I was eating at one of those outdoor restaurants in Tucson, the ones with the red and white checkerboard tablecloths and rickety wooden floors and a big, dirty awning spread out above to block out the sun. My chair wasn’t real pleasant; one leg was shorter than the other, and I sat there rocking while this chunky Mexican woman brought me some beans and this spicy pork that burns your throat even after you nearly drank the all the water in Tucson. Anyways, this chunky Mexican, she was eyein me the whole time, like I was gonna go and leave without paying, like some sort of criminal. Well I just ignored her and kept rocking on my chair, eating that spicy pork and thinking about where I was gonna spend the money me and Lefty earned yesterday. See, folks said the bank in Casa Grande was burstin at the seams with all the money in it, so me and Lefty figger will help and relieve it. Turns out it wasn’t burstin at the seams at all, and there weren’t much money either. We relieved it of what we could, and then headed south to Tucson. Now this chunky Mexican is eyein me like I’m some sort of criminal, like I’m gonna walk outta here without paying or something.
So I was just sitting there, rocking away eating spicy pork and beans with a chunky Mexican eyein me like a criminal, when this cloud of dust comes chargin down the street. It was Lefty riding his horse, and boy was he causing quite the ruckus. He rides right up to me and says we gotta get outta Tucson. I tell him we can leave when I’m done eating, and he says no, NOW. About then, the chunky Mexican points her shotgun at me. I jump up and she shoots my chair. I tell Lefty that I’m done eatin, and we can leave Tucson now. I hop on my horse and we’re outta there faster than polished steel.
The sun was setting, so me and Lefty decide we can stop for the night. We had been ridin hard outta Tucson for hours, and we figgered we were safe from the chunky Mexican lady with the shotgun. Once we’re done setting up camp, I says Lefty how’d you know it was time to leave Tucson. He shows me one of them Wanted posters and it’s got me and Lefty, with pictures too. It says ‘Wanted: Poncho and Lefty, for the robbing of banks in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Green Valley, and Casa Grande. Dead or Alive.’ I guess they didn’t take too keenly to us relievin the banks in these parts. I shake my head and says that we seem to be needing a new place to do our work. Lefty just nods and agrees with me. Lefty never does say much. He just sits there behind his long droopy moustache and dirty black hat and squinty eyes, never saying a word. Every night he pulls right up next to the fire and takes out this old chess set he carries everywhere and sets it out all nice on his blanket. He’ll sit there all night turning the board around, playin both sides. Once I says to him Lefty why do you play that chess game aginst yerself, and he says that way he always wins. I guess he’s right but it just don’t seem that fun to me. So we was sitting by our fire, Lefty playin chess and me talking to the horses cause they’re better company than he is.
I got up the next mornin right when the sun did, and there was Lefty, still playin his chess game. There were only two pieces left and it looked like it was gonna be that way forever so I tells him to put away his toy and get ready. Lefty looks at me all twisted up when I call his chess set a toy. I only do it when he irritates me real bad; he was irritating me today, and the sun was barely up. We got all packed up and I tell him we’re gonna keep headin south and go to Mexico. He nods and gets on his horse, John. I always say why did you name your horse a man’s name, it’s a horse, but Lefty just looks at me all twisted and says at least his horse has a name. He’s right I guess. My horse don’t have a name, I just call it Horse. He don’t seem to mind. Anyway, we get on our horses and start riding south, towards Mexico. I ain’t never been to Mexico, but I heard about it from J.J. Parshall. J.J. tells me he went to Mexico back in ’54 and boy was it a good time. He says all the Mexicans don’t have half a brain if you put them all together, and he sold them all sorts of medicine. J.J. is real oily though, and his medicine is oily too. He says it cures jus about anything, but I think he makes it from the oil in his hair. I figgered if J.J. could make lots of money in Mexico, then me and Lefty could too. Besides, everyone knows that the Mexican banks are full of money that needs relievin.
After three days ride, we’re in Mexico. You can tell we’re in Mexico cause all the sudden the sky is bluer, the ground is softer, and the senoritas are everywhere. Seems that every cactus we ride by there is some senorita hiding behind, winking at us. Even Lefty seems to be in a better mood now that we’re in Mexico, and he lifts his head and says its beautiful here. I agree with him, and we head toward Nogales.
We rode into Nogales looking like old worn out bandits, but we left looking like kings. The bank there was full to the gills, just like I figgered. We walked in guns a’blazin, not to hurt anyone, just to give ‘em a scare. They were scared alright, and gave us all the money in the safe, not a penny left. J.J. was right, these Mexicans didn’t have much for brains. We stopped at a general store on the way out and bought us some real nice clothes. Lefty got one of them real tall black cowboy hats and a red shirt with pearl buttons and a new pair of black boots. I got a black hat too, but mine was low and flat, with a big round brim. I also got a new poncho and a brown shirt and some brown boots. We was feeling right good about ourselves headin west outta Nogales.
We were heading to Tijuana, but along the way we stopped and relieved a couple more of them banks. The one in Puerto Penasco was full to the gills too, and so was the one in Mexicali. We was really doin good down here with these half brained Mexicans. John and Horse got new saddles and blankets, and they were as happy as me and Lefty. Lefty still didn’t say much. One day though, we was riding along and I look down on the ground and there is this big ole eagle feather. I jump off Horse and grab it to stick in my hat. Lefty looks at me all twisted and says why would I want a buzzard feather. I tell him it’s no buzzard feather, it’s an eagle feather. He just looks at me all twisted again and says something about how I have less brains than these Mexicans. I don’t care though, I know he’s just jealous that he doesn’t have a nice big eagle feather to stick in his hat.
We was ‘bout a days ride outta Tijuana and it was getting dark so I says Lefty why don’t we stop here for the night. He says here is as good a spot as any and gets off of John. We go and get some firewood and set camp up. The fire is all crackling and I look across the dancing flames at Lefty. He’s got his chess game out, turning the board after each turn. I don’t know how he can play, knowing the moves of everyone and all. He musta sensed me lookin at him cause he slowly tilts his head up like its some sort of hard thing to do. I almost expect to hear a creakin sound with the way he was moving it. He looks at me from under the bill of his hat and says Poncho sometimes I think we ain’t doin the right thing. I says how do you figger and he says he doesn’t know, he just doesn’t feel right most of the time. I says Lefty what would we do if we weren’t relievin banks of all their money and he says he doesn’t know but that I should be thinkin about what I’m doin. Well he kinda made me mad there so I says maybe he should be thinkin about naming his horse something other than John cause that’s a man’s name. He didn’t say nothing so I figger I got through to him. See Lefty’s always been kinda a droopy fella, but I always know how to get through to him. Anyway, he didn’t say nothing the rest of the night so I just laid against Horse’s saddle and thought about the senoritas in Tijuana.
In the mornin we packed up John and Horse and headed west with the big ole Mexican sun warming our backs. Lefty didn’t say nothing to me the whole day, just slumped down on John like he was a sack of potatoes. I think his moustache was drooping so much it nearly touched his knees, so I says Lefty that moustache of yours is awful droopy why don’t you trim it up like mine. He just looks at me all twisted and says nothing. So I keep goin and I says Lefty you know that John is a man’s name but he doesn’t even look at me now. I says why don’t you give your horse a horses name you damn fool, and while you’re at it why don’t you throw away that toy chess game of yours. See all I was tryin to do was cheer ole Lefty up but he keeps takin it the wrong way and such. After that, Lefty just rode out on ahead of me, all the way to Tijuana.
Once we ride into Tijuana we went straight to a hotel. A real nice one, seein as how we got money for real nice things. Well the sun is setting but I ain’t tired yet. I ask Lefty if he wants to go down and play some cards, but he just says he’s tired from ridin all day and wants to go to bed. That’s Lefty, always bein tired and droopy. So I go down to play some poker.
I was winnin all sorts of money, playing real good when this Mexican sits down at the table. He looks like all the other Mexicans, all brown and dusty, but this one, he’s smarter. He starts beating me at poker, but it’s not like I mind cause I got all sorts of money. Finally he says to me all quiet like, are you one of those bank robbers that came down from Arizona and I tell him that my job is relievin banks, if that’s what he means. He says that’s what he means, and that he is in the bank relievin business too. He says that he came here to relieve the bank, but it seems that the other Mexicans have smartened up some and they have all these Federales guarding the whole street. Well we talked for a while longer and finally I decided to let him work with me and Lefty cause we were gonna need three people for this job. His name is Nearly Madrid, and I tell him to meet us at the hotel at sunrise.
When I get back to the hotel, Lefty is awake playing his chess game. I tell him about Nearly Madrid and how they got all them Federales guarding the bank and all. He says he doesn’t like the sound of this. He says he doesn’t want to work with some Mexican he’s never met he doesn’t want to relieve a bank that’s surrounded my Federales. I says not to worry about Nearly cause I met him and I know he’ll help us. I says he doesn’t need to worry cause I got this whole thing figgered out. Besides, I says, the Federales are just as dumb as the rest of the Mexicans. Lefty’s moustache droops more and more as I tell him this and he looks all twisted at his chessboard, but he just nods his head. Lefty doesn’t say anything and puts away his chess game and goes to bed.
In the mornin Nearly is waiting for us on the boardwalk in front of our hotel. He is smiling away, sayin how excited he is to work with Poncho and Lefty. Lefty looks out from under his cowboy hat and says that Nearly looks alright to him. I says I told him so and we start ridin towards the bank, all casual like.
Each of us got two guns, one on each hip. We all have Colt .45’s cause they’re the best, just like we are. Well we get near the bank and I says to Lefty and Nearly this is our plan. See I’m always the one making all the plans cause I got the biggest brains. Lefty’s smart and all but he just don’t have the brains I do. He’s a good shot but he can’t come up with a plan to save his life. So I says the plan is that we’re gonna leave John and Horse out front of the bank. We’re gonna all run in and shot some shots so as to get everyone’s attention and then take all the money. Next we’re gonna run back out and jump on our horses and ride away. I says Nearly is gonna ride with me. They don’t say anything cause they know it is the best plan they ever heard. Nearly just smiles all big and nods his head and Lefty looks droopy like he always does.
We ride up and get off our horses, leavin em right in front of the bank. There are six Federales standing around the bank but they all look like they have sand for brains so I’m not worried. I look at Lefty and then at Nearly and we all charge in and start shootin. Sure enough, everyone gets all scared and doesn’t do anything, and Lefty and Nearly run up to the bankers and start getting the money. Well I guess the Federales had a little more than sand for brains cause when they heard the shootin they started to come inside. They shouldn’t have done that, cause when I’m relievin banks I get kinda jumpy, and the four of em charging in with rifles and all scared me clear out of my skin. I jumped and pulled the triggers on my Colts. I guess the bullets kinda found their way to the Federales cause all four of them fell right there on the wooden floor of the bank. It just happened so fast I didn’t have time to make heads or tails of what was going on. By then Lefty and Nearly are done gettin the money and we run outside. The other two Federales are across the street and they start shooting at us. Lefty jumps on John and starts ridin and I jump on Horse. See here is when things get a little tricky. I know Lefty’s got all the money and those Federales are firing all sorts of things at me and Nearly. See, if I take the time to let Nearly on my horse we’re probably both gonna get shot and that would be no good. So I do what anyone would do and start ridin hard after Lefty. I hear the guns keep shooting and I look back to see Nearly fall in the dust.
Lefty was a far sight ahead of me, ridin hard. I followed him but I didn’t catch up with him till it was near sundown. He stops on top of this bluff and I ride up and get off Horse. He looks at me and says where is Nearly. I says that Nearly didn’t make it and Lefty starts to look all droopy. He says what happened and I tell him plain as day that I had to leave him or else I woulda got shot too. Lefty doesn’t say anything else the rest of the night. He goes and gets firewood and makes a fire and then just lays there lookin at the stars all gloomy. He didn’t even want to play his chess game tonight. I don’t know why he’s gotta get all down and such, it’s not like Nearly was someone important. He was just another Mexican with a brain full’a sand. I just let Lefty be and laid down thinking of which bank we should set about relievin next.
The next mornin I wake up and Lefty’s gone. His blankets gone, John’s gone, everything’s gone. Exceptin his chess game and the bag of money. There they were, sitting as pretty as you please, on a rock next to the fire. Well I figgered he just went on a ride, seeing as how he was all droopy and such about Nearly. So I just kinda tidy up waiting for him to come back but by noon there’s no sign of Lefty. So I pack up and get on Horse and start ridin west. The ocean ain’t far away and I figger that seein the ocean is one of those things a person should do at least once in their lives. So anyways, there I was minding my own business heading toward the sea when I see a dust cloud risin up behind me. I don’t pay much attention to it cause I’m thinking about what I’m gonna do once I see the ocean. Maybe Lefty was right. Maybe this relievin banks isn’t what I should be doin and its wrong. So there I was, ridin towards the ocean making up my mind that I’m not gonna go about relievin banks anymore when all the sudden the dust cloud is right behind me.
That’s when I start riding hard. I start riding hard toward the ocean cause I really want to see the ocean. Horse is gettin tired though, what with all the riding I’ve been doin on him the past coupla days. Horse is a’heaving and a’hacking and sweating foam all over. I stop because it doesn’t matter. The dust cloud is all around me so ridin hard wont do a damn thing. I get off horse and pat him on the neck and tell him he’s been a good horse. Now the cloud of dust is gone and there instead is about forty Federales. I look at them and they all stare at me from behind guns and black eyes. I figger they finally caught up to me. The sand brained Mexicans finally managed to get me, and I didn’t get to see the ocean. Then I see him. There’s ole Lefty, looking droopier than I’ve ever seen him, with his moustache down to his toes. He’s looking at me with his crinkly eyes from under his hat, his face more twisted than I ever seen it. I start to say something to him but he just shakes his head. I look around the circle and all the Federales stiffen up expecting me to go for my guns. I don’t really care that they are expecting it and go for ‘em anyway. As soon as my hands move down the Federales fire. I don’t hear anything and I don’t feel anything. I just fall down on my knees and look at all the sand brained Mexicans and Lefty. He’s not even looking anymore, just staring down at John’s neck. The damn fool doesn’t even know that John is no horse’s name.
Well that’s what happened. I didn’t do nothing really, and as you can see my whole life I meant no harm to nobody. I didn’t even get to see the ocean either. I never did no harm to nobody and I didn’t even get to see the ocean. You see Peter, that’s why you should let me in. As sure as I’m standin here before you, I didn’t harm nobody.