They were a wonder to look at, but I figured only the really rich would be riding on something like that, though if we'd had a couple of those back during the war to drop supplies and weapons, maybe mounted with a cannon or two, victory would have come a lot quicker, I'm thinking.
Half the stuff they had I couldn't understand anyway. There was box of tubes that was supposed to send messages into something called the aether to other tube-filled boxes, like a telegraph without the wires. One thing I did like was a rifle with a crank-handle that made it fire a small bolt of lightning. The little German showing it said you could give it just enough power to stun a man, or even a beast. They knocked a big old bull flat with it, which I allow was impressive enough, but I wasn't about to swap my Winchester for that heavy thing.
Then there were the iron horses. No, not locomotives, but honest-to-God four-legged, metal-bodied horses, polished smooth and black, with steam coming out their noses and bright lamps for eyes. They burned coal in their bellies and were hot to the touch, so much so that I wouldn't want to ride one for more than a few miles, though the sign in front of them said there was special saddle. Talk was, they could run twice as fast for twice as long as the best flesh-and-blood horse, but I had to figure with all them moving parts, they must break down something awful. Now, if a man takes care of his horse, that horse will carry him to hell and then some. Those mechanical beasts might be pretty and they might be fast, but they could never replace the real things.
No, it wouldn't have been my problem at all, except those damned Brits were going to California, and someone somewhere in Washington decided it might be a good idea to make a show of it, give that fancy Lord who was paying for it all a tour of the "Wild West." Of course, they needed someone along who could be their guide, someone who had fought the Lakota, drove cattle, and lived by his wits and sometimes his guns. Someone who had ridden the land.
And so Jefferson Monroe Stottlemyre, United States Marshal, Ex-Union Cavalry officer in the War Between the States, and reputed gunfighter found himself on a west-bound train, by order of President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, to assist, guide, and guard Lord George Talbot, his daughter, and their retainers on their overland trip to California.