Tuesday 10th October 2017

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Blade Runner 2049

In 2049, bioengineered humans called replicants have been integrated into society as bioengineered life has been necessary to ensure humanity’s continued survival. K, a newer model created to obey, works as a “blade runner” for the LAPD, hunting down and “retiring” rogue older model replicants. His home-life is spent with his holographic girlfriend Joi, a product of Wallace Corporation.

K’s investigation into a replicant freedom movement leads him to a farm, where he retires rogue replicant Sapper Morton and finds a buried box with what appears to be human remains inside. Forensic analysis reveals they are of a female replicant who died as the result of complications from an emergency caesarian section. K finds this unsettling as pregnancy in replicants was originally thought to be impossible.

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K is ordered to destroy all evidence related to the case and to retire the child by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi, who believes the knowledge that replicants are able to reproduce to be dangerous and could lead to war. K, disturbed by his orders, visits the headquarters of replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace who identifies the body as Rachael, an experimental replicant. In the process, he learns of her romantic ties with former veteran blade runner Rick Deckard. Believing that reproduction in replicants can bolster his production, but unable to give them this ability himself, Wallace sends his replicant enforcer Luv to steal Rachael’s remains from LAPD headquarters and follow K to find Rachael’s child. Wallace hopes to use the child to engineer replicant reproduction and expand his off-world operations.

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Returning to Morton’s farm, K finds a hidden date that matches a childhood memory about hiding a toy horse. K later finds the toy horse at an orphanage, suggesting that his memories—which he thought were implants—are real. Joi insists this is evidence that K is in fact a real person, giving him the nickname “Joe.” While searching birth records for that year, he discovers an anomaly: “twins” were born on that day with identical DNA except for the sex chromosome; only the boy is listed as alive. K seeks out Dr. Ana Stelline, a memory designer who informs him that it is illegal to program replicants with humans’ real memories, leading K to believe he might be Rachael’s son. After failing a test of his replicant behavior, K is suspended by Joshi, but he explains that he failed the test because he completed his mission in killing the child. Joshi, knowing K will be chased for deviating from his base line, gives him 48 hours to disappear. K transfers Joi to a mobile emitter despite knowing if it is damaged she will be erased.

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Undeterred, K has the toy horse analyzed and finds traces of radiation that lead him to the ruins of Las Vegas, where he finds Deckard. Deckard reveals that he scrambled the birth records to cover his tracks and was forced to leave a pregnant Rachael with the replicant freedom movement to protect her. Luv and her men arrive to kidnap Deckard, having murdered Joshi and tracked K’s location. They leave a badly injured K for dead, in the process destroying Joi’s emitter. He is later rescued by the replicant freedom movement who were tracking him and told by their leader, Freysa, that Rachael’s child is actually a girl. K deduces that Stelline is Deckard’s daughter, as she is the only one capable of creating the memory and implanting it into him. Freysa urges K to prevent Wallace from uncovering the secrets of replicant reproduction by any means necessary, including killing Deckard.

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In Los Angeles, Deckard is brought before Wallace, who suggests Rachael’s feelings for him were engineered by Tyrell to test the possibility of a replicant becoming pregnant. Deckard refuses to cooperate with Wallace, even when promised a replicant recreation of Rachael. Luv escorts Deckard to one of Wallace’s off-world outposts to be tortured for information. K intercepts them before fighting and killing Luv. He stages Deckard’s death to protect him from both Wallace and the replicants, and leads Deckard to Stelline’s office. K encourages Deckard to meet his daughter and laments that all the best memories are hers. Deckard cautiously enters the office and approaches Stelline, while K lies down on the steps amidst the falling snow, and dies from his wounds.

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Heavens Gate

In 1870, two young men, Jim Averill and Billy Irvine, graduate from Harvard College. The Reverend Doctor speaks to the graduates on the association of “the cultivated mind with the uncultivated” and the importance of education. Irvine, brilliant but obviously intoxicated, follows this with his opposing, irreverent views. A celebration is then held after which the male students serenade the women present, including Averill’s girlfriend.

Twenty years later, Averill is passing through the booming town of Casper, Wyoming, on his way north to Johnson County where he is now a Marshal. Poor European immigrants new to the region are in conflict with wealthy, established cattle barons organized as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association; the newcomers sometimes steal their cattle for food. Nate Champion – a friend of Averill and an enforcer for the stockmen – kills a settler for suspected rustling and dissuades another from stealing a cow. At a formal board meeting, the head of the Association, Frank Canton, tells members, including a drunk Irvine, of plans to kill 125 named settlers, as thieves and anarchists. Irvine leaves the meeting, encounters Averill, and tells him of the Association’s plans. As Averill leaves, he exchanges bitter words with Canton. Canton slapping Averill across the face immediately provokes retaliation, and Canton is knocked to the floor. That night, Canton recruits men to kill the named settlers.

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Ella Watson, a Johnson County bordello madam from Quebec, who accepts stolen cattle as payment for use of her prostitutes, is infatuated with both Averill and Champion. Averill and Watson skate in a crowd, then dance alone, in an enormous roller skating rink called “Heaven’s Gate”, which has been built by local entrepreneur John L. Bridges. Averill gets a copy of the Association’s death list from a baseball-playing U.S. Army captain and later reads the names aloud to the settlers, who are thrown into terrified turmoil. Cully, a station master and friend of Averill’s, sees the train with Canton’s posse heading north and rides off to warn the settlers but is murdered en route. Later, a group of men come to Watson’s bordello and rape her. All but one are shot and killed by Averill. Champion, realizing that his landowner bosses seek to eliminate Watson, goes to Canton’s camp and shoots the remaining rapist, then refuses to participate in the slaughter.

Canton and his men encounter one of Champion’s friends leaving a cabin with Champion and his friend Nick inside, and a gunfight ensues. Attempting to save Champion, Watson arrives in her wagon and shoots one of the hired guns before escaping on horseback. Champion and his two friends are killed in a massive, merciless barrage which ends with his cabin in flames. Watson warns the settlers of Canton’s approach at another huge, chaotic gathering at “Heaven’s Gate”. The agitated settlers decide to fight back; Bridges leads the attack on Canton’s gang. With the hired invaders now surrounded, both sides suffer casualties (including a drunken, poetic Irvine) as Canton leaves to bring help. Watson and Averill return to Champion’s charred and smoking cabin and discover his body along with a hand written letter documenting his last minutes alive.

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The next day, Averill reluctantly joins the settlers, with their cobbled-together siege machines and explosive charges, in an attack against Canton’s men and their makeshift fortifications. Again there are heavy casualties on both sides, before the U.S. Army, with Canton in the lead, arrives to stop the fighting and save the remaining besieged mercenaries. Later, at Watson’s cabin, Bridges, Watson and Averill prepare to leave for good. But they are ambushed by Canton and two others who shoot and kill Bridges and Watson. After killing Canton and his men, a grief-stricken Averill holds Watson’s body in his arms.

In 1903 – about a decade later – a well-dressed, beardless, but older-looking Averill walks the deck of his yacht off Newport, Rhode Island. He goes below, where an attractive middle-aged woman is sleeping in a luxurious boudoir. The woman, Averill’s old Harvard girlfriend (perhaps now his wife), awakens and asks him for a cigarette. Silently he complies, lights it, and returns to the deck.

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The Real Ella Watson

The eldest of 10 surviving children, Watson was born on July 2, 1860, in Ontario, Canada, and moved with her family to a homestead near Lebanon, Kansas, in 1877. Bucking the norm of the day, Watson shocked Lebanon when she divorced her first husband, farm laborer William Pickell, on Valentine’s Day, 1884—and then demanded her maiden name back. An abusive drunk, he had often beat her with a horsewhip.

She fearlessly went West on her own during 1883 to 1886, ignoring the fact that most women went with their fathers, brothers or husbands. She ultimately chose Wyoming to settle in because women already had the vote and the territory still offered land to claim under the Homestead Acts.

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As tongues wagged, an unmarried 25-year-old Watson joined 34-year-old James Averell at a roadhouse in early 1886. Unknown to anyone, they secretly married a couple months later, miles away in another county. Historians agree the couple had come up with the ruse so each could file multiple claims as “head of household.” As a married woman, Watson couldn’t own land in her own name.

On August 30, 1886, Watson filed a “squatter’s claim” on 160 acres adjacent to Averell’s homestead claim on Horse Creek. She went to court to fight off a neighbor’s bogus “timber claim” on the land—land without trees. In 1888, in the territorial capital, Cheyenne, she would file the formal paperwork for Claim 2003.

All that time, she and Averell fought constantly with their powerful neighbor, Bothwell, who declared Watson’s claim was on his pasture land and blocked his right to water in Horse Creek. Insult became injury when Bothwell was forced to buy an easement from the couple to get access to the water—a trench 15 feet wide and 3,300 feet long.

In the meantime, on May 25, 1887, Watson filed for citizenship, taking home the test she would have to pass in five years to become an American citizen.

In October 1888, she bought 28 head of cattle, stated two men who were with her that day. That December, she tried to get a legal brand through the official brand committee of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, but the committee wouldn’t give her one—just as its members repeatedly refused a brand to Averell for any future cows he would own.

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Watson outsmarted the cattlemen by buying a brand from neighbor John Crowder, who was moving on. She officially registered her LU brand with the Carbon County Brand Commission on March 20, 1889.

She became like a stepmother to 11-year-old Gene, believed to be John Crowder’s son. She also took in 14-year-old John DeCorey, who became a general handyman around her homestead. Her “family” included Averell’s 20-year-old nephew from Wisconsin, Ralph Cole, and neighbor Frank Buchanan, who would try to stop the double hanging led by Bothwell and John Durbin, two of the most prominent cattlemen in the territory. By the time the case came before the grand jury, none of her “family” appeared to identify the six men who had hanged the couple: Cole had died under mysterious circumstances; Buchanan and Gene disappeared; and DeCorey fled to Colorado for safety. All the lynchers walked free.

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Watson’s name and honor were defended with a shocking lawsuit filed by the executor of her estate, Carbon County Coroner George Durant. While the murder charges were still hanging over their heads, Bothwell and Durbin were sued for $1,100. Durant’s suit accused them of stealing Watson’s cows and rebranding them as their own on the day they lynched her. The cattlemen’s attorney continuously delayed court hearings, until the case was finally dismissed—51 months after Watson was buried.

“The Homesteaders’ Heroine, Cattle Kate, and the Land Grabbers in the West.” That was the headline suggested by former Wyoming Sen. Joseph C. O’Mahoney, in a 1960s letter to a writer investigating the case.

On the 100th anniversary of her murder, Watson’s nieces and nephews gathered in Wyoming to place a marker near where she lay—now under the new Pathfinder Ranch. It read: “These innocent homesteaders were hanged by cattle ranchers for their land and water rights.”

To this day, the city of Rawlins remembers Watson and her murder in its Rawlins Main Street Mural Project, noting she and Averell had been “hanged by greedy land barons.” The mural honors their true characters, declaring, “Ellen and Jim fed the hungry, clothed the naked and took anyone in.”

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Nate Champion

Nathan D. Champion known as Nate Champion was a key figure in the Johnson County War of April 1892. Falsely accused by a wealthy Wyoming cattlemen’s association of being a rustler, Champion was the first person murdered by a band of hit men hired by the cattlemen. In reality, Champion was simply a small rancher who stood up against the big cattlemen’s practice of claiming all unbranded young cattle on the range. He is celebrated for his heroic stand in his besieged cabin and for a heartfelt letter written at the time describing the events.

James Averell

James Averell was born in 1851 in Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada. In 1871, at the age of 20, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the 13th Infantry until his discharge in 1876, described as a “good honest reliable soldier.” Less than a month after his discharge, he reenlisted with the 9th Infantry, serving until his discharge in 1881 at Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming Territory.

The following year Averell married Sophia Ann Jaeger in Illinois and the couple moved to Wyoming, settling north of Rawlins on Sand Creek. The Averell’s first child, born prematurely in August of 1882, died shortly after birth, and Sophia died several days later of puerperal fever. The baby was likely buried near their cabin, while Sophia’s body was returned to her home state of Wisconsin for interment there.

Averell remained in Wyoming, and in February of 1886, he filed a homestead claim for 160 acres of land near Independence Rock in what is now Natrona County, Wyoming. He established a store and saloon there, and served as postmaster and a justice of the peace. Two years later, Ella Watson claimed 160 acres of land adjacent to Averell’s. The two neighbors became friends, with Watson reportedly working at Averell’s saloon while improving her property.

Averell and Watson quickly became involved in a dispute with Albert J. Bothwell, a large landowner and powerful stockman in the area who claimed that he owned their land. The homesteaders stood their ground, with Averell writing letters to the Casper newspaper critical of the greediness of the cattle barons. The stockmen retaliated with claims that Averell and Watson were stealing their cattle. The dispute ultimately led to the kidnapping and lynching of Averell and Watson on July 20, 1889 by Bothwell and several of his cattle baron friends. Bothwell and five others were arrested, but none were convicted of the murders.

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The Johnson County War

The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River and the Wyoming Range War, was a series of range conflicts that took place in Johnson County, Wyoming between 1889 and 1893. The conflicts started when cattle companies ruthlessly persecuted supposed rustlers throughout the grazing lands of Wyoming.

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As tensions swelled between the large established ranchers and the smaller settlers in the state, violence finally culminated in Powder River Country, when the ranchers hired armed gunmen to invade the county and wipe out or scare off the small settlers they were competing against. When word came out of the gunmen’s initial incursion in the territory, the small farmers and ranchers, as well as the state lawmen, formed a posse of 200 men to fight them, which led to a grueling stand-off. The conflict ended when the United States Cavalry, on the orders of President Benjamin Harrison, relieved the two forces, although further conflicts persisted in the following months.

The events have since become a highly mythologized and symbolic story of the Wild West, and over the years variations of the storyline have come to include some of its most famous historical figures. In addition to being one of the most well-known range wars of the American frontier, its themes, especially the theme of class warfare, served as a basis for numerous popular novels, films, and television shows of the Western genre

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