Literary Yard

Search for meaning

Lynching at Afton Canyon

By Mark Kodama

I. The Poker Game

I try not to think about what happened that day at Afton Canyon. Nobody here in Hadleysville ever talks about it. But today is the anniversary of the events. I am sure it is on everyone’s mind who knows about it.

My wife Grace is a good woman. But our relationship has been forever strained by the events of that day. My two sons are still young but they sense things are not the same. I feel bad about what happened and the way it went down. Sometimes at night or when I am alone, I feel the cold chill of evil and the hair of my neck stands up like bristles on a porcupine for the part I played in these events. But when I think about it again I know we did what had to be done.

I can still see the three corpses dangling from the hanging tree at the Smith Homestead as if it was yesterday. It is one thing to say you are going to hang someone. It is quite another thing to actually do it.

I am a member of the city council, a duly elected member of the government. I am also the owner of the town’s dry goods store. I am a man of position and responsibility.

I stand here at the mouth of the cave at Afton Canyon. I cannot tell anyone about what happened and yet I cannot continue to keep it inside me. So here I am alone at the anniversary of the incident prepared to recount the events to the cave.

So I ask you God, as tears streak down my face, did I do wrong?


Old Waylon was a rancher and long-time member of our community. We knew he was a homosexual. He had never been married. But who could have guessed that he would lure young Jed to his ranch and do the unspeakable. May God have mercy on his soul.

The community was outraged. But Old Waylon left town before the hoary hand of justice could lay its hand upon him. Young Jed shot himself in the temple with his Uncle Tom’s Colt 45. Tom is also a member of the city council and a good friend of mine. He is a rancher and the richest man in Hadleysville. Tom is a man’s man and one of the community leaders. Tom is respected by everyone. The whole community turned out for young Jed’s funeral and there was not a dry eye in the house.

Hadleysville is a small remote town out west, too small for a marshal or a judge. Justice is rough here. And the citizens enforce the laws of the territory. We have been for many years a liberal community, tolerant and welcoming to of all people. We were a safe haven for homosexuals and odd balls of all types.

Lonny, who was another city councilman, said we were all brothers and sisters. Lonny is a farmer and also a respected leader of the community. He and his wife are what you call Quakers. But as shown by events we were fools.


After a month after the funeral, Mayor Forst, Tom and Bill, the justice of the peace, and I met for our weekly poker game at Forst’s house. It was a fine yellow wood house on a hill in the center of town with a white columned portico out front. It was the second most expensive house in Hadleysville, second best only to Tom’s ranch house. Mayor Forst, a widower, lived there with his housekeeper Maria and her three-year-old son Jorge.

It was the first time we had met since Jed’s met his sad end. Mayor Forst was an older man, son of a banker back east. At one time he owned all the property in Hadleyville and the surrounding area. He sold much of it at a fair rate. He might say he founded our community.

“They make me sick,’ Tom suddenly said. Tipping back his Stetson hat, his leathery red face toughened by years of outdoors. He wore a white shirt, cattle hide vest, denim dungarees and high leather boots.

I shuffled the deck. Tom swallowed the last of his whiskey from his glass tumbler. Mayor Forst stood up and then went to his liquor cabinet and brought another bottle of Scotch to share with his close friends. I special ordered the whiskey from a distributor back east.

“Those perverts. pedophiles and degenerates,” Tom said. “They make me sick.”

“An outrage,” Mayor Forst said as his filled everyone’s glass. “We should never had let them live here.” He wore a neatly trimmed white beard and mustache and white hair was combed back. The beard partly concealed a large saber scar on this right cheek that made his face twist when he smile. He was a middle aged dapper man, slightly rotund, with a flashing grin and hearty handshake.

“There will be a day of reckoning,” Tom said.

“That there will be,” I said.

Bill pushed his glass spectacles up his nose with his right forefinger. He moved his bone-handled wood cane and then repositioned against the care table. Bill in his late fifties had a balding head and also wore a black salt and pepper beard. Bill was a life-long bachelor. But if he was lonely, he never appeared to be. He often said he was married to his books and the law. Bill was a lawyer by training. He was a good and well-educated man.

“Really awful,” he said.

I dealt the cards.

“ Something must be done,” Forst said. “This can never happen to our community again.”

Tom and I nodded and voiced our assent. Bill, however, was quiet.

“Hit me,” Tom said.

“I’m out,” the Mayor Forst said.

“Me too,” Bill said.

I had three queens. So I called Tom and raised the pot. Tom laid down three eights and two deuces, a full house. He won the hand. There is nothing worse than having the second best hand in a poker game.

Tom turned to Bill. “Your turn to deal.”

“May I speak freely?” Forst said.

“Yes,” Tom said. “Speak your mind.”

“We are all friends here,” Forst said. “And we all know nothing said here will ever leave this room.”

We all mumbled our assent and nodded our heads in agreement.

“Something must be done about the homosexual problem,” Forst said.

“Yes, something indeed,” Tom said.

“As mayor, I cannot let something like this ever blacken this town again,” Forst said.

“ When I was a kid, we tarred and feathered them before running them out of town,” I said. “You should have seen the look of their faces.”

“It’s unnatural,” Forst said.

Bill peered above his glasses. “I’d be careful if I were you boys.”

“There is the law,” Forst said. “And then there is the law.”

The men continued to play.

“And sometimes, you have to take the law into your own hand,’ Forst said.

“What are you suggesting?” Bill asked.

Tom slammed his card down on the table. “God damn it. Jed was my nephew. He was like a son to me. I may not be able to bring him back but I sure as hell can prevent something like this happening again.”

We were quiet.

“We all loved Jed,” I said quietly.

“Sorry Bill, I did not mean anything by that,’ Tom said.

“Understandable,” Bill said. “I’m sorry.”

“Lonny is our biggest problem,” Forst said. “I think I can speak for all of us here. Lonny is a good man – too good of a man. I like Lonny personally both as a friend and as a fellow city councilman but he will block us and is dangerous.”

Tom looked up with keen interest.

“I like Lonny a lot too,” Tom said.

“He’s honest,” Bill said.

“To a fault,” I said.

“Certainly courageous,” Bill said.

“He is the perfect man to have on your side when you are in a scrap,” Tom said. “But when he is against you he is nothing but trouble.”

“We understand each other,” Forst said.

“I’m not sure we do,” Bill said. “We should be clear about things.”

“Some things are best left unsaid,” Forst said.

“We are good friends here,” Bill said. “We have all agreed to keep everything said in this room to ourselves.”

“We all go way back,” I said.

“We can trust one another,” Bill said. “Nothing will leave this room.”

“Okay,” Forst said. “What about the homosexuals in this community?”

“We have to get rid of them,” Tom said.

“I am for tarring and feathering them and riding them out of town,” I said.

“We ought think things through,” Bill said. “There is the law to consider.”

“And Lonny wouldn’t allow it,” Forst said.

We continued to play. We sipped our whiskey, thinking.

“We have a responsibility, not only to this community but to others,” Tom said. “We cannot just pass on this evil to other places.”

“What are you suggesting?” Bill said.

“We are going to have to kill them,” Tom said.

“I don’t know about that,’ I said. “Scaring them away is one thing. Killing them is another.”

“You are talking about murder,” Bill said and lifting his walking cane for emphasis.

“Wait a minute,” Tom said. “We are not murdering anyone but saving our children from the clutches of the likes of Old Waylon and his gang of perverts.”

“It’s simple mathematics,” Forst said.

“Why can’t we just scare them a way,” I said. “Taking their lives seems extreme.”

“We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again,” Forst said. “Here or anywhere. If we never had allowed homosexuals to live among us this would have never happened and Jed would be alive today.”

“I agree with Forst,” Tom said. “We are all good Christian men, leaders of men, men of conscience. We cannot pass the responsibility off to other unsuspecting people in other communities. We must confront the evil here.”

“Then do we all agree?” Forst asked.

“No.” Bill said. “We cannot partake in this kind of evil.”

Tom became furious. “God damn it Bill, Jed was not your nephew. What if Jed was your nephew?”

“I warn you all,” Bill said sternly. “You are in over your heads.”

“Let me remind you, you have sworn secrecy,” Forst said.

“Not to murder,” Bill said.

“What are the lives of a couple of sodomites to us anyways?” Forst said.

“They are human beings like the rest of us,” Bill said. “And then there is the law that protects everyone, including ourselves.”

“But the law does nothing to prevent a crime from happening,” Tom said.

“Who said another crime would happen?” Bill said. “What evidence do we have?

“Who needs evidence?”Tom said, shaking with anger. “Isn’t my dead nephew enough evidence for you.”

“If charges are to be drawn and people are to be arrested, there better be credible evidence that some sort of specific crime has been committed,” Bill said. “We must also follow the judicial procedure to make sure those who are innocent are not punished and those that are guilty are rightly punished.”

“Now, boys, we best let things cool down,” Forst said.

So we decided to break up for the night. Bill left first. Tom told Forst that he had warned him not to include Bill.

“What are we going to do about it now,” Tom asked.

“I must think on it,” Mayor Forst said.

We had tears in our eyes when we parted for home.

II. The Sign from God

Nothing would have come of this if Bill hadn’t died of sudden heart attack. It was like a sign from God. It was a magnificent affair. The entire community turned out for his funeral. Bill was respected.

After the funeral and the repast we changed our clothes and rode out to Afton Canyon together. We crossed over the train tracks passed the three graves of the dead Mormons. The rocks of the cliffs looks so red and the water of the stream so blue. There was not a cloud in the sky. We set up camp at the entrance of the canyon. After supper, we passed around the whiskey flask.

“Good man,” Forst said.

“He certainly was,’ I said.

“Too good of a man in my opinion,” Tom said.

Tom brought his ranch boss Sam. Sam was a big man – about thirty five with the same red weather beaten face that Tom wore. He hands were powerful and rock hard upon a hand shake. Surely a man to be reckoned with in any scrap. Nobody messed with Tom or Sam. Sam was a deadly shot and as loyal as a man can come.

“What about the harder question?” Forst said.

“You mean Lonny?” I said. “We can’t harm Lonny. He is our friend.”

“Yes,” Forst said. “A good and loyal man, a Christian man, a man of principal.”

“A family man,” I added.

Tom’s face turned red. His lips moved as he started to say something and then he stopped and pursed his lips.

“Yes, a good man,” he said softly.

We were silent for a moment. Forst passed the whiskey flask to me. I sipped the whiskey, tasting the spices and enjoying the subtleties of flavor.

“Can I say what is on my mind?” Forst said.

“Of course,” Tom replied.

“We won’t kill Lonny,” Forst said. “The Lonny problem requires sophistication.”

“Then I’m on board,” I said.

“I don’t have it all worked out yet,” Forst said. “But he and his family will have to go.”

‘I don’t feel comfortable with that,” I said.

“Hear me out,” Forst said.

“Let’s all keep an open mind, Henry,” Tom told me, putting his arm on my shoulder.

“Lonny is a smart guy,” Forst said. “He will oppose us at every turn and he can stop us. He will also report us to the authorities.”

“He will,” Tom said. ‘What do you think, Sam?
“I am with you, Boss,” Sam said. “Anything you say.”

“What do you suggest?” Bill said.

“We must get him and his family to voluntarily leave before we do anything,” Forst said.

“We must keep this to ourselves,’ Tom said. “Do not even tell your wife.”

We nodded our assent and shook hands.

“Let’ get down to business,” Forst said.

“We all know Sam,” Tom said. “We can trust Sam.”

We all acknowledged Sam. Sam tipped his hat.

“How about me opening the floor?” Forst the Mayor said. “Any objections?”

We all nodded our assent.

“We must force Lonny and his family to leave by stealth,’ Forst said. “There isn’t any other way. If he knows we are forcing him and his family to leave, he won’t go.”

“I still don’t like it,” I said.

“None of us do,” Tom said. “I will buy him out at a fair price. He will not be harmed.”

“We’ll scare him,” Forst said.

“He won’t get scared,” I said.

“He won’t be scared into leaving,” Forst said. “But he will protect his family and he will leave.”

“Why don’t we try to talk to him,” I said. “Convince him.”

“Let’s think about that,” Tom said.

“We won’t be able to convince him or his wife,” Forst said. “They are both headstrong. If we try to even hint to them, it will be dangerous to us.”

“Something to consider,” Sam said.

“If we spill the beans, there will be no turning back,” Forst said. “We will have to kill Lonny and his family at that point. We have our own families to consider if justice is to be served.”

“They – the homosexuals – are perverts and pedophiles,” Tom said. “Their acts are unnatural and dangerous to our community.”

“We must take action to make sure nothing like happened to poor Jed ever happens again,’ Forst said.

“We can be conservative as to who we will kill,” Tom said.

“Let us agree that when in doubt we will not kill,” Forst said. “And we all must agree on who dies.”

“That works for me,” Tom said.

“We must be strong,” Sam grunted.

All eyes were on me.

“Okay,” I said.

“Sam will take care of everything,” Forst said.

III. The Train Station

When Lonny found the dead pig suckling, he thought they were the victims of wolves. But he noted that it appeared to have had been killed by something sharp to the throat and its

partially eaten by wolves or dogs.

At first, Lonny consulted Tom and then the rest of us at the city council meeting. Tom confirmed Lonny’s suspicions. This was not an accident.

Not long after, Lonny’s ranch hand Pedro found the blood severed head of a young colt in the water trough. Pedro left with his wife and young daughter;

Lonny hired temporary workers and drifters and Forst helped out when he could. Tom sent a ranch hand over to help Lonny during harvest time. I advanced Lonny food, fertilizer and seed.

But Lonny could not find someone like Pedro. Pedro was a real workhorse. Soon his farm began to fail. The draught made things worse. Things were bad all over.

Lonny had a large mortgage on the farm and he was not able to pay it. His crops did poorly in the fall and his finances became precarious. His wife suffered a miscarriage trying to help him and then sunk into depression.

Tom and Forst offered to buy Lonny out. I advanced Lonny and his family more credit so they could eat and pay the Doc Johnson’s bill.

So he sold his farm to Tom and Forst and moved to California to live with a brother. Lonny argued that his friends were being too generous. Finally, Forst and Tom convinced Lonny to take the money for the sake of his children and sick wife.

When he was ready to return, they would sell his farm back to him. When Lonny, his wife and children left on the noon train, the whole town turned out and there was not a dry eye at the station.


orst, Tom, Sam and I agreed we had at least three homosexuals that lived among us. There was Miriam one of Tom’s ranch hands, Sally, her young lover and Pierre, a Frenchman by birth and a hair stylist by trade and a friend of Old Waylon. Sam had seen Miriam and Sally together personally.

When Tom and Sam captured Miriam, Sally and Pierre, Forst came to the store and met

with me in my office. Grace rang up customers behind the counter looked at me in the eye. Her

eyes narrowed.

When Forst left the store, he said “I will be back at closing time here. We can ride out to the Smith homestead together.”

I nodded.

When the customers left, my wife turned to me. “Henry, something is up and I know you are a part of it.”

“Nothing is up,” I said.

“I know you Henry,” Grace said. “Something is up.”

“Grace, it is none of your business,” I said. “I cannot talk about it any way.”

“It is my business,” she said. “I am your wife and we have children together so it is my my business.”

“It is nothing that concerns you,” I said.

“You are up to no good,” she said. “I do not what you are up to. But I know it is something very bad.”

“No, in fact it is something very good,” I said.

“If it good then you can tell me,’ she said.

“No, I can’t,” I said. “And it best you not inquire about it again. Why don’t you like Forst?”

“Beeause I don’t,” she said.

“He is my friend,” I said.

“That’s your fault,” she said.

IV. The Smith Farm

By the time Forst and I rode out to the Smith Homestead, Lonny’s old farm, all the men were there. The sun was going down but there was still plenty of light. They were all good men – men who could be trusted.

“What kind of evidence do we have against Miriam?” I asked.

“She is obviously butch,” Tom said.

“That alone is not enough,” Forst said. “We are talking about someone’s life here.”

“Sam, tell us what you know,” Tom said.

“I have slept with Miriam and Sally personally,’ Sam said.

“That would contradict the fact that they are sodomites,” I said.

“Hear me out,” Sam said. “They are lesbians. I seen it myself – them doing it.”

“I can vouch for Sam,” Tom said. “Sam is an honest man.”

“We need more than this,” I said.

Tom became annoyed. “Wait a minute Henry, you can’t be saying Sam is lying. We all are all friends here.”

“No,” I said. “What I am saying is that we have a responsibility to ever one here, including the accused. What we do is final. We better get it right.”

Forst put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “We are all friends here. We must do what is right. Hear Henry out.”

“How long had you had a relationship with Miriam and Sally?” I asked Sam, taking notes on a yellow notepad.

“Six months,’ he said.

“On how many occasions, did you have sexual relations with Miriam?”

“Many times,” Sam said.

“Well how many are many times?” I asked.

“A lot.”

“What number?”

“I don’t know.”

“You said the relationship lasted six months,” I asked.

“More or less.”

“When did it start?”

“About a year ago.”

“So was that was in November of last year,” I asked.

“Probably. Jus’ before the fall harvest.”

“How many times a week did you have these encounters with Miriam?”

“Maybe a couple times a week.”

“When you had these encounters with Miriam, was Sally always there?”

“Yes, except for the last time.”

“When did that encounter take place?”

“Six months ago.”

“So you and Miriam were alone?”

“No, I was with Sally,” Sam said.

“So let’s turn to the beginning, how did your relationship begin?”

“I don’t see how this is important at all,” Tom said.

“Please Tom,” Forst said. “Let Henry continue.”

“Sam how did your relationship with Miriam and Sally begin?” I asked.

“It just did,” he replied.

“Where did the first encounter take placed?”

“In the abandoned barn at the ranch.”

“Was it day or night?”


“Was it a weekend or weekend?”

“A weekend.”

“What time of day was it?

“To the best of my recollection it was Sunday morning when all were at church.”

“Why were you not at church?”

“Because I not religious.”

“How was it that you came to the barn?”

“I am the boss man,” he said. “I run the ranch for Tom and he pays me well for it. So I was patrolling the grounds that morning making sure everything was in order.”

“What is Miriam relationship to Tom?”

“She is a ranch hand,” Sam said.

“Was she a good worker?”


“How did she work at the ranch?” I asked.

“Ten years,” Sam said.

“Did you ever have any problem with her?”

“No more and no less than anyone else.” Sam said. “Miriam is a tough as nails and certainly could handle herself like a fella’.”

“What about Sally?”

“She came to the ranch two years ago.” Sam said. “She is a pretty thing. She was an orphan and a Hardy girl so Mr. Tom took her in. She worked in the house with the missus.”

“Was there any problems with her?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Did Miriam and Sally agree to lay with you,’ I said.

“I’m not a rapist if that’s what you are getting at,” Sam said.

“You were the direct boss of Miriam at the time of the entire relationship were you not?”

“Yes,” Sam said.

“Did you ask them for sex or did the woman asked you to participate?”

“Miriam asked me,” Sam said.

“Did she just spontaneous ask you or did you say something before she asked you?” I asked.

“I spoke first,” he said.

How did that come about?

“I was patrolling the ranch and I heard them so I investigated.” Sam said. “I watched them to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing.”

“How long did you watch them?

“A good ten minutes?”

“Did anything block your view?


“Where were you standing?”

“Near the barn door and then inside the barn.”

“Where were they?”

“Up on the hay loft?”

“Did you confront them?”


“What happened?”

“They were upset and asked me not to say anything.”

“How did you respond?”

“I told them I did not whether I would tell me Mr. Tom or not.”

“What happened next?”

“That is when Miriam asked me if they could make me happy.”


“I said ‘yes.’”

“Did the first encounter happen after Jed killed himself?”

“Yes. It was about a month after that.”

“Did you tell Mr. Tom at the time?

“No. Mr. Tom and his family were upset enough already,” Sam said. ‘I did not see the point in rubbing salt in his wounds. I love Mr. Tom and would do anything for him. That is the truth.”

“How do you feel about Miriam and Sally?”

“I liked them,” Sam said.

“How did it come to an end?

“I was alone with Sally alone in the ranch house. I told her that I loved her and wanted to have children with her.”

“How did she react,” I asked.

“She seemed really scared.”

“So what did you do?”

“I told her I wanted to marry her?”

“How did she respond?”

“She refused and tried to leave?”

“So what did you do?”

“I forced myself inside,” he said. “And I knew she would love it even if she was saying no. You have to understand a woman’s psychology.”

“What happened after that?

“Miriam and Sally wanted no more to do with me.”

“How was it that Mr. Tom came to know about Miriam and Sally.”

“Three months after I laid with Sally at the ranch house, Mr. Tom asked me if I knew

about any homosexuals living among us. So I told him all I knew. No more, no less.”

The men were silent. Forst looked away in disgust. He tapped his fingers on the table.

Tom became very quiet. We took a break.

The accused were brought in one by one and testified on their own behalf. We all wore white masks so the accused as we could not see our faces. I was a little shocked that they had been roughed up. Their faces were black and blue, their lips swollen and encrusted with dried blood, their teeth broken and their eyes swollen a shut.

Miriam was defiant. “I like Sally,” she declared in anger “But I AM NOT THE ONE SINNING AGAINST GOD”” she said painfully threw her swollen lips and broken teeth.

Sally was silent. She wept the whole time – the most bitter tears I have ever seen.

And Pierre refused to answer any questions. Pierre said we were nothing but a bunch of vigilantes.

‘I have rights as a human being and a naturalized citizen of this country,” he angrily said. “I have a right to a fair proceeding in a public trial.”


The prisoners were taken back to the guest house while Forst, Tom, and I deliberated. As usual Forst the mayor opened every thing up.

“We now have heard everything,’ Forst said. “I said I would deliberate but not vote.”

“Young Jed would be alive today if we had not let homosexuals in or community,” Tom said, wiping a tear from his eyes. “We must be strong. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham was prepared to do so. We must to the same.”

“We should examine the evidence against the three accused, as individuals,” I said. “There is no other way.”

“I agree,” Forst said.

“Let’s start with Miriam,” I said.

“Yes,” Forst said.

“She admits she is homosexual,” I said. “Sam saw her.”

“Undisputed,’ Forst said. “The statues that govern this territory unambiguously make sodomy a crime.”

“The Bible says it is a crime too,” Tom said.

“For me the answer is clear,’ Forst said. “Miriam is guilty.”

Tom wiped the tears from his eyes. ‘Thank you,’ he said.

‘But wait minute,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ Forst said.

“The law must be proportional and rational.” I said. ‘It must be applied individually each circumstances.”

“What are you saying?’ Tom said.

“We should let them go,” I said.

“You think too much,’ Tom said.

“She has done nothing wrong,” I said. ‘And neither has Sally.”

“What about Pierre?” Tom said. “He is French. He is a hair dresser. He is unmarried and

he was a friend of Old Waylon.

“All innuendo and guilt by association,” I said. ‘Bill was right, we should never have

done any of this.”

“We must think this through looking at all the angles,” Forst said. “We must all keep an

open mind. Henry makes many good points about why we should acquit the three accused.

We should have done things right from the beginning. But we are all in the soup now. There is

no turning back now. We will all be undone. And we have the town and our families to think of.

We can all go to prison over this.”

I rubbed my chin.

“Henry, you will lose your store, your wife and children,” Forst said.

“I need fresh air to think,” I said. I stepped outside on the portico. The wood floor

bleached white and weathered by the hot dry heat creaked underneath my boots.

I leaned on the wood railing ran my fingers through my hair. I looked out into the canyon, the

blue river and the blue sky against the red rock cliffs.

The screen door was thrown open and I could hear boots walking up the wood flooring.

Forst stood beside the railing and leaned forward. Forst was quiet for a moment. He patted me

on the shoulder and smiled at me like a father or an uncle.

“We have a lot of tough choices to make,” he said. “But we have been here before.”

I ran my fingers though my hair.

“Why do the choices seem so easy for you Forst?” I asked.

“Because I make them and then I don’t look back,” he said. “Do you stand and fight or

turn and run? Are you are coward or fool? You must make the decision at the moment and do

what you have to do and then not look at back. I survived many a scrap because I ran. I

survived others because I stood and fought.”

“Old friend, what should we do?”

“We need to cut and run,” Forst said. “We made a mistake and there is no turning back

now. There may be an inquest and we must cover our tracks or be destroyed.”

“Mmmm,” I said.

We strung up the prisoners all on the same branch from a large tree. We stood them on

horses. We asked for any last words before we hit the horses hinds with a riding crop. Both

Mariam and Pierre’s death were swift with their necks broken. Saly, however, collapsed

And she sli off her horse slowing choking to death, her eyes budging and her arms and legs

jerking. It was hard to watch but I could not take my eyes of her.

Miriam’s last words are seared into my mind. “I always tried to do right in my life,” she

Told us looking straight at me. “Now I die and you will live on. But who is going to the

better place, only God knows.” In the end, Miriam had a macabre smile on her face as if she was

laughing at us.

When Grace learned about the lynching she slapped my face as hard as she could. As

much as the slap hurt, her words hurt me more.

“Henry, you are a coward.”

The governor held an inquest. Forst, Tom and I stuck together and we exonerated of any

wrong doing as public officials.

This morning I climbed the canyon walls to this cave. I can smell the dried bat dung. And

now I told my story to the cave. Three dead at Afton Canyon. Did I do wrong?


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