The cave was cold, dark, and damp and Sam’s hands were numb. He dared not build a fire in case the posse pursuing him would see the smoke. He had no idea how long he would have to hide out, but however long he had to endure it, it was better than being shot down by a bunch of irate, trigger-happy posse members who were anxious to shoot at anything that moved. To occupy his mind, he thought back to his childhood and the 17 years leading up to today.
His first recollections were of living in a cheap rooming house with his mother, Sarah. He could not remember his father, only the frequent men visiting his mother on a regular basis. He was always told to go get lost while the men were in the house. He didn’t even know what his own last name was and would not find out until he needed to register for school. Then his mother enrolled him as Sam Stone. He recalled Bill Stone was the name of one of the constant visitors at his house.
His mother, while not perfect, was in her own way a good mother. She made sure he always had enough to eat and had clean clothes to put on every day. She always reminded him to make sure to wear clean underwear in case there was an accident and he had to go see a doctor.
He had no pleasant memories of school. He was smart enough and liked Miss Ranker, his teacher, but the other boys picked on him. He was shorter than some of them and frail, so they picked on him constantly. Every recess he had to fight, and he got pretty good at it. He learned if he held a rock in his hand, he could hit the boys hard and they would stay on the ground when he knocked them down.
He was constantly being teased. Sometimes even the girls chimed in while the boys would chant, “Little Sammy Stone, someone throw him a bone; he must be a dog because his mother is a bitch.” Another one he heard often was, “Poor Sammy Stone, he ain’t got no daddy anymore; but he don’t need one ‘cause his mother’s a whore.” He did not know what a whore was, so he asked Miss Ranker, “What is a whore?”
He got the answer, “It is a woman with loose morals.”
He didn’t know what morals were, but he thought it must be bad so whenever he heard it, he attacked the boys saying it, rock in hand. Even with the rock, he was no match for three or four boys. He often went back to class bruised and bleeding. He would always be cleaned up and bandaged by Miss Ranker before he went home.
His bad thoughts of childhood were interrupted by his stomach growling, so he moved to the mouth of the cave and saw it was still daylight. He would have to wait until dark, then try and lose the relentless pursuit of the posse. He couldn’t understand why they were so hell-bent on getting him. He didn’t take all of the money in the bank, only what was in the cashier’s drawer. They had plenty of money left, and he only took enough to last him for a month or two.
His thoughts then drifted back to the first bank he robbed. It was so easy, and he really hadn’t even planned on robbing it. A few days earlier, he took a rifle from a wagon parked in front of a saloon. Thinking someone might also steal it from him if he left it on his horse when he went inside, he always carried it inside with him. One day he went into a bank to sell some gold dust he stole from a miner, while carrying the rifle. The people in the bank raised their hands, even the cashier. Then they all handed him their wallets and watches. The cashier even assisted him by stuffing money into a bank bag. That was the beginning of wanted posters with his name on them, and they offered a reward for his arrest. He robbed more banks, but none were as easy as the first one.
He then began to think about the day he left home. He was 15 years old and needed to talk to his mother after a severe beating he took at school from five other boys. He did not see his mother in the parlor or the kitchen, so he went to her room. There she was in bed with a man he had never seen before. He surprised them both, and the man yelled at him, “Get out of here, kid.” His mother said, “Please, Sam, go outside and play and I’ll talk to you later.” The man yelled again, “Beat it, kid, or I’ll kill you,” and pointed a pistol at Sam.
Without answering, Sam walked around the head of the bed, took a half-full bottle of whiskey from the nightstand, and broke it over the man’s head. He then took the man’s pistol, went outside, took the man’s horse, and rode away to the sound of his mother’s voice screaming, “Damn you, Sam. You could have killed him.” He would never go home again.