Steve Braunias: The secret diary of the Collins Gang :


The train was late and didn’t get into Wellington until after dark. No one was at the station when the Collins Gang hobbled on to the platform. Their clothes smelled of gunsmoke and blood. Many were on crutches and Big Bad Gerry had an arrow lodged in his black hat.

“Well,” said Whitey Collins, “we’re here.”

A cold wind blew off the prairie. Vultures flapped in the treetops.

“Okay,” she said. “We lost a few good men and women, but . . .” “More’n a few,” someone interrupted.

“Ain’t my fault,” she said. “Weren’t for me, none of ya would of made it out alive! Ya hear?”

Nobody spoke.

“Let’s ride into town,” she said. “Freshen up a little. Get some sleep. Tomorrow’s a new day.”

But there weren’t any horses.

“Ain’t my fault,” grumbled Whitey. She had lost her sight in a hunting accident in Ponsonby a week earlier and led her gang into town on foot.

Many of them were blind, too. It was going to be a long night.


Nobody heard the Collins Gang walk into the saloon. There was a party going on. A fiddler played hoe- down music, a man danced naked, a woman fought a bear, and there were a lot of doors opening and closing in the upstairs bedrooms.

Whitey Collins had to shout to make herself heard. “We need rooms,” she said to the barkeep, “and whiskey.”

“Only room I got is the broom closet.” “We’ll take it.”

The barkeep poured out shots for the gang. They hunched over the bar and stared into their glasses. Big Bad Gerry turned around and looked with mean, bitter eyes at the wild celebrations of the Ardern Gang, the Shaw Gang and the Seymour Gang.

“Seymour, put some clothes on,” he tried to shout, but it came out as a faint wheeze. He touched the arrow in his hat. It had gone straight through his head.


“We’re here to play the blame game,” said Whitey, as they squeezed into the broom closet, “and the first thing y’all should know is that it ain’t my fault.” Nobody spoke.

“Muller,” she said, and pointed at a man with a thousand- yard stare. “It’s his fault.” Then she pointed at Bridges. “His fault.” Then at Lee. “Her fault.” She went around the closet. “His fault . . . Her fault

. . . His fault,” until she had pointed at everyone.

“Well,” she said, “that was a fun game!” Nobody laughed.


Whitey sent a note to Seymour that she wanted to see him to discuss his junior role in their alliance and he sent a note back that he was a bit busy at the moment, but if she wanted to book an appointment then he might be able to see her sometime after Christmas.


Talofa Wong Tung put Whitey on a stagecoach back to their ranch. She immediately went upstairs to the attic and collapsed in tears in front of her porcelain dolly, Miss Judith.

She stroked its hair and crooned, “Hush, li’l child. Don’t you cry none. It’s gonna be all right.

It’s all gonna be all right. Everybody loves you. Everybody! Ya hear?”

The doll looked at her with its big blue eyes.

A cold wind blew off the prairie. Vultures flapped in the lower branches of the trees.

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