Doc Robyn and Kid Equus
Many readers may know of Balladeer, otherwise known as The Blackwater Kid, writes the most amazing Frontier sagas! He has written Doc Robyn and Kid Equus for John and I. We are honoured to share it here. Please enjoy some entertainment after the trauma of our real life saga and do visit Balladeer to read his other sagas. Six Gun Sara can also be found at http://midaevalmaiden.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/six-gun-sara/
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Doc Robyn and Kid Equus are one of the premier combos of the old west. To most western historians the duo rank right up there with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. A great deal of mystery surrounds the early life of both members of this legendary twosome. Their full names are lost to history and since both of them used countless aliases throughout their adventurous lives complete details may never be retrieved at this late date.
One of the few things anyone can say with certainty is that “Doc’s” real first name was indeed Robyn and she was born to a New Zealand couple who moved to the United States to participate in the California Gold Rush when Robyn was very young. Robyn’s parents knew the safest way money could be made in the Gold Rush was by selling supplies to the flood of arriving prospectors, not in the chancy proposition of actually looking for gold themselves. After making a quick fortune the family moved east, settling in Maryland.
By the time she was eleven years old the independent and adventurous Robyn was helping out her family, whose home was one of the stops in the Underground Railroad smuggling escaped slaves to freedom in the northern United States or to Canada. As Robyn became more experienced she even began operating “undercover” in Virginia (which at that time still encompassed what would eventually become the separate state of West Virginia) posing as a spoiled child of the southern gentry accompanied by a personal slave or two. When transporting male slaves to freedom Robyn would dress as a young male since young southern ladies did not have male slaves as their personal attendants. When she was in her early teens this daring life provided the future “Doc” Robyn with her first meeting with the man who would share much of her life and a spot in the annals of western history. Sometimes called “Johnny Horse”, the young African American man was born into slavery on the infamous Dixie Empire Plantation, owned by the loathsome clan (as it were) headed by Ignatius Pennybottom.
The Pennybottoms, often called “the American Borgias”, were notorious for their harsh treatment of their slaves, shocking even their fellow southerners with their cruelty. Ignatius was known for his ridiculous aristocratic airs and often gave his slaves new Latin names based on any particular skills they manifested. He bestowed the name “Equus” on one young slave because of the man’s phenomenal talent at training and maintaining horses.
Equus (obviously the future Kid Equus) had escaped from the hellish Dixie Empire Plantation and was being smuggled north by Robyn, disguised as a boy. Hobart Pennybottom, the oldest son of Ignatius, had for years been making an event out of hunts for escaped slaves, treating it like a grand sport. In order to escape the relentless Hobart and his hounds Robyn and Equus were forced to abandon Robyn’s usual route and take a more circuitous path via Kentucky then north through Ohio. Along the way the two teens fell in love, a relationship they maintained even after Equus was established in northern Maryland where he began developing his revolutionary methods of animal husbandry, methods that would lead to him being referred to as the Great Horse Whisperer years later during his and Robyn’s western adventures.
Robyn, meanwhile, continued her adventurous life as an agent for the Underground Railroad, thriving on the risks and treasuring the moments when she and Equus could go off together and lose themselves in each other. When the Civil War broke out Robyn headed north to study nursing under Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female medical doctor in the United States, at her New York Infirmary near Tompkins Square. Robyn served the Union cause well, earning high praise from all her superiors for her brilliant work under the very trying medical conditions of wartime. She and Johnny/Equus had little time to see each other now but maintained correspondence with each other.
In 1863 when Robert E Lee began his northern invasion which would result in his defeat at Gettysburg one of the often-forgotten elements of that invasion was his army’s repulsive undertaking in Maryland. While taunting the civilian population of the towns their army was passing through by saying “How do you like THIS way of our coming back into the Union?” Lee’s forces were siezing several freed blacks living in Maryland, sending them back to the nightmare of slavery in the south. Their exact number is unknown as are their names and so “the picklocks of biographers” will never be able to chronicle those lives that were horribly altered forever by the repulsive Confederate States Army.
Robyn was horrified when word reached her that Equus was among the freed blacks who had been captured and taken south by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. As soon as the war ended she traveled throughout the conquered south fruitlessly searching for him and offering medical aid to the many former slaves of the area.
Equus, meanwhile, was having adventures of his own. Knowing the fate that would await him if he fell back into the hands of the Pennybottoms he gave a false name and shrewdly concealed his skill with horses. When the plantation he wound up at after being siezed by Lee’s army was liberated by the Union Army Equus/Johnny eventually gathered a gang of freed blacks, both male and female, around him and launched a revenge raid on what was left of the Dixie Empire Plantation, where he had spent his hellish early years. The gang stole arms, horses and what food they could and headed west.
To tweak the abominable Pennybottoms Johnny had intentionally used the name Equus in the raid, and as he and his gang journeyed around Virginia and throughout Kentucky their fame grew. Equus led them in raids to gather supplies for themselves and other freed blacks to alleviate their suffering in the postwar south. Lingering in Missouri the band also clashed with various groups of Confederate die-hards. Though notorious for being lousy at gunplay Equus/Johnny made up for it with his brilliant tactical abilities and his gang of Freedmen more than made up for his lack of skill with firearms. By 1867 at the latest the charismatic leader was being referred to as ”Kid” Equus.
Eventually the Kid led his Freedmen into Kansas and launched a communal farm. Believing he would never see his beloved Robyn again he had started a romance with another freed black named Beyonce.
Robyn, meanwhile, had been traveling throughout the postwar south, offering medical aid at every stop and continuing her search for Equus/Johnny. Traveling alone in the general disorder would have been very dangerous if not for Robyn’s skill with guns and especially with her trusty knife. At last resigning herself to the fact that she might never find her true love again, in 1868 Robyn returned to New York, where her mentor Elizabeth Blackwell had added a Women’s Medical College to educate and train female doctors. She had a torrid affair with one of the instructors at the institution, Dr William Peterson, ancestor of Las Vegas’ prominent Gil Grissom.
Out west, the malevolent Pennybottom clan had launched a new empire, with the base being an Arizona ranch called Dixie West, started by Hobart’s younger brother Guilford just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Prosperous enough now to dispatch agents around the country Hobart Pennybottom had learned of the Kid’s presence in Kansas. In 1872 he sent a small army of mercenaries to the Jayhawk state where they attacked the spread Kid Equus and his gang had established. In the remorseless slaughter that followed, Beyonce was killed by a sniper to begin the assault. All the other Freedmen were slain and the farm burned. Kid Equus, protected to the bitter end by his comrades, was the only one to escape alive.
The massacre, which puzzled the nation because no group claimed credit for it, awakened the dark spectre of “Bloody Kansas” of the 1850′s, when pro and anti- slavery factions engaged in armed conflict with each other. News of the massacre included references to how the ranch had been the haven wherein Kid Equus and his Freedmen had tried to escape their pasts, a fact which investigations of the carnage had confirmed. Hearing that her beloved Equus had survived being sent back to slavery after all, Robyn, now a full-fledged doctor, abandoned her practice in upstate New York where she had begun a new romance with an expatriate Englishman named Sean Connery, a retired commander in the British Navy.
After a tearful goodbye with Commander Connery Doc Robyn made her way to Kansas, but her hopes of being reunited with Kid Equus were dashed when it became clear that all the farm’s residents had been killed, as was initially feared. Little knowing Johnny had shrewdly allowed the world to think he, too, had perished, Robyn once again said goodbye to her love and settled in as a doctor in Dodge City, KS. “Doc” Robyn, the gun-slinging lady doctor of Dodge City, became a legend around the west, patching up some of the most famous gunmen in history, no matter which side of the law they were on. Dodge City was a tough town, and men who tried to get too friendly with Doc Robyn against her will would be swiftly wounded by a well-placed gunshot wound (“Implanted and removed with surgical precision” Doc always quipped) or a throw of Robyn’s knife.
When she wasn’t keeping Dodge City as healthy as possible Doc Robyn was stealing the hearts of various hombres passing through the notorious cattle and rail center:
- Dirty Clint Eastwood, the notorious gunfighter, whom Doc patched up when he hid in her office after a posse wounded him. Doc Robyn nursed him back to health, carrying on a passionate affair with him all the while. In a bittersweet conclusion to their affair, she convincd the fugitive to give himself up to the law, stating she would wait for him no longer how long it took. Unfortunately Clint died of pneumonia in Leavenworth a few years later.
- William Shatner, AKA the White Commanche, who had lived with the Commanche for years before returning to the white world and setting up a ranch in Texas. Every time he and his cowboys would bring their herds into Dodge City, White Commanche and Doc would arrange a romantic rendezvous.
- The African-American tavern singer known only as the Saloon Seal, who became Dodge City’s most celebrated entertainer next to Eddie Foy. Seal extended his engagements in Dodge City for several months while he and Doc exhausted their scandalous attraction for each other.
- Shemar Moore, Dodge City’s first African-American deputy, who eventually turned in his badge and headed back east because his mere presence in town often provoked violent behavior from the many former Confederate soldiers out west.
- Samuel L Jackson, the Ebony Kid himself, a freed slave who, backed by mysterious northern financiers, traveled the west gunning down former plantation overseers and owners wherever he could find them.
Kid Equus, ever since he had allowed the world to believe he died in the Kansas Massacre, was living as a trapper and hunter in Montana and parts of southern Canada. He had partnered, professionally and romantically, with the famous African American huntress “Hellion” Halle Berry, who had taught him the basics of trapping, since he was still a terrible shot with a gun.
Since he spent most of his time in the wild with Hellion Halle, Kid Equus (under one of the many assumed names he and Doc Robyn would use during their lives) was unaware of the fame his former lover had achieved. That all changed in 1878 when he and Hellion Halle headed south for a holiday, deciding to hit some of the more notorious towns in the west. One of their stops was Dodge City, Kansas, where a stunned Johnny soon realized that the “Doc Robyn” whose beauty was being praised in all the saloons must surely be his lost love, who had been a nurse in the Union army the last he knew of her.
Much has been written about the soap operatic drama that unfolded in Dodge City over the following days. When the emotional dust had settled Johnny and Halle had parted and Doc Robyn and he were married. Though a scandalous union for the times, once the newspapers got ahold of the story of the two legendary figures having been romantically involved back before either of them achieved fame, the lovers’ reunion was dramatized in Dime Novels around the nation, many of them pretending Kid Equus was white, thereby spreading a misconception that lingered into the Silent Film era. The couple settled in happily in Dodge City, with Kid Equus reviving his Horse Whisperer skills and making a good living like his M.D. wife.
One place where the story of Doc Robyn and Kid Equus was looked on as less than romantic was the Dixie West Ranch. Hobart Pennybottom was furious and, after piecing together the fact that Doc Robyn must have been the young Underground Railroad agent who had eluded him years ago when Equus escaped to the north vowed revenge on both of them.
In early 1879 Hobart personally led the surviving mercenaries from the Kansas Massacre into Dodge City. They attacked Doc and the Kid’s home, with Doc’s skill with guns and knives holding the attackers off for quite awhile, but numbers and the Kid’s continuing ineptitude with firearms made the outcome a foregone conclusion. The couple survived only because of Hobart’s desire to take his old foes alive so he could make them suffer for years, rather than grant them a quick and merciful death.
Pennybottom and his men took the captured duo back with them to Arizona, where Hobart had prepared a particularly cruel fate for them. He had converted a small part of the Dixie West Ranch into a replica of the cottonfield conditions of the Dixie Empire Plantation just to serve as a prison for Doc Robyn and Kid Equus. The two were forced to labor in the small cottonfield and live in the harsh conditions that slaves in the south had endured for so long. Hobart Pennybottom himself personally walked the wall around the closed-off cottonfield, verbally abusing his two old adversaries daily.
Doc and the Kid endured this imprisonment for several long months, with their love for each other being the only thing that kept them going. One day Robyn realized that she was pregnant and she and the Kid were horrified at the thought of what Hobart Pennybottom might do with a child of theirs.
Before the two had to make a harsh decision events took an unexpected turn. They were startled one evening when they heard the sound of gunfire and realized their night guards had been shot. Their killer was none other than Doc’s old paramour the Ebony Kid. Hobart Pennybottom had long been at the top of his list of targets and Ebony had learned of the bizarre torture Robyn and Johnny were being subjected to when he was informed that Hobart had been boasting at a saloon that he was breeding a new generation of slaves from a couple of “race traitors” he was holding at the Dixie West Ranch. Pennybottom was planning on selling any children the couple had into slavery in the Arab world, where slavery would continue to be legal for centuries. Jackson had realized Hobart could only be referring to Doc and Kid Equus, whose unexplained disappearance had been the talk of the west for months.
Armed with the additional guns of the slain guards Doc and the Ebony Kid began shooting their way out of the Dixie West Ranch in a wagon driven by Kid Equus, whose way with horses hadn’t deserted him. As the wagon made its way to freedom, guns blazing all the way, Doc and Ebony repeatedly tossed some of the cotton the wagon was loaded with at ranch buildings and walls after setting the cotton on fire. The conflagration that spread gutted a large part of the Dixie West Ranch and provided a nice diversion to aid the trio’s escape as well as provided a permanent reminder to the vile Pennybottom clan of the ironic ending to Hobart’s inhuman plans for revenge.
As the wagon pulled clear of the ranch, Hobart Pennybottom leaped onto the buckboard and was about to shoot Kid Equus when Doc shot him between the eyes, at last ridding her and Johnny’s lives of the looming menace that had hovered over them since before the Civil War.
The Ebony Kid went off to continue whittling down his Grim Reaper List and Doc Robyn and Kid Equus settled into what would be the pattern of their lives for the next several years. That pattern involved having children – four in all – and living under assumed names in a community with Doc practicing medicine and the Kid working with horses or teaching African American children. Eventually, operatives of the Pennybottom clan (who, among their business undertakings had launched a detective agency in competition with the Pinkertons) would uncover their identities. Violence would result, leading to Doc and the Kid moving on, changing names and sometimes occupations as they sought to escape their notoriety and the tireless persecution of the surviving Pennybottoms. During this period the two shared an adventure with Six-Gun Sara and her Renegade Rangers, since Tristan Pennybottom, Hobart’s oldest son, was one of the railroad barons Six-Gun Sara preyed on.
In the late 1880′s Doc and the Kid settled down in Freemanville, California, the town established by freed blacks. The town would become notorious after the Spanish-American War due to the adventures of African-American gunfighter Jesse Lee and his Posse. When Robyn and Johnny arrived, the town already had a few famous residents, like former bounty hunter Pam Grier, who had spent years in a romantic and business partnership with the legendary Blackwater Kid.
After a few years, word reached Freemanville that the Pennybottoms were sending a veritable army to kill Doc Robyn and Kid Equus as well as wipe out all of Freemanville as revenge for Hobart Pennybottom’s death. Not wanting to be the cause of an entire town’s annihilation, Doc and the Kid left Freemanville headed east through Nevada when their wagon was attacked by a hostile tribe of Native Americans and the two were killed, along with their four children. The Pennybottoms relished the news of the couple’s death and at last forgot about their old enemies.
All of which was for the best because their “death” at the hands of a supposedly hostile tribe had all been a ruse organized by Doc and the Kid’s old friend Six-Gun Sara. Sara had arranged for the fake attack so that Robyn and Johnny could live in peace helping the Native American tribe with medical care and education. After a few years the couple and their children moved back to Freemanville, where the Kid posed as a widower raising his children and Doc Robyn stayed largely out of sight, acting as an underground doctor and medical tutor for a future generation of African-American nurses and doctors. Once, when Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show was performing nearby Doc and Johnny partied with Six-Gun Sara, who had been pardoned by President Cleveland, and with Sara’s good friend Annie Oakley.
The world at large believed Doc Robyn and Kid Equus had died at the hands of Native Americans until decades later, when the couple’s grandchildren jointly published a book titled , Our Grandparents, Doc Robyn and Kid Equus. This book revealed for the first time what had truly transpired and how Doc and the Kid had finally escaped the Pennybottoms and won their “Love versus Goliath” adventure. Johnny had passed away in 1911 and Doc joined him in 1914, as the two once again moved on to another locale, this time finding a more permanent peace. The pair were portrayed on the big screen most recently by Angelina Jolie and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The Blackwater Kid