How did the Mavericks get to Colorado

and Little Bend, Texas?







Set in August[1] 1871,[3] Trail West to Fury places Bret Maverick just out of Bent Forks[2], Nebraska[3] as seen in "Point Blank." We know nothing of Bart's back trail at this point.


At the outset of the story, we find the Maverick Brothers and Dandy Jim Buckley sheltered in an abandoned house during a raging flood. The rapidly rising waters were supposedly caused by a downpour conjured out of the sky by a Ute snake dance. Other than that, we know only that they are somewhere on or near the Colorado plains.[1]

The Ute Indians once covered half of
Utah and almost all of Colorado. But an 1868 treaty with the U. S. government forced them to remain west of the 107th meridian, confining them to the Rocky Mountains.[4]




In August 1871, the Mavericks and Dandy Jim, being on the plains, must have been east of the Rockies, probably a hundred miles or more from the Ute reservation, and probably in no danger of falling under their influence. But if we choose to believe Bret — that the downpour was caused by a Ute snake dance — we might imagine the location to be somewhere to the east of the confluence of the Arkansas and Fontaine Rivers, where heavy August rains often flooded the countryside.[5] Populated as the area was in those days, the area just east of Pueblo along the Arkansas would have been a likely place for the boys to find refuge during such a deluge. And along a well-established trail into and out of Denver, it was a likely spot to meet up with Dandy Jim.





Sometime within the next nine months, the Mavericks' exile from Texas would end. It would be in May 1872 that Bret was able to travel freely and without concern to Gunsight, Texas and beyond.[6] So we may assume an untold story of the Mavericks unfolded during that time: Either the elusive Tall Man was found, or some other evidence came to light to remove Jessie Hayden's accusation of murder from the Mavericks. Back in 1867, the Tall Man was last said to be headed to Colorado.[1] So perhaps while still in the territory, contrary to the Mavericks' wandering intentions, they may have stumbled across him and wound up cleared of the charges against them. Or perhaps it was Dandy Jim who found him on his own and, breaking another promise to the Mavericks, had the Tall Man clear their names. Either way, after Colorado, the Mavericks were apparently free to roam anywhere in the West.







"Just before the War ended, Bart and I, like a lot of Johnny Rebs, joined the Union Army as Indian fighters to keep from rotting in a Yankee prison. Two years of that was plenty and, when our hitch was over, Little Bend, Texas, our home town, suddenly seemed like the best place on earth to head for.


"We hadn't been back in over five years, and things had changed. The Union Army was running the place now, instead of the men who should have been running it. the Johnny Rebs had come home to nothing. But we were home. And we had plans."[1]


This short narration of Bret's tells us more of the Mavericks' background than almost anything else in the entire Saga. Barely short of an origin story, it gives us an insight into an intriguing history of untold tales of Bret and Bart. In what battles did they fight? Where were they captured? Where were they imprisoned? In what company did they serve as Galvanized Yankees?


We are never told directly. But being from Texas and knowing that — as Galvanized Yankees — the Maverick Brothers fought Indians in the country between Little Bend and Fort Adobe[1], we have valuable clues.


Fort Union was the furthest southwest that any Galvanized Yankees served. From there, they protected the Santa Fe Trail from Indian attacks and other threats. This would have been manned by troops of the 5th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. These former Confederate soldiers would have enlisted from amongst prisoners at Camp Douglas in Chicago, which housed captured Texan soldiers. At the end of their service, they would have mustered out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.[7]


Six hundred miles away, we can only guess about the trail they took to return home to Little Bend. But it would have been from the northeast in general. As they got closer to home, and would have to travel through portions of dangerous Comanche territory, we can assume they stuck close to established trails where the newly ensconced Union Army would be on patrol. This would have probably brought them into Little Bend by way of Dallas, and then Belton and Lampasas to the east.[8]





McAnelly's Bend, Texas (known today simply as Bend), was situated on the Lampasas side of the confluence of The Colorado River and Cherokee Creek. The small community across the river has long been known to locals as Little Bend.[8] With almost exactly five hundred miles of Comanche country stretching from there well into New Mexico Territory,[1] it is a very reasonable location to place the Mavericks' home town.


Laura Miller's description of Jessie Hayden's map is a valuable clue. She stated that it covered "three counties. Five thousand square miles."[1] Little Bend itself was, as it is today, in San Saba County, bordering the then-expansive Bexar County where, in 1842, the Fisher and Miller Colony had been granted exactly 5,000 square miles between the Llano and Colorado Rivers in Comanche country, by the Republic of Texas.[9] By 1867, the land grant had already been carved into several counties. But Jessie's dreams were not limited to lines drawn on a map by others. He was freely labeling his own map as he saw it with, as he told Bret, "a Texas-size ranch, 'cause that's the way it's gonna be."[1]


Since we are told by one of Little Bend's own that "Mavericks are Texans from way back,"[1] we may even assume Bret and Bart were kin to Samuel Maverick himself. Little Bend was in San Saba County, neighboring Bexar County, where Samuel Maverick held over 66,000 acres, acquired in the 1840s. He intended to pass the land down to his children, nieces, nephews and other relations.[10]


It was in 1867, the year of our story, that the term "maverick" was first adopted from the famous surname to identify unbranded cattle.[7] Considering all these facts, it is compelling indeed to assume a kinship between this great pioneer Texan and the sons of "Pappy" Beauregard Maverick.[3 Because on their return to Little Bend, Bret and Bart had the unlikely plans of moving back to their spread and raising a herd. It's doubtful their old Pappy would have left them such a thing. That would have required working for a living.




All we know of Fort Adobe's location is that it was in the Arizona Territory. Anywhere in Arizona was well beyond the 500 miles of Comanche country west of Little Bend with which the Mavericks were familiar. Other army forts in central and southern Arizona already raised their own livestock, and would not have needed to pay the exorbitant prices of $40 a head. However, in the days before railroads became commonplace, some markets in the east were offering that price and higher.[11]


The removal of the Navajo Indians from their traditional lands in 1864 gave the Union full run of the vast grazing lands near the New Mexico border. But Fort Defiance, abandoned since 1861, left that region unprotected until its re-establishment in 1868.[12] It would have made sense for the Union Army to establish a military presence in the area and take advantage of the surrounding grazing lands. Therefore, this vicinity would be a reasonable location for Fort Adobe.[3]


Fortunately, the dormant ranching years of the Civil War allowed Texas herds to multiply greatly, so enterprising ranchers of the day had  available livestock. But the sheer distance through hostile Comanche territory seemed like an impossible barrier. Only weeks earlier, the ill-fated 1867 Goodnight-Loving drive up the Pecos River suffered devastating Indian attacks which led to the ultimate death of Oliver Loving himself.[11]





In the wake of the Goodnight-Loving drive, a similar endeavor by the Miller Ranch could only have been attempted with hearty and intrepid trail bosses intimately familiar with those dangerous lands. The Mavericks? Just having retired from from two years as Indian fighters in New Mexico, and being Mavericks, they were not so inclined. But ... they needed the money.[1]


Knowing the trail ahead, the Mavericks would have proposed the most direct route through and out of Comanche country. This would have taken them almost due west from Little Bend, across the dry Texas plains, and up the Goodnight-Loving Trail along the Pecos River, into New Mexico Territory. Then out of Comanche territory, turning west at Beck's Ranch (near the modern site of Roswell), through Albuquerque on to Fort Adobe just beyond Arizona border.[4]


Pushed by the threat of Comanches during the hottest and driest time of year, across grazing lands already clipped short by Goodnight and Loving, and with Jessie Hayden's herd right behind,[1] the Miller cattle drive would have traversed the 800-mile trail in about ten and a half weeks, averaging just slightly more than eleven miles a day.[3]





After Jessie Hayden's deposition against the Mavericks, only finding the Tall Man could have saved them from murder charges. Losing the flip of a coin, Bart drew the assignment of chasing after the wagon train the Tall Man was said to work.


Bret and Bart had learned that the Tall Man left Little Bend the night before to join a wagon train. Bret had the additional information that the Tall Man was heading northeast. This was news to Bart, but having lost the coin toss, he lighted out of town to pick up the trail.


We don't know if the Tall Man was really headed northeast. It may be that he only headed that direction out of town to pick up the established road running northwest from Austin  to Fort Phantom Hill and beyond. But it could also have been very possible that Bret was simply conning his brother to get him out of the way to have more time for himself with Laura Miller.[3]


Either way, eight days later and fifty miles north of Little Bend, Bart caught up to the wagon train as it is attacked by Comanches. Three or four wagons got away and with one of them, the Tall Man.[1]


Apparently, the wagons scattered in different directions, possibly to divide the marauding Comanches in pursuit. Having trailed one of the wagons farther north towards the Texas Panhandle,[3] Bart learned the Tall Man wasn't there. He was told the Tall Man was making his way to Fort Adobe, the same destination as the Miller cattle drive. So Bart took another turn to catch up with the herd and hopefully to find the Tall Man.[1]


Bart finally met the cattle drive about a week away from Fort Adobe. In so doing, he learned  Jessie Hayden was also driving a herd and planned to stop the Miller drive from ever reaching Fort Adobe.[1]


Having delivered the news, Bart rushed ahead to Fort Adobe, once again on the trail of the Tall Man, and also probably to negotiate terms for the incoming herd. But the Tall Man had come and gone, presumably already on his way to Colorado.[1]





By the time the Bret arrived at Fort Adobe with the herd, Bart had already taken off towards Colorado on the Tall Man's trail. Bret told Jim and Laura he' would catch up with brother Bart, hopefully with the Tall Man in tow, so they could once again return to Texas.[1]


The most direct trail into Colorado from Fort Adobe would have been back along the cattle trail, turning north at Albuquerque for Santa Fe. But we know from "The Jeweled Gun" that it will not be until 1876 that Bart ever set foot in Santa Fe.[13]


So the trail must have led elsewhere. The Mavericks probably tracked the Tall Man further east before finally turning north. This might have taken them out through Las Vegas, New Mexico, and then up to Fort Union and into Colorado through the Raton Pass.[3]


Whichever trail Bret and Bart took that day, we know the Tall Man was not at the end of it.


01. Maverick, Trail West to Fury (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

02. Maverick, Point Blank (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

03. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

04. Map Of The States Of Kansas And Texas And Indian Territory, Engineer Bureau, War Department (1867); The David Rumsey Collection

05. The Colorado Chieftain, August 10, 1871

06. Maverick, Ghost Rider (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

07. The Galvanized Yankees, Dee Brown — University of Nebraska Press, ©1963

08. Bend: Early Days in Bend Community (1983), Mildred M. Patterson

09. Fisher-Miller Land Grant (retrieved March 29, 2014), Texas State Historical Association

10. Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneer Sam and Mary Maverick (1989), Paula Mitchell Marks

11. An Album of the American Cowboy, John William Malone — New York: Franklin Watts, Inc. (1971)

12. Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period, Johnson Broderick — Dine College Press (June 1973)

13. Maverick, The Jeweled Gun (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

ABOVE: Bart, Bret and Dandy Jim wait out a Colorado flood by telling stories.[1]


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