No doubt Zeke, or Ezekial, saw the whole thing as an accident, but the Beck family felt otherwise. Family loyalties ran very deep in the Cherokee Nation. It followed that if you killed somebody from another family, you could usually count on smelling powder smoke yourself before much time passed. So it was with Zeke Proctor. His lack of murderous intent didn’t mollify a whole passel of tough, straight-shooting Becks. The Beck family was determined to see Zeke dead. Either the duly appointed authorities would kill him legally or the family would handle it themselves.
Zeke Proctor had nothing against Aunt Polly Beck Hildebrand. They were related, in fact, and Zeke didn’t want to kill her at all. Fact was, Zeke was after her man, Jim Kesterson, and Polly just got in the way of one of Zeke’s bullets. Kesterson made it to cover, but Polly was beyond help.
“My sister found it at a yard sale,” Haddock said to Hamilton as he handed him the treasured book. “It has stories in it by Zeke Proctor and Ned Christie, maps of the old Goingsnake District and details of the Goingsnake Massacre.”
Zeke Proctor killed Polly Beck in 1872 at the so-called Hildebrand Mill, in what is now Delaware County, Okla., on Flint Creek, just a little west of Siloam Springs, Ark. There had been some sort of mill on the site since about 1845, when Thomas Beck bought a share in it, and it was a first-class operation for its time. The millstones had come all the way from France to Fort Gibson in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), and then by oxcart to Flint Creek. In those days the Cherokee Nation was split into political subdivisions called districts, and the mill lay in Going Snake District. The area was named for a much-respected full-blood chief who had come up the Trail of Tears from Georgia back in the 1830s. He was called Eenah-tah-tah-oo, which means ‘a snake crawling along.’ That mellifluous name lost quite a lot in translation, which could come no closer than ‘Going Snake.’