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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 60: THE DUEL

After Salvador Vallejo decided to send his cattle to market, he hired Ben Moore and J. Broom Smith to do the job for him. All of the wild Longhorn Cattle, and those of the herd that had belonged to Kelsey and Stone until their deaths, were rounded up for Vallejo by Moore, Smith, and twenty Spanish Vaqueros.

A year later, Ben and his partner, Smith, remembering the cattle and believing many more wild cattle still roamed free around Long Valley, decided to round them up and sell them on their own. Along with six of the roughest and toughest men he could find, Ben and his friend, headed back to Lake County. They planned to divide up the stock they found and sell them to the army at Sonoma.

Alas, when they went searching for the strays, they discovered there were slim pickings. After speaking to the Native Americans and investigating the many cattle tracks, Ben solved the mystery. The tracks led from Scotts Valley to Hopland. Gathering his crew, he announced what he believed had happened.

“This means only one thing. The Spaniards, living on the Land grant at Hopland, were here. Those sneaky bastards drove out most of the cattle that were left. The cattle are probably corralled on their Hopland Land Grant.”

With that on-the-target surmise, he gave orders to the vaqueros.

“We are going there to get those cattle back.”

Riding under a full moon, Ben Moore, Broom Smith and their cowhands, rode off over the trail to Hopland. Sure enough, as Ben had predicted, they came upon the misplaced cattle. Quietly working the cattle toward the foot of the trail leading back to Lake County, Moore and his men drove the herd east and back to Clear Lake. Pushing forward without rest, by the third night the cattle were safely back in Lake County.

The Spaniards woke up to find their herd had disappeared like snow under a hot summer’s sun. Whooping and cursing their rage and frustrations, they followed the clear tracks of the vanished herd, and gave hot pursuit. By this time the cattle were well inside Scotts Valley and nearly to Scotts Creek. Moore and Smith had planned ahead for what they expected to be a certain chase.

It was a hot summer. The brush next to the cattle trail was dry, thick, and ready to burn. Moore’s cowhands drenched the dry foliage with fuel oil. When the Spaniards came riding by, hell-bent for leather, Smith set fire to the brush. In the smoke and heat, and with the added sound of Ben Moore’s men firing their guns, the ruckus conspired to discourage the pursuers. The Spaniards dared go no farther and they gave up the chase.

Ben Moore’s reckless escapades continued. During the sale of the cattle to the Army, Ben got into an argument with the Mexican Army Officer. They decided to settle the matter with swords and Moore killed the Mexican Officer. At this point in his hectic career, Moore decided it was time to ride out for other parts of the country to escape the Spanish authorities. Wisely, he rode back to Lake County.

Few white men lived there at that time. He was safe enough. He married a young Native American woman and moved to a Northern part of Lake County where it was wilder and unsettled. Since civilization was creeping dangerously close, Ben found a remote place, built a cabin, and made it his home. Quoting from Mauldin’s historical writings, Henry Mauldin tells precisely where Ben Moore and his wife settled.

You might have thought Ben would have peace with a home and a wife from his wild times. That was hardly the case. His next encounter with trouble was with some unruly Native Americans.

Next Episode: A scrape with Death

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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