How did Bret get to
the Packsaddle Station?
We are never told why Bret Maverick would be anywhere in the vicinity of the Black Hills in the days before the existence of Deadwood. Why would he be traveling in the very hostile Sioux country when there wasn't a poker game within a hundred miles? We can only assume it probably had something to do with money.
Whatever the reason, Bret crossed the Tomah Stage route near the Nebraska-Dakota border on his way north into Sioux country.
THE BLACK HILLS
Bret Maverick came across Sam Harris on the outer slopes of the Black Hills where Mart Fallon and his sons had left him for dead. Harris was able to sit Bret's horse weakly and guide Bret to his gold strike.
Bret was able to draw a crude map to the mine, enough to identify the location of the strike amidst specific outcroppings along the northeast edge of the Black Hills, adjacent to what was known to Harris and the Fallons as Stoney Gap.
To locate the site of the Packsaddle Station, we must triangulate from a few given landmarks, and make inferences from other clues:
• "A few skin trappers or someone headin' for the Sioux country" is passenger agent Simmons' description of the infrequent company he gets at Packsaddle Station. Since the trappers' game was caught in the Black Hills, also in Sioux country, we know that the stage stop is not in either. The Great Sioux Reservation, delineated by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, was ceded land between the borders of today's South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The Packsaddle Station was therefore in either Wyoming Territory to the west, Nebraska to the south, or east of the Missouri in Dakota Territory.
• "Ain't nothin' drops in here 'cept the agency stage or a few shade-minded sidewinders" is Simmons' additional description of Packsaddle visitors. Sidewinders aside, the stage must run along a route that would deliver mail and supplies to the Indian agencies in the region.
• "That ain't no way to treat them animals. They gotta go back on the eastern run as soon as that other stage gets in." Simmons reprimands the driver of the west-bound stage for driving the coach horses too hard. The stage route, therefore, ran east and west. This could only place the wagon road in Nebraska, south of the Sioux country.
• "On the other side of Beaver Creek" is where Rip found the charred remains of the west-bound stage. Beaver Creek is a tributary of the White River, just south of the Dakota-Nebraska border and the Sioux country. This would place the stage route, and therefore Packsaddle Station, in the northern Nebraska Panhandle.
• "Well, it ain't likely they'll be headin' this way, then. The best pickin's is between there and Twin Bluffs," was Mort Fallon's response to Rip's report. Twin Bluffs must have been further west from Beaver Creek. A pair of distinctive buttes known as Sheridan Gates stands about two miles west of Beaver Creek, a likely site for the fictional town of Twin Bluffs.
01. Maverick, A Fellow's Brother (1959), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. Maverick, Stage West (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
03. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
04. Maverick, The Resurrection of Joe November (1960), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Bret Maverick’s trail with Sam Harris to the Harris Mine
July 23, 1875
Bret Maverick’s trail
to the Packsaddle Station
July 26 – 28, 1875
• "Just east of Twin Bluffs" is where Simmons told Bret the Fallon Ranch was situated. That would place the ranch on or very near Beaver Creek.
• "Two days, hard riding" according to Bret, was the distance back to the Harris Mine. Hard riding, indeed, through hostile Sioux country. Bret's horse could travel about sixty miles a day, when pushed. That would place Packsaddle Station about 125 miles south and to the east of the mine, right along the Nebraska border
• "It's a two-hour ride to the ranch," Fallon told Bret. That would place Packsaddle Station about 30 miles east of Beaver Creek.
• "Stage is comin', Pa. I spotted the dust up on top o' Pine Hill," Rip told Mort Fallon earlier. Nebraska is fairly flat 30 miles east of Beaver Creek, but the western edge of the Sandhills, gently rolling hillocks along the state's northern border, could have been the site of a sparcely pined hillock known as Pine Hill.
Just within eyesight of the western-most Sandhills, along the northern Nebraska border, then, would have been the site of the Packsaddle Station.
TO WHO KNOWS WHERE
There are no indications in this or other stories as to Bret's destination after "Stage West." But shortly afterwards, he was to head eat towards the Mississippi River country, where we pick up his trail again in early 1876.
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