The Headhunter’s Story

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1868 – Prescott, Arizona

Ex-Union cavalry officer, Captain Leander Lincoln kicked the saloon doors open and entered with both guns drawn!

“I’m looking for the Stuart boys!” he shouted.

Three men slowly stood up from the card table. The rest of the saloon was silent as the oldest spoke, “You found them. Now what are you going to do?” he asked as his right hand slithered down to hover over his Colt 45.

Lincoln, laughed and said, “I’m going to kill all three of you fools if you all don’t unbuckle your gun belts very carefully and let them drop to the ground.

“Here’s the thing. Your wanted dead, or alive. I’d just as soon shoot your sorry asses so you better make a quick decision!”

Three gun belts fell to the wooden floor.

The US Army drove the Navajo people from their ancestorial lands in Arizona Territory and Western New Mexico, and marched them on the infamous Long Walk to imprisonment in Bosque Redondo when Leander was still in the Army and stationed in Washington DC.

When the treaty of 1868 was signed the Navajo left Bosque Redondo, and were relocated to eastern New Mexico. That was the year Leander mustered out of the Army and went West to see his mother and half brother.

Hundreds of Navajo men, women, and children died on the Long Walk. The survivors were put on a reservation. The horror of the relocation was firmly embedded in their minds.

Some wanted revenge. The rest went on with their hardscrabble lives.

Hashkeh Naabah  greeted Leander warmly.

“What has my white son Ahiga brought me?” he politely asked.

Three more white men who won’t be missed. Your men are taking them off the horses and tying them to stakes as we speak.”

“No one will come and say we killed them then?” Hashkeh inquired.

“No. They are wanted men. They are yours now. I will continue to bring you white men as long as I can. As long as I live.”

“You are a lot like your mother, and my sister, Yanaha. He bravery inspired us all on the Long Walk. We still mourn her death.”  

“As do I, Uncle.”

“Come, let us go watch the squaws torture these white eyes. The big one looks like he may last for a long time.” 

The prisoners screams pierced the night.

Leander’s anger at the US Army, and what they did to his mother, burned his soul and left a charred husk of a human thirsting for revenge. Posing as a bounty hunter was a stroke of genius.

He knew he couldn’t start killing Union soldiers and hope to get away with it. In his mind he ceased being a “white man” and embraced his Navajo heritage. He was Ahiga, son of Yanaha. As such, he had no qualms about killing any white men.

After roaming from town-to-town looking for wanted men throughout the west he acquired a reputation. Folks knew Captain Lincoln never brought anyone back alive. Just their heads.

His hunt lasted two years, before he was shot to death in a saloon by a drunken ex-Confederate soldier who refused to believe the war was over.

The elders at the Navajo Reservation told Ahiga’s story to each new generation. It was a story however, that was never shared with outsiders.

As It Stands, historical fiction is a good way to tell stories that could have been true, but aren’t.