Mexican; with parents of colonial Spanish origin, or perhaps a hint of Pueblo Nation blood in his veins. Whatever his true origin, the world around him has decided that he is Mexican, and there is little he can do to change that fact.
José is average height; certainly not of ‘large’ size, but he is well-muscled all over; in his upper body from gunslinging and fighting, and in his legs from riding and running. He has remarkably few scars on his person, considering his history - but there is a puckered mark on his abdomen from a gunshot wound. José sports a head of black, curly hair which he lets grow wild - partially because it is impractical for him to maintain it and partially because he doesn’t care too much about it. He also has a short-length beard in the woodsman style, a recent addition that he has grown out since fleeing Mexico. A short fleshy nose sits at the center of his face, above regular lips and below his brown eyes, which are slightly tilted down at the edges. He has short eyelashes and horizontal, thick eyebrows which do not often accentuate his forehead. He is not an ugly man by any means, but not particularly desirable either - especially by beauty standards in the United States.
Despite his relatively young age, José has both seen and done horrible things in his life. His past can been seen in his face, the markings under his eyes and creases running down his face. When he smiles it is a wonderful thing, and his happiness is obvious, but he is much more frequently seen expressionless or lost in thought.
Clothing & Style
Back down south José wore clothes suited for the harsh desert of the Mexican plains - a simple black shirt and work pants over boots. There was often a patterned bandanna around his throat to hide his face during robberies, and a dark brown bozeman-style hat to keep the sun off his head. A constant companion during his life, he keeps a dark red-and-blue poncho blanket, given to him by Father Francis at the Tucson mission, and just as it warmed him on those cold windy nights on the prairie, it now warms him during the frigid winters up north. He still keeps the summer clothes for warm days, and even occasionally uses the bandanna when he needs to remain anonymous - but he has also had to adapt to colder weather, especially after his sojourn in the Rockies. Procured during his journey into the states, he now has a collar-buttoned sweater and short brown jacket for warmth, as well as knitted gloves for his hands - invaluable assets during the frigid northern winters. He still wears his poncho blanket over it all to remind him of home, and to keep him warm. On his lower body he wears the same old belt, work trousers, and thick boots.
Weapons & Equipment
When not being worn or in use, most of his gear and clothing is kept by his place in the Evergreen bunkhouse, including dried food, bandages, a dish, tin of matches, cigarettes, weapon maintenance equipment, hunting knife, hatchet, lantern, map, and various wild herbs. His horse; Loretta, resides in their stables. She is fitted with serviceable horse tack and ample quality shoes, along with a blanket in addition to José’s old saddle. He has two gun belts in addition to the plain one threaded though his trousers, both worn around his waist. The holsters in which his pistols lie both sit on the same belt, while the second sits higher than his hips and is used to hold spare ammunition. The aforementioned holsters are placed on his right hip and run down the front of his left leg respectively, to afford the option of multiple points of access to a firearm, while in the holsters themselves sit two blackened steel 1873 Colt Single-Action-Army revolvers. Both belts feature bullet loops containing a total of some 40 rounds of ammunition, as well as pouches containing paper cartridges and percussion caps.
He also has a Colt New Model Revolving Rifle; a fairly antiquated cap-and-ball weapon, but one with which José is quite familiar. More a sentimental piece than a bleeding edge gunfighter's rifle, it's use is mostly relegated to pragmatic purposes such as game hunting. It is kept in a sheath on horseback, tucked away at the side of his saddle. Strapped to the back of the saddle in question is a bedroll and tent, and in his saddlebags he keeps the rest of his possessions he may need on any ride. Kept in a lockbox is the most valuable of José’s possessions; containing near $5,000 in bank notes. José is very careful about how he uses these, considering both their value and inevitable questions regarding their acquisition. He also holds on to an old owl feather; a keepsake of the past, though no longer wears it on his wrist, instead tucking the thing deep away among his other possessions.
Traits & Characteristics
(+) Canny - José has always been known for his quick reactions and natural smarts.
(+) Literate - Raised in a mission, José can in fact read and write, though only in Spanish.
(+) Outdoorsman - Forced to survive the past few years out in the American wilds alone, José has come to grow his skill in, and appreciation of, the woods, having become a fairly adept survivalist.
(-/+) Búho - To some a hero, to others a villain, and probably somewhere inbetween, José has been a well-storied character in Mexico these past few years. Regardless, he knows his homeland well, and misses it dearly.
(-/+) Fish out of Water - As a Hispanic, with darker skin and a recognizable accent, José has had to endure a fair degree of racism through his journey north, though he has come to be mostly numb to this.
(-) Killer - José knows what it means to look a man in the eyes and pull the trigger, especially when that man holds no gun of his own. He deeply regrets having done such things, but must live with the knowledge that he can indeed do them.
(-) Desperado - José is a wanted man, and in no small degree. Once a folk legend to the Mexican people, El Búho is now a man outlawed all across Mexico, from the Yucatan Jungles to the Sonoran plains.
(-) Solemn - José does not speak all that openly anymore. Plenty of people up north don't want to talk to a 'dirty mexican', and aren't really friendly enough for a meaningful conversation.
For José, becoming an outlaw was the ultimate liberation. He had lived his childhood in great poverty, unloved and alone. Suddenly he was a desperado; a soldier of freedom. He did what he wanted when he wanted. As the years wore on however, the realities of this life slowly revealed themselves to him. He became disillusioned with the lust for wealth and glory that his fellow gang members shared, and the souls of the innocents he killed began to weigh heavily upon him, manifesting in the atrocities committed by his gang. Today, he is finished with that life, and though he knows that his past likely will not leave him alone, he is willing to let trouble come to him, rather than seek it out. In a way he hates himself, for being able to have done such horrible things, and this comes with subconsciously self-imposed limitations. He may stop himself from falling in love for example, for fear that he does not deserve such an outcome, or worse - that he may corrupt whomever he falls in love with. Indeed, he has had little time for affection in his life thus far, and it may well be that he never will.
Having grown up in a mission, José had the unconventional convenience of monks and nuns to educate him, something which many people would not have cared for. José, on the other hand, was always fascinated by the lessons taught in the mission. Of course, he did what was expected with regard to prayer and reverence, but what truly engrossed him was the wisdom recorded in books; how people could have such unique insights into life and the world in general. He learned to read and write Spanish from the nuns, and was set as a prize pupil. Now, though he could hardly be called a scholar, he is far more well-read than the average outlaw. He is also quite naturally canny, once being considered the 'brains' of the García gang in which he rode, likely a direct result of his upbringing. It is unknown if this contributed to his nickname of El Búho, the owl or Búho being the bird of wisdom.
José also has a great interest in nature and the outdoors, having become an adept hunter over the course of his time on the run, though he has always admired the beauty that nature has to offer. He likes to keep record of plants he comes across in his journal and then reference with books of herbalism to determine which are used for what.
Once boisterous and good-natured, José has had to alter his personality in recent years. Now that he is in the north, among strangers who will often reject him purely for his skin colour and accent, José tends to keep a lower profile and be more reserved in conversation. He is always wary of his true identity being discovered, so does not expose himself to the eyes of strangers or the law any more than he needs to.
(Former) Ensenada Urchins (1857-63)
(Former) García Gang (1863-67)
(Former) García Gang (1867-73)
(Former) United States Marshall Service (1873-74)
Evergreen Ranch (1876-Present)
José is a dead-eye with a pistol, for much of his life was spent by the gun. Be it a man, animal, or tin can, he'll put it down. His skill extends to weapon handling too, and he is able to load his pistols or even his rifle quicker than most. He knows when to fan the hammer, when to take his time, when to disarm, and when to kill.
José has come to hold his own in the wilds, and knows how to keep himself warm, dry, and fed when contending with mother nature.
For a short time, José sought work as a bounty hunter in New Mexico, teaching him how to handle a captive, or hunt down a target. Though that line of work ended up being a little too risky - lest his identity be discovered by some nosy lawman - the skills have in fact stuck with him.
José is clever, for an outlaw. He can watch, wait, and often pick up on things others may miss. This is all the more exacerbated by the silent version of himself he has come to present, for one can pick up on so many more things when they are not distracted by idle conversation.
José has ridden the length of Mexico several times over, and though he has never received any real lessons on riding, he has been able to pick up a thing or two.
Aliases / Nicknames
Evergreen Ranch (1876)
Tucson mission (1849-57)
Itinerant, based across Mexico (1863-73)
Itinerant, based around New Mexico (1873-74)
Itinerant, based around the Rocky Mountains (1874-75)
Place of Birth
Northern Baja California Wilderness
Kith & Kin
None known. With the death of his childhood friend Santiago, José has nobody left in the world.
Time in the Mission, (1849-57, age 0-8)
José was born in the year of 1849, in a small wagon camp in the north of Baja California in Mexico. He was never told anything about his parents, but knows he was handed off to a Catholic monk from Spain, whom he called Father Francis. The Father was a member of an expedition by the Catholic church into now-independent Mexico - a bid by the Vatican to maintain a foothold in the Americas after much of New Spain had fallen to independence movements. Headed for the mission in Tucson, Alta California, the Father would take care of young José until arrival, where he was then given to the nuns to raise as a child of Jesus Christ.
It was in the mission that José would lean to read, write, and spell in Spanish, through the course of reading the bible, reciting prayers, and simple lessons taught by the nuns in discipline and general knowledge. Despite being a house of god and theoretically provided for by the Vatican, independent Mexico was in no way supportive of foreign missions in its lands, so for many years the children of the mission were forced to resort to begging. Tucson was an old and wealthy town, however - and they were situated on the brand-new border with the United States. Every now and again José would see a businessman making his way through town - and every now and again José and his friends would try and steal from such wealthy men.
Regardless of how mischievous he may have been outside of the mission, José was a model student within. He shared his meals with the younger children, and paid good heed to his studies. Many of the senior figures within the mission were optimistic that he could one day become a monk. Deep down though, José knew that he could not be here forever, trapped for years and years with only the word of God as his solace. He knew that the poverty in which he lived could be escaped with the right opportunity and frame of mind, and that one day he too may have the ease of mind and comfort enjoyed by the white men who walked the streets of Tucson with such pride.
Unfortunately for José, that opportunity would come sooner than expected, and certainly not how he would have imagined it. The recent closing of the Mexican-American war meant that the US was eager to capitalize on the territory gained in Alta California, and in 1854, the Gadsden Purchase saw Tucson enveloped into their seized lands. The US was a Protestant nation, and would not condone a foreign mission within its newly-taken territories. By 1857, The American soldiers had arrived, and when they did, they turned everyone out on to the street; priests, nuns, and children alike. After all was said and done, Father Francis approached José one more time, giving him a poncho blanket as a parting gift, before embarking on the next ship for Spain. José would never see Father Francis again.
Time as an Urchin, (1857-63, age 8-14) José was now eight years old, and had nowhere to turn. He could become an urchin, stealing what he could and living in the gutter, or he could strike out on his own and forge a future of his design. He stowed away on the railroad headed south into Baja California and the place of his birth. He no longer wished to stay in Tucson, where US soldiers now patrolled the streets at night and the Mexican people were emancipated to make way for wealthy tycoons from the east. He arrived in Ensenada penniless and alone, but free. For a short while he attempted to find work in local saloons and stores, but most places rejected him for his age, or simply because there was no need to hire a little boy to do basic tasks. No one seemed to care that he could read or write, and José learned one of the harder lessons of his life: money speaks far louder louder than any words. He likely would have remained in Ensenada, living off of charity or stealing, were it not for a boy named Santiago Rodriguez. Santiago was an orphan like José, but unlike José he saw his predicament as a blessing rather than curse. The two boys met one night when Santiago and a friend of his attempted to muscle a tired José into paying them for protection. José was simply so fed up with his run of bad luck that he told them they might find some up their own asses, and Santiago immediately took a liking to him.
You see, Santiago was some years older than José; about 12, and he had a remarkable sway over many of the disenfranchised children in Ensenada. They looked up to him, for his ability to talk people out of their money was revered by anyone who saw him practice his art. Santiago took José under his wing and the two became very close friends. For the next six years Santiago and José worked the town of Ensenada. They pulled con deals, stole, cheated, and lied their way into reasonable living in what hotels and hovels would afford them a roof above their heads. They sometimes teamed up with other urchins to pull off larger jobs, and always stayed one step ahead of the law. It was a simple life; children exploiting the system that had put them out on the streets, taking from men who would not share their wealth when there was in fact plenty to go around. Santiago’s charisma always kept them in the good graces of the town, and José’s intelligence made sure that they never went into anything unprepared.
Soon, their schemes began growing into larger and more complex affairs. Sometimes there would be guns involved. Sometimes threats of beatings. Still, they never killed anyone. At least, not until the summer of 1863. It was a particularly slow year, with very few foreigners passing through town and money coming in was slow. Suddenly, almost out of the blue, Santiago approached José with a job that could set them up with enough money for a year to come, and possibly earn them employment down the road. He had been talking to band of robbers - yes, real, genuine outlaws who had approached him in an alley. The leader’s name was Alberto García, and he was just passing through town. He had bore witness to the way that Santiago and his fellow urchins worked the city from the shadows, and admired his initiative, especially considering his young years. He had offered Santiago thirty dollars in cash if he could stop a wagon coming in from the outskirts of town and bring a box to Alberto’s camp on the edge of town. José was immediately put off by the job. He had never even seen Alberto, and why would an outlaw pay street urchins to do something that he could easily do himself? On top of all this, a wagon heist was far, far above the realm of their present operations. They ran small-time scams and pinched jewellery, jobs that didn’t require guns, and only ever risked a stint in jail. Regardless of his misgivings, Santiago eventually persuaded José into helping him hold up the wagon with a 50-50 split of the reward from García. Using Santiago’s miniature criminal network, they were able to secure a revolving rifle and a pistol in preparation for the job. Santiago - being the author of the operation - took the pistol for himself and handed off the rifle to José.
Finally, the day of the wagon heist arrived. Santiago and José, 18 and 14 respectively, were to ambush a cart riding in to town and steal whatever they had in the back. The boys hid behind rock outcroppings, towels wrapped over their faces as makeshift bandannas and gripped their weapons with anticipation. They stopped the cart without mishap, but before the boys could search the wagon for the loot, the driver drew his pistol, and Santiago promptly shot him dead. The second man jumped down from the box and began to frantically run into the desert, terrified of these crazy Mexican boys who would hold up a coach so brazenly. José raised his weapon and fired off a single shot. The kickback of the weapon took him off his feet and sent him sprawling in the dust, but he rose with the triumphant cry of “You got him!” From Santiago. With both boys having killed their first men, they grabbed the box and ran off to Alberto’s camp.
That afternoon, José Reyes met Alberto García for the first time. After handing over the box, Alberto congratulated them both on a job well done, before offering them both a place in his gang. The boys were taken aback, but both willing to accept the opportunity. After all, they could only run small-time stuff in Ensenada for so long.
They never did find out what was in that box.
El Búho, (1863-73, age 14-24) The next four years were the toughest of José’s life as of yet. Now that both him and Santiago were members of the García gang, they were afforded the lessons that city folk could not teach. Alberto and his men instructed the boys in the skills they would need to make it as a bandito; horsemanship, survivalism, and of course; gunfighting. José was given an old Colt Navy by Alberto himself as a gift on his 15th birthday, and he practiced with it incessantly, to the great encouragement of the other gang members. For a long time, José found something like a family in the García gang, and whenever the life got too harsh or things were too rough-and-tumble, he could count on Santiago to talk him out of it and keep spirits up. For the first few years, José wasn’t permitted to go robbing with the rest of the older men, but he kept practicing as well as he could with his revolver and always hung on to that rifle he had gotten for the first heist. He grew to love the weight of it, learned how to manage the kickback, and to never put his hand over the cylinder. One of Alberto’s men; Ramón, was kind enough to teach José how to properly clean, service, load, and operate the weapon. At the same time Alberto himself would often take the boys hunting or even just have a one-on-one talk with José. Though all the kindness afforded them was nice, it did come with a price. José did not shirk his share of the duties in running the gang, even if he wasn’t able to go robbing with the rest of them. He helped clean, hunt, tend to the horses, and perform various other chores to make sure the logistical side of things was kept up.
When José turned 18, Alberto seemed to decide that he was old enough to share in some of the more dangerous work that the gang had to offer. After they successfully rustled a herd of horses, Alberto allowed José to have his pick of the yield. This is how José came by his first mount - a black stallion whom he named Noah after the biblical figure. Now with a gun, a horse, and a gang to back him up, José began to feel like his own man. He got the first taste of the freedom that he had seen in Alberto when they met, and he was addicted. The first job he ever pulled with the gang was on a stagecoach holdup. It was nothing like the stickup with Santiago some years prior. This coach was prepared, with gunmen and guards riding point. Nevertheless, the García gang took the stage by storm, blasting away at the armed guards until there was nothing left but the carriage itself and its passengers. Alberto took command of the situation, demanding that the passengers come out, and so they did. Entrepreneurs, they were. Come down south to set up businesses. The gang stripped them all their belongings and wealth, then shot them in cold blood. José did his part. He justified that this was the price one paid for freedom. Any misgivings he felt were washed away by the cash he had earned. He had never held ten dollar bills before. He had never had real money to his name. Now he was his own man, and it felt good.
Years passed, and the García gang grew in wealth and size. They made their way all across Mexico, from the plains of Sonora to the mountainous jungles of Oaxaca. They looted, pillaged, killed, and stole as they pleased, lying low whenever the heat became too hot and striking whenever they heard of a good score. José grew into a strong young man, constantly gaining experience and training to become a better gunslinger and more effective money-earner for the gang. He became extremely skilled with the use of his rifle, especially after Ramón taught him to make his own cartridges. José also began to carry a second pistol on his left leg, giving him a few more shots more before the arduous task of loading a cap and ball weapon such as the Colt Navy. All of this as well as his participation in the gang’s larger heists began to earn him a reputation out on the plains. The bounty on his head was by now well over 2,000 American dollars, and other outlaws began to call him the Owl, or El Búho, after his position as the García gang's voice of wisdom. José enjoyed this newfound fame and made no secret of it, going so far as to wear an owl feather on a cord at his wrist. Add to that the fact that he was often quite quiet, and that he possessed the general intelligence that he did, and he was ever more solidified as the watchful Owl on García’s shoulder.
And on García’s shoulder he was, indeed. Alberto was very impressed by José’s growing prowess and skill at arms. Soon enough Alberto asked for José’s advice on most moves, listening carefully to the counsel of his protégé, for José would often catch out something that Alberto or the others had missed. Some would even go so far as to say that José was Alberto’s right hand man, which began to spark some jealousy amongst the ranks of the gang. All the while that José was becoming more and more preoccupied with affairs of the gang, he started to neglect to spend as much time with his old friend Santiago. They were still friendly with each other and José loved what moments they were given together, but by the time José realized something was wrong, it was too late.
1873. José was 24 years old. In the north, the American Civil War was coming to a close, and the García gang was operating back in Baja California, larger than life. A big job was set up. The gang had come back to Ensenada to hit the central bank. It had been more than a year since they had pulled any jobs in the area, and so there weren’t too many active bounty hunters looking for them here. The plan went off without a hitch, but at the last second it was revealed that Santiago had made off with the loot. Alberto was furious, and swore that he would not rest until he had killed Santiago for what he had done. In his rage he ordered that the gang execute the civilians and bank employees, screaming at them the entire while. The order was carried out, but José began to feel a sickness in his stomach as he did the grisly deed. Santiago had been his best friend. He would have told José if he was going to run. Unless… Santiago believed that José would have killed him for Alberto. Could it be true? José didn’t want to believe he was such a bad person, so blindly loyal that he had no moral code of his own… and yet here he was, killing innocents on Alberto’s orders.
The García gang left Ensenada empty handed, and one member short.
When morning came, they hardly had time to plot their next move before lawmen were seen on the horizon. The massacre in the Ensenada bank had come with repercussions, and the local law had rounded up men to pursue the outlaws. There was very quickly a fight on their hands. A posse of maybe 20 lawmen were killed that day, and when all was done, the scent of gunpowder stained the air and José’s hands were blistered and raw from operating the mechanisms of his weapons so frequently. Nevertheless, Alberto would not pause in his pursuit of the traitorous Santiago, and ordered everyone to get up and start tracking.
For two days and two night they rode, and when they finally closed in on José's old friend, he was exhausted and near-death after so many days of pursuit. The García gang had not come off much better, and many of them stated that they were leaving outright. Alberto flew into a rage, and shot Santiago between the eyes. For José that was the end. He took his share of the money they'd earned over the years, and left along with the others
The Land of Opportunity, (1873-76, age 24-26) He knew that the authorities would be hot on his tail, but perhaps he could find refuge from bounty hunters and lawmen somewhere in the US. Back in Mexico all he had was his murderous reputation and a heavy price on his head. Maybe, just maybe he could make a new life in the 'Land of Opportunity'. Not give up gunslinging altogether, just stop doing bad things.
With this new conviction in his heart, he started out for the annexed state of New Mexico. It was a long journey, even traveling by himself on horseback, and he was constantly looking over his shoulder for a rider that was tailing him. Fortunately he made it to the border without mishap, even sharing a campfire with some American settlers. He asked them if they had heard of any bounty hunters in the area, and they told him that New Mexico had far too many bounties and far too few bounty hunters. Interested by this new information, José stopped in at the next town to check the post office for any posters gone up. He saw mention of names he recognized, but a lot of the text was in English, which he did not yet fully understand. He asked the clerk about bounty work and was told that there was good money in it, if one had the right skillset. Here was an opportunity for José; to bring in criminals using his skills as a gunfighter. A way to make some money, without invoking the wrath of the law. He thanked the clerk for his information and took down notes on a few targets in the area.
For the next two years José worked in and around the state, capturing and killing bounties as were needed. He used the pseudonym ‘José Martínez’ to avoid anyone recognizing his name, and began to grow out his beard to change the way he looked, integrating himself entirely into his new life. He appreciated putting cruel men behind bars, feeling as though he was accomplishing something worth accomplishing. In 1874, José came to meet a familiar face in a small-town saloon - Ramón, his old friend and mentor. After the dissolution of the gang, Ramón had come looking for José, and bid him a warning that the authorities were still looking for him in Mexico. His horse and attire were known nationwide, and the aging Noah would do him no favors out here. It would be wise to replace some of his gear, for the sake of subtlety, as well as practicality. José spent a few days with Ramón, before giving him a thankful goodbye, buying a new horse, some equipment, and pistols, then heading onward, into the Rockies. Bounty work had served it's purpose, but to go on with it would simply be inviting trouble.
For a year José lay low in the mountains. He was pushed to the limit of his endurance and beyond, using every skill he had in survival, hunting, and bushcraft. In the summers he kept high up in the peaks, avoiding any strangers on the trails and hunting for sustenance. In the dreadful winters, when the peaks became far too cold, he would head east and fish in the frozen lakes, or sometimes seek shelter in a church when the snowy outdoors became too much for him to bear. His new equipment proved to be a great boon - the horse, whom José named Loretta, was strong enough to withstand the harsh weather, and once he had properly learned the niches of his pistols, they became far more practical for shooting small game and operation in harsh weather than his old cap-and-balls had been. As time wore on, he became more and more adept to life out in the wilds, learning the names of flowers and plants alike, as well as coming to appreciate the beauty of the Rockies themselves. The hovels and shacks in which he had dwelled all those years ago in Ensenada seemed a long way away now.
It was the autumn of 1875 when José found himself in the northeastern Rockies, crossing over into Montana territory. It was shaping up to be a harsh winter, and already he had been driven down to more settled lands in search of game and forgiving weather. He was running low on ammunition, and by extension - food. Soon he would have to find a nearby town to hole up.
So begins the next chapter of José Reyes’ life; in the town of Kalispell, where he seeks to live anew.
Post-Arrival in Kalispell (1876, age 26)
Trespassing, and Other Such Deplorable Crimes: In which José found himself at the Evergreen fence line, searching for somewhere to hang his hat. At the notice of a passing ranch hand, Ned Carson, he was informed that he was; in fact, trespassing on Evergeen property, but rather than a bullet or even an escort off the ranch, José was given a job. Presumably the owner was short on hands, or perhaps simply liked rough-and-ready types, but in any case, José found himself with work and cover, far from the country of his birth.
Miscellaneous reference images;
I am aware that José is overly bloated. I've used him in a fair few forums and so have had way too much time to develop him. Sorry.
As for plotting, I'd say he'll be a more 'action-oriented' character, suitable for gunfights and squinting at people in saloons.
"That your mount? She's a nice one. Bring'er along to the stable an' she can have some water'n oats if she wants 'em."
José could not help but feel some pride at Brendan's appraisal of his mount. He and Loretta had crossed the treacherous Rockies and wintered in those peaks, and there was a sense of kinship he felt with the mare, young and prone to mischief as she was.
José nodded and moved to unhitch Loretta, before leading her along by the bridle in Brendan's wake. The mare followed obediently, her plodding gait rising to a low, rhythmic thump against the dirt.
"So cattle and horses are your thing eh?" José asked Brendan. "Seems to me like you're living in your dream out here."
Dream was an English word José was proud of, having picked it up off a young man he'd met by the roadside in Nuevo México. Said he'd a dream, to 'make a fortune off'a shine.' José had told him to be wary of Las Gorras Blancas, and ridden on.
They entered the stable, and the musty smell of horse hide met José's nose in force. It wasn't unpleasant, merely overwhelming, and as the seconds passed he quickly adjusted to the olfactory surprise.
As the first hands crested the rise, they would see flashes of light and hear the report of gunfire along the paddock, as the three outlaws emptied their weapons downrange. Gunsmoke rose in the air, concealed by the dark of night, but its stench hung heavy.
A horse reared, baying loudly, then collapsed to the ground, blood streaming from a wound in its flank. Its rider fell with it, cries of man blending with that of the animal.
"I think I got one!" shouted Jed from up the way, and Wayne gritted his teeth in frustration. Even he knew that you never give away your position in a gunfight. His horse rocked beneath him, and he held it steady with his legs, focusing on sending as much lead as he could before the return fire came.
Centering his sights over the silhouette of another rider, he worked the lever and snatched the trigger with blistering speed, arms moving like a machine. He squeezed off one, two, and three shots before the rider disappeared from the silhouette, and his horse ran on, alone.
José reached the paddock just as gunfire had begun to open up. He saw a rider go down, and quickly pulled back on his reins to avoid a collision. Loretta resisted, pushing the urge to run on, but the sound of rifle fire had begun to spook her, and within a moment she had slowed, whinnying at the fallen horse.
She rolled her eyes and stomped her hooves, but José coaxed her on, around the tangle of fallen flesh and up to where those orange flashes sounded with frightening frequency. "Cálmate, chica!" he whispered, but even he could feel that the mare was close to breaking courage.
Before he even knew what was happening there came a whistle of gunfire over his head, frighteningly close, and he instinctively ducked against Loretta's neck. She broke into a run, all obedience forgotten, and in a moment José had become a sitting duck, moving in a straight line across the paddock edge. He did the only thing he could think to; and let his feet slip from the stirrups, his hands from the reins, and his body from the saddle.
He hit the ground hard, rolling through the grass unceremoniously. Clutching his gun in a vice-like grip, he felt the burn of scrapes along his forearms, and when he finally came to a halt there was nothing but the wet dew against his face and the clammy dirt clinging to his clothes. Glancing up, he saw Loretta's silhouette gallop off into the night after the herd, seemingly unhurt. He checked himself over for injuries, which would have been hard to see in the dark anyway, but couldn't find anything worse than a few scratches. Next, he checked his pistol, which seemed to function properly, and turned his attention to the matter at hand. He was now on foot, less than fifty meters from the rustlers, who he presumed to be mounted. As far has he knew, they assumed him dead or incapacitated, which granted him a distinct advantage.
It was decided; he would push forward, and catch them by surprise, using the superior accuracy of shooting from foot. He already knew where one was, given the way he was whooping and hollering after each shot. All José needed was some cover fire. He rolled onto his back, waiting for the next few riders to crest the rise so that he could push up with them.
"Well. It ain't gettin' any cooler out there. You want to ride out with me, get the lay of the land?"
José hesitated. He'd expected cool indifference, perhaps even slight hostility at a newcomer, and here Connolly was offering him a tour of the grounds. It was a good reflection on his character, and perhaps, by extension; the character of the ranch as a whole, that practicality would come before pride.
"That is, if Carson don't want you to be a night owl with him?"
"Good idea Connolly. Give the man a good look at the place and a chance to really look over the herd."
"Sounds good." José confirmed, the matter more decided for him than by him. Not that he'd want to miss out on a chance to get settled in.
He rose and moved to the kitchenside bucket, where he'd seen men depositing their dirty plates earlier, and left his in kind, murky water eddying as he did.
"Alright. Let's do it." he told Connolly, and with a nod to Carson, José headed for the door.
"G'wan, see you men later."
"Here? Nah, we all do the same work. Only some of us are better at... how'd you say it... the herding... than others."
Realization dawned on José. "Ah. I see." he voiced. "Well, you know. Like I say; I can do both."
He might have been in an oddly unique position, having both rustled cattle and shot men, and though he couldn't say for certain yet, Mr. Connolly's words seemed to imply that both skills may yet come in handy upon the Evergreen ranch.
José finished his meal at around the same time as the others, eating all he had taken and leaving nothing to scraps. Not just out of hunger, but courtesy as well.
"How long you been workin' cattle?" continued Connolly, a question that caused José a twinge of guilt.
"About one year." he lied. "I did some other things, in the meantime. I know a bit."
"Good to meet you, Mister Connolly." José repeated, returning his attention to the food on his plate.
"You new here?"
In spite of himself, José grinned at the question. "Joined on not half an hour ago, so fairly new, sí."
There was no malice in his voice, for Mister Connolly did not seem as though he intended to start anything. Rather a sense of curiosity came with his questions, maybe at his sudden appearance, or maybe at his heritage.
"You a gun hand or cow hand?"
José paused in idle chewing, a little confused by the question. "I can shoot, and I can also herd. Is there a... difference between the shooters and the herders?" he asked, glancing about the table. Everyone within his eyesight either had a gun at their hip, or looked as though they might draw one from some hidden crevasse as soon as they were prompted.
José lowered himself onto the bench and dug right into the offerings greedily. Despite how simple the meal was, it was variance enough on his usual diet of game and wild plants that it could have tasted like the finest caviar and pineapple. Not that he'd ever tasted caviar and pineapple, but considering how thoroughly coveted it was by the upper classes, he imagined it to be quite good.
José hardly paid attention to the men around him as he ate, and that seemed to work well. Newcomers were unwelcome at the best of times, let alone one of his complexion. They seemed to eat with a sense of pragmatism; so that they could have the energy for their work, and the taste came secondary.
He had wolfed down several slices of beef by the time that attention finally came his way, and when it did, it was in a similarly utilitarian manner. "Who're you?"
José raised his dark eyes from his plate to meet the proponent of his introduction; a suave-scruffy sort of man dressed in a white shirt all marked with dirt, no doubt from his work. He glanced over to Carson, to check that the senior hand was watching in case a fight broke out. He couldn't speak for the disposition of ranch hands, but back in Mexico, the men he rode with could start brawls over the tiniest provocation, then set laughing and joking an hour later.
"Martínez." José offered in friendship. "Good to meet you, mister...?"
"Now, Cookie lays out a good breakfast and a lot of it. Basic stuff, beef steak, biscuits, maybe spuds 'er beans, an' coffee, plenty of that. It's an all you kin eat affair."
"That sounds good to me." José replied, perhaps with a little more enthusiasm than would have been appropriate. He could hardly remember what biscuits and steak tasted like.
"Now, Old Man Steelgrave, you may see 'em, you may not. Never can tell about him. Never seen 'em horseback, 'er out on the spread. That's Grangers job an' he leaves it to him to get done. I understand the mans had him a hard time of late an' spend his time drinkin', but that's headsay. You man see 'em, you may not. I ain't never seen the man ahorseback, 'er out on the range at all."
"Old Man Steelgrave is the owner, qué no?" José asked, as they pulled up to the cookhouse. "Doesn't come out to check on his men?"
He pulled in the reins and slipped off his mount, his boots hitting the dirt with a mild sucking from the watery mud therein. The morning air was just beginning to warm, but still he held the poncho around him, for it would be a few hours yet until it was shirt-and-trousers weather.
The newly-proclaimed ranch hand moved to the door, easing it open and eagerly casting his eyes around at the scene inside.
"You stay with Carson here for now, need you on night hawk, I 'spose he told you, we're shorthanded right now. Go on up to the cook house and eat, then there's some empty bunks in the bunkhouse."
"Yessir." José quickly voiced. Time to eat and rest would be very welcome.
"You know how to use a gun I take it, times you may need to use one."
I do." he confirmed cautiously, but did not make to elaborate further. Riding with a weapon was probably a large enough part of a ranch hand's life, but these men didn't need to know just how important it had been to his life in particular.
"Name's Granger, I'm foreman. You have any problems Carson here can't handle you come see me. Now git!"
José tipped his hat in gratitude, and quickly kicked Loretta up into a trot, to move towards the indicated cookhouse.
The smell of a proper-cooked meal was already on his mind, even before the structure was fully in purview.
Some hours had passed, and that groggy sense of tiredness had begun to creep in - the kind that made you sloppy and slow when it really mattered. It made José uncomfortable, to not be as alert as he could be, but for the moment, there was really no way it could be helped.
So when a third man rode up to the pair, José had to force himself to straighten up in the saddle, and blink a few times to get the blood flowing again.
"What'cha got there Carson? Cattle thief?"
José said nothing, simply regarding the new arrival.
"Nope. This here's Jose, said he was lookin' fer work. Come onta him tryin' to cross the range, but the fence had him stopped. Told him to hang on till you'd show up. So, here he is, and I knew we needed some help."
"Help eh? Jose is it? You ever work cattle, Jose?"
He nodded with conviction, as though it would convey his certainty on the matter. "A little. I'm ready, if you need me."
“Carson, it’s what I go by,” He replied, “Ned Carson’s the whole of it, never liked Ned much an’ the middle handle’s worse. Alvis. Terrible. Named fer my Grampa, Mom’s side. Alvis, worse name I ever heard!"
"Alright, well, thanks Carson." José said.
"We got us a ways ta go before we’re through, I got some jerky if’n you’re hungry, Jose. Ain’t much, but I reckon it’s better’n nothin’."
José shook his head. "I can wait. I've got a few bits and pieces of my own until then."
Now that the dark of night had well and truly set in, and he knew that he was riding among friendly faces, (or friendly-faces-to-be) José felt as though he could relax for the first time in some three years. People didn't know him here. He had already found work. This could be a new life. The clop of horseshoes and the mooing of cattle could be a worthwhile replacement for gunfire and screaming. Though it would not have been easy to see in the darkness and beneath his hat, a smile began to spread it's way across the desperado's face.
(ooc: I suppose we can end it there and make separate threads for later on?)
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
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