Captain Jack's Lone Stand


Fall 1841, Llano County, Texas

John Coffee Hays sucked in a breath of damp morning air and gazed out at the dome of the isolated rock hill that glittered against the horizon.

Enchanted Rock

The twenty-four year old, known to his fellows as “Jack”, had migrated to Texas five years earlier. With a letter of introduction from his uncle Andrew Jackson in hand, the former chain-boy on a Tennessee land surveying crew was hired as a Ranger by President Sam Houston, himself. The Texas Rangers of the day were not only the peacekeepers, but were also charged with surveying the vast territory stretching from the Rio Grande to the Arkansas River that now formed the Republic of Texas.

Jack loaded his equipment, rifle, and two Colt five-shooters onto the back of his horse, then swung himself into the saddle. He called out to his lieutenant as he rode past, “Ben, you and the men work down below. I’m going to survey the enchanted rock from the top.”

Jack was a small, wiry man, with fair skin that sunburned easily, and beardless in an era when beards were in fashion. In spite of his appearance, the Ranger captain could shoot straighter, fight meaner, ride faster, cuss fowler, and yell louder than any other man on the force.

“Yell loud if you run into any Comanche,” Ben replied. “I expect they wouldn’t much like to let Devil Jack set foot on their sacred mountain.”

Enchanted Rock wasn’t technically a mountain. The dome was a pink granite pluton batholith that rose 500 feet in the air—the highest point of an underground granite bubble that extended for 90 miles. It made sense that an adventurer such as himself would want to take a look.

Jack was hardly surprised when he heard the sound of gunfire almost as soon as he neared the base of the formation. The warriors had spotted the survey crew on the other side and begun their attack. Knowing he wouldn’t have much time to prepare to defend himself, Jack followed the trail up the rock on horseback as far as he was able. He then dismounted, unloaded his firearms and survey equipment, and smacked the horse on its rump. Free of his master, the horse galloped for cover.

Captain Jack

With his rifle, guns, and ammunition on his back and the Comanche on his heels, Jack hiked the well-worn path to the summit as quickly as he could. At the top, he found a crevice in a circular hollow of the rock and waited for the warriors to attack. Jack was better armed with his rifle and two five-shooters than ten men of the not-so-distant past firing muzzle-loaders. With five rounds in each Colt, one shot in the rifle, and a limited supply of ammunition, however, the solitary gunman would have to be sure of every target.

To his favor, Devil Jack had the element of surprise. Hidden from view with just the muzzle peeking out, the Comanche’s proven method of attacking a stranded white became suddenly useless. While shots rang out from the battle below, Jack held off the attack party above by making each of his shots count. It wasn’t long before half a dozen men lay dying at the summit.

After their first battery of heavy losses, the warriors on top of the rock fell back, giving Jack a valuable opportunity to reload his firearms. Minutes later when the Indians reappeared, he was ready.

He allowed the war party to advance until they were nearer than before. Then he stood from his hiding place and fired his rifle, mortally wounding the leader. With practiced efficiency, Jack dropped his rifle and drew his revolvers, emptying the contents so rapidly, the band was again forced to flee.

Meanwhile, Jack’s men were fighting their way in his direction. Now receiving fire from both sides, the warriors who had previously surrounded Jack retreated at the advance of the Rangers and fled to the opposite side of the Enchanted Rock. Jack and his men were soon reunited and another victory against the Comanche was added to their growing collection of accomplishments on the Texas frontier.

Riding back to camp later that evening, Jack turned for a look at the Enchanted Rock in the flames of the setting sun. “I could have died up there today, Ben,” he called to his friend.

“Beginning to feel your mortality, Captain?”

“Maybe,” Jack said. “You know that pretty little thing from Seguin?”

“Calvert’s daughter? Which one?”

“Susan. I’ve a mind to start courting her.”

“A little young, ain’t she? And the Judge might have something to say about giving her away to a fighting man.”

“I’ve got gainful employment. Besides, I’m not in a hurry. Just thinkin' about it. Maybe bring her back here for our honeymoon. It’s a beautiful place.”

“Ain’t never seen nothin' like it, Jack. Nothing like that enchanted, glowing rock.”

“It’s magical, all right.”

Dear Readers,

A present-day gathering on Enchanted Rock features in the epilogue of my new book Sombras del Pasado: Metamorphosis (coming soon).

I had originally written this fictionalized account of Jack Hays' lone stand on Enchanted Rock as a prologue to the book, but realized early on that it would only serve to delay readers from jumping right into the sequel to Sombras del Pasado: Shadows of the Past.

I held onto this chapter for a while thinking that I would put it with the end notes of the book, then decided a better use would be as a blog post.