How did Bret get to Bent Forks?
Bret Maverick was running from a band of riders at the beginning of the story. We never find out if they were a posse, angry poker players, or some other disgruntled group. All we are told is, they chased him from Prairie Springs “the night before last” over “a little misunderstanding that [Bret] didn’t have time to straighten out.” So it seems that Bret was running from Prairie Springs all the previous day. How far might he have traveled, under the circumstances?
After his ride, Bret wound up in the dusty little town of Bent Forks. We are never told where Bent Forks is, other than it was at least a day’s hard ride from Prairie Springs, which is also ambiguous.
But we have several clues:
10 We can obviously assume that, with a nearby town called Prairie Springs, Bent Forks was on or near a prairie.
20 The name Bent Forks implies the forks of a stream or river. Since we know the town was dry and dusty, and we see a small lake or pond in the episode, forks of a stream or creek would have been more likely than those of a river.
30 Bent Forks was on or near a cattle trail. Cattle drives hit town on a regular basis, and much of the local economy was based on the buying and selling of cattle.
40 Bret mentioned that Bent Forks was “the hottest, dustiest, most forsaken little town west of the Missouri.” Prairies west of the Missouri River covered a lot of ground. In 1871, they included the southwestern region of Dakota Territory, all of Nebraska, Kansas, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and parts of Texas.
50 We can safely rule out Dakota Territory. The first cattle ranch in the territory west of the Missouri wasn’t established until 1878, after the Treaty of Fort Laramie was revoked in 1877, which took the land away from the Indians.
60 The terrain of Kansas and Indian Territory seems too flat along their rivers and cattle trails to match the rugged hills depicted in “Point Blank.”
70 We know that it was not in Texas, since Molly Gleason tells Bret “In Texas, you can look farther but you can’t see as much.” Also, since Bret was still apparently looking for the Tall Man, he hadn’t been cleared of a murder charge there yet, so avoided Texas at all costs.
That seems to leave Nebraska as the most promising prairie land for the setting of “Point Blank.” Today, there is a game bird hunting ranch near Dalton, Nebraska called Prairie Springs in a region that seems to match the physical terrain as depicted in the episode. It could be supposed that the fictional town of Prairie Springs could have existed on or near this site.
Heading northwest from Prairie Springs, a hard day’s ride through rugged terrain could end near the crooked streams of Lawrence Fork and Pumpkin Creek, tributaries of the nearby North Platte River. A cattle trail between Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory and Ogallala, Nebraska followed the North Platte, and would have passed very near the confluence of these two streams. It seems reasonable to imagine this to be the site of the story’s dusty little town of Bent Forks.
Bret likely headed southwest out of Bent Forks to meet Brother Bart in Denver, one of their favorite rendezvous points. Only days later, they were caught in a torrential August flood in Colorado Territory with Dandy Jim Buckley, as seen in "Trail West to Fury."
01. Maverick, Point Blank (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, History of Cattle Production in North Dakota (accessed April 6, 2009), North Dakota State University, Fargo ND, ndsu.edu Publishing Company
03. Maverick, Trail West to Fury (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
04. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
05. Prairie Springs, LLC, Prairie Springs (accessed April 6, 2009), prairiespringsllc.com
06. Olson, James C., History of Nebraska, ©1997 University of Nebraska Press
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