The Long Ride

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Celtic-Scribe63

After bank robbers shot Dewey Gibson and left him for dead, his prospects never looked bleaker: wounded without a horse or food and a week's walk to the nearest settlement.

Long Ride

Strangers in the Night

Dewey Gibson, a strapping twenty-five-year-old, left his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, to seek his fortune during the 1895 Oklahoma gold and silver rush. When he arrived, the town of Silver Rock City was bursting at the seams with fortune seekers. Still full of hope, Dewey set out to find a grubstake. But it didn’t take long for reality to hit him square between the eyes: too many miners and too few grubstakes.

Soon Dewey abandoned the idea of working on his own accord and tried his hand working for a local mining company. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and when the mining foreman took one look at him, he hired Dewey on the spot.

But the blistering heat of two summers and the biting cold of two winters were enough for Dewey. His dreams of striking it rich faded. When he heard of jobs -- farm and cattle jobs -- a good week’s ride north for anyone able to make the journey, he set out, leaving gold fever as far behind as he could ride.

Four days ride from Silver City, Dewey stopped to make camp again along a stream of fresh water. First, he fixed a mess of salt pork and beans and put them on the campfire to cook. Next, Dewey went for water to make a pot of coffee. After placing the coffee pot in the coals, he checked the pork and beans and stretched out in front of the campfire. Before long, the roaring fire was burning the food, and the coffee was boiling over, but he never noticed: Dewey was sound asleep. 

The cracking sound of a dry limb breaking woke him. Rolling to one side, he pulled his Colt .45 and stood, facing the noise. “Who goes there?”

“Easy, partner. Just some weary travelers needing a place to bed down for the night,” said a voice in the darkness.

Dewey motioned with his gun. “Come into the light so I can see ya.”

The stranger held out his palm-up hand. “Careful with that hog pistol, mister. Don’t want it to go off accidental-like, do we?”

Dewey lowered his revolver. “Coffee’s a-boilin’ over if’n ya’d care fer some. Probably strong enough ta grow hair onna toad.”

 The stranger moved into the campfire’s glow. “Just the way we like it... eh, boys? I’m Hank.” Two other figures blended with the shadows behind Hank. “This here’s my brother, Luke, and the curly-blonde one’s my cousin, Jason.”

“Where y’all headin’?” asked Dewey, kneeling by the coffee pot.

“Silver Rock.”

“Gold minin’?” Dewey poured a cupful and handed it to Hank. “Sorry. Have ta share.”

“Thank ya, mister. We’s share everything. Anyhows, ya was askin’?”

Dewey stood and asked, “Ya fellas gonna do some gold minin’?”

“Naw. Minin’s too hard work,” said Hank.

Jason stepped from the shadows and blurted, “We’s gonna rob a bank.”

Hank whirled around to Luke. “Can’t you keep him quiet for one minute?”

Dewey stepped backward and leveled his revolver toward the trio.

Luke rushed forward and cupped his hand over Jason’s mouth. “Sorry, Hank, what we’s gonna do now?”

“Shut up a minute... Lemme think,” said Hank, waving his palm at Luke and Jason.

“Tweren’ta be no killin’, but now, things hav’va changed. Jason’s dun gone ‘n messed things up but good.” Luke released his grip on Jason and unholstered his weapon.

“Okay, mister... Here’s how I see it.” Hank rubbed his chin. “If you lower your gun, we’ll... Um ... We’ll let you go. This ain’t worth getting killed over.”

“Ya crazy, Hank? He’ll ride outta here and warn the bank we’s a-comin’,” Luke said, waving and pointing his gun like a scolding finger. “And they’ll be a-waitin’ fer us.”

Staring Luke down, Hank said, “Not... If... We... Take... His... Horse, he won’t. He can’t walk to Silver Rock in time. It’s a four-day ride from here, more than a week on foot.” Hank turned to Dewey. “What you say, mister? We take your horse, ride off, and nobody needs to get hurt.”

“I reckon it’s better than dyin’ over other people’s money. People I don’t even know.” Dewey didn’t like the idea of losing his horse, but he was outnumbered and outgunned.

“Okay, it’s a deal. Now, slide that shooter of yours back in its holster. Then we’ll have some coffee and be on our way.”

“Hep yerself,” Dewey said, easing his Colt into its cradle. Then, while the men sat around the fire and drank coffee, he moved opposite them and inched toward the stream.

Jason yelled, looking up from the cup, “He’s a-gittin’ away.” He pulled his revolver and shot toward Dewey, just missing him.

Dewey turned and ran flat-out into the shadows.

“What the hell, Jason?” screamed Luke, lunging for Jason’s gun. But Jason fired again before Luke could wrestle it out of his hand.

This bullet pierced Dewey’s trousers, below his belt, through his fleshy right cheek. It laid bare a wound, about three inches long and half an inch deep. He howled and fell face-first into the water.

“Did’da git him? Did’da git him?”

“Jason, yer... A... Blooming... Idiot! Now, we’re killers,” said Hank, fuming and stomping around the campfire.

“How ya know he’s dead?” asked Luke. “I’m a-gonna check.”

Dewey floated in a calm pool, protected from the main channel’s flow, and circled around and around. He held his breath as long as he could, rolled his head for a gulp of air, and continued floating.

“I see ‘im a-floatin’ face down. If the bullet didn’t git ‘im, he drown’d fer sure.”

Luke returned to the campfire. “What we’s gonna do now, Hank?”

“Just as we planned: Take his horse, saddle, and whatever else worth taking, and we ride to Silver Rock and get us a bank.”

“All... right!” said Luke.

“Where’s Silver Rock?” asked Jason.

“Good Lord, may I never have kids,” said Hank, tossing his coffee on the fire.

“Silver Rock’s a four-day ride from here,” said Luke. “That’s where’s the bank is.”

“Oh, I remember.”

“Where’s ‘is horse?” asked Luke, looking around the campsite.

“Don’t know. Musta run off when the shooting started.”

“How we gonna carry ‘is saddle?”

“Leave it. Let’s ride.”

“I kilt him, so it’s ma sadda,” said Jason. “The sadda’s mine.”

“I got a new sadda... A new sadda... A new sadda,” sang Jason while trying to mount his horse.

“Can you shut that moron up?” said Hank, mounting his horse.

“Whatza moron?” asked Jason, missing the stirrup for the third time as his horse circled.

“If I ever ‘pregnate a woman, just shoot me,” said Hank, riding into the night.

Luke doused the campfire and mounted his horse. “Ya ready, Jason? Time’s a-wastin’.”

“This here, hoss hates me. Won’t stand still. I’s a-gittin’ me a new one aft’ta we’s rob a bank. Then I’s kin use ma new sadda.”

“Shake a tail, Jason. I reckon Hank’s halfway ta Silver Rock by now.”

“He... Is? ... How’d he go so fast?”

Shaking his head, Luke said, “Fergit it, Jason. Just fergit what I said.”

“Okay, Luke,” said Jason, straddling his saddle. “Ya said Silver Rock’s a four-day ride. Hank’s really fast, ain’t he, Luke?”

“I said, ‘Fergit it.’ Now, let’s ride.”

“But Luke, if Hank’s halfway ta Silver Rock, how’s we’s gonna catch ‘im...?” Jason’s voice faded as the pair rode into the darkness at a brisk gallop, trying to overtake Hank before the moon set below the horizon.

###

Wounded

When the clip-clops of horses’ hooves faded, and Dewey was sure they were gone, he swam to the stream’s edge and pulled himself onto dry land. The wound in his right buttock throbbed, but he couldn’t tell how bad it was. If the pain was any indication, it must be severe. Arm over arm, he crawled to the smoldering campfire. Exhausted from the ordeal, Dewey fell asleep despite his aching backside.

The morning sun’s first rays cast long shadows on the campsite, and Dewey awoke with a start. He reached for his gun and searched for the noise that aroused him. His horse was drinking and munching on grass on the stream’s bank. “Why ya, old nag. Yer a sight fer sore eyes.”

Dewey touched his rump, winced, and let out a yelp. “Yeeeouch!”

Dewey figured he needed to remove his boots and trousers before taking stock of his predicament. Each tug on his boots shot pain down his leg, but taking off his canvas trousers came next and was worst yet. Finally, freed from the stiff garment, he stood and tried to walk.

Limping, he hobbled to his belongings. Dewey reckoned that bunch probably took everything of value, and he was right: his food, rifle, and bedroll were gone. When his horse ran off, she saved his saddle but little else.

Barefoot and in his altogether from the waist down, Dewey pondered his next move: Ride on -- assuming he could ride -- or return to Silver Rock. It was about the same distance and time, either way.

He tried to sit, but the agony of skin pulling the ragged wound was too much for him. The stream that saved his life yesterday -- he hoped -- would save his life again. Stripping completely naked, Dewey wadded into the cold waters to exercise his leg, rinse off days of sweat and dust, and soak his wound.

Dewey didn’t hear the hooves of the approaching horses. A crusty older woman, two offspring -- a son, about twenty-one, and a daughter, about nineteen -- and their supply animal stopped at the stream’s bank. For a few minutes, they watched Dewey splashing in the water.

“Howdy, mister. Ya havin’ fun?” asked the woman, leaning forward in her saddle.

Startled, Dewey turned around. “Who might ya be?”

The woman said, “This here’s my daughter, Jeannie, and my son, Billy. Everybody calls me Ma.”

“How do, ma’am? My name’s Dewey. And... And I-I’m a-scrubbin’ days of grime and a-soakin’ my wound.”

“Do tell. Come closer wheres we can see ya better, Dewey.” Ma gestured with a wave of her arm.

Dewey shook his head. “Uh... I... I would if’n I could, ma’am, but I ain’t got no clothes on.”

Ma turned to Billy and Jeannie and chuckled. “Don’t matter none. Ya ain’t got nuthin’ I... Uh... We ain’t already seen. Now, come along. I can’t see that far off.” She motioned to Billy. “Keep yer rifle on him,”

“Okay, Ma.” Billy swung his rifle toward Dewey.

“Ya got no need ta point that rifle at me,” Dewey said as he waded toward the shore, stopping when he was waist-deep.

“I still can’t see ya none too good, mister. Come closer.” She motioned to Billy again. “Help him obey.”

Billy brought his rifle to his shoulder and leveled it on Dewey.

“That ain’t necessary, ma’am, I’m a-comin’... What about the girl?”

“Time, she sees what varmints are made of.”

“Varmints? What ya mean a-callin’ me a varmint?” asked Dewey, standing ankle-deep in water with his hands cupped over his embarrassments. “I ain’t no varmint.”

“Hush up, mister, this here’s family business.” Ma turned to Jeannie. “This the man that tried to have his way with ya?”

“No, Mama. This here feller’s taller ‘n got wrong color hair ‘n no mustache ‘n ‘tis much better lookin’.”

Dewey felt a blush rush up his neck.

“So... ‘Tain’t him, Mama.” Jeannie shifted her weight in her saddle. “‘N... ‘N...” She cleared her throat and looked skyward. “Uh... He never got his pants all the way down, so I didn’t see him...” She glanced back at Dewey. “Um... full naked-like.”

“Look away, child. No need to get yerself so upset... Sorry, we interrupted yer fun, mister. Ya can go back to doin’ whatever ya was doin’ when we rode up. Come on, children, we’s gonna keep lookin’ till we find that rascal.”

“Wait a minute, ma’am. I’m in dire straits here. Three men came inta camp last night, shot me, took my food, and rifle, and left me fer dead. If I don’t find food or my wound gets infected, I’ll be as good as dead inside a week or so.”

“No one starves to death that soon, but ‘nfection’s another matter altogether.” Ma dismounted and went to the water’s edge. “Lemme see.”

Dewey bent over, exposing his backside. “How’s it look?”

“Nasty, son. Like a gnarly knife ripped yer backside open. So this hurt?” asked Ma, poking him around the wound. “How’s ‘bout this spot?”

Dewey flinched. “That’s sore a bit.”

“Tell me straight, Dewey. Do... It... Hurt or not?”

“It hurts. Hurts a lot.”

“Maybe ‘nfection’s a-settin’ in. When ya get shot?”

“I reckon it was an hour past sundown or so.”

“Twelve... Thirteen hours... Too soon fer ‘nfection to show... Maybe just hurtin’ a bit. We’ll know tomorra.”

Then Ma barked commands. “Billy... Jeannie. We’re a-makin’ camp. Ah... What’s yer full name, Dewey?”

“Gibson. Dewey Gibson.”

“Well, Dewey Gibson, don’t just stand there, exposing yerself in front of God and everybody. Get some clothes on. Us women folk seen all we can take for one day.”

Howling with laughter, Ma turned to her kids and directed the camp’s layout.

Dewey struggled but managed to dress.

Jeannie took the coffeepot to the stream for freshwater. She glanced toward Dewey on her return and smiled.

Dewey followed her every movement.

Once Billy got the campfire going, Ma prepared a meal of cornbread, dried beef, and beans.

While they were eating, Dewey asked, “Describe the man that attacked yer daughter.”

“Kinda stocky, curly blonde hair, scraggly mustache, and acted dumb-like,” said Ma.

“Dumb-like?”

“Ya might say that,” said Jeannie. “He talked funny; like a child at times, ‘n fer a grown man didn’t know what he was doin’... I mean, he didn’t know how to be with a woman.”

“How would ya know that?”

“Been raised on a farm, mister!” said Jeannie, raising her voice and glaring at Dewey. “I know what’s for what. I seen animals a-doin’, ‘n I seen Billy’s different from me, so I’m a-knowin’ without a-doin.’”

 “What you ‘sinuatin’ about my youngin?”

“Don’t get all riled, ma’am; I don’t mean ta suggest nothin’ ‘bout yer daughter. Nothin’ at all... Please. Tell me what happened?”

“Mama?”

“Tell him, child. Maybe it’ll help us find that weasel.”

“Okay, Mama, I’ll try.” Jeannie faced the campfire’s glowing ambers. “‘Twas near sundown, Mama ‘n Billy was a-waitin’ with the wagon at the general store. ‘N... ‘N I ‘twas a-comin’ to meet them when a man—the curly blonde man—grabbed my arm ‘n pulled me between two buildings.”

Dewey fidgeted as her story intensified and tried not to disturb his wound.

Jeannie stood and grabbed her neck and hair. “He put a gun to ma throat ‘n seized ma hair ‘n told me to be quiet-like, whiles he had his way with me.”

Mimicking with hand gestures, she continued. “He pushed me to the ground, ‘n tried to unbuckle. But... but his gun belt slipped around his ankles. When he unbuttoned ‘n dropped his pants ‘n stepped towards me, he... He got all tangled ‘n fell at my feet.”

Wringing her hands, Jeannie stopped. “Mama, I can’t go on.”

“Yes, ya can, child. Yer made of strong Higgins stock. Tell Dewey what happened.”

Feeling uncomfortable from sitting too long and Jeannie’s story, Dewey shifted his weight and landed on his wound. He bit his lip and squirmed into a less painful position.

Jeannie resumed her account. “Well... He... He cursed ‘n... ‘N... Crawled on top of me but never lifted my dress.”

Glaring at Dewey, she said, “I know’d then, mister, he ‘tweren’t gonna accomplish nuthin’ thatta way.”

Sweat trickled down his temples, partly from the pain in his rear but mostly from Jeannie’s indictment of his offhanded remarks.

Jeannie refocused on the campfire. “I figured; he was just dumb ‘n didn’t know how to do what he was tryin’ to do. Then, before he could try anythin’ else, we hear’d voices a-comin’.”

Motioning and acting out the events, Jeannie continued her story. “He jumped up, tried to untangle his gun belt, ‘n... ‘N pull up his pants all at once. He stumbled ‘n fell again ‘n again. Last, I seen him, he was a-cursin’ ‘n a-hoppin’ on one foot -- his gun belt a-danglin’ from the other -- a-makin’ for the shadows.”

Then standing with hands on her hips, defiant, Jeannie said, “Thinkin’ back, if I ‘twasn’t so fearful, I’d have laughed myself silly.”

For several moments, everyone focused on Jeannie, but she turned away and hid her tears. Dewey’s mouth was agape and speechless. Waves of admiration for her spunk swept over him, followed by anger toward the man who attacked Jeannie and then deepening compassion for this young woman. Dewey’s emotions were going in all directions at once.

Turning to Ma, Dewey gulped. “He... He sounds like the one who shot me. Name’s Jason, the cousin of two brothers, Hank and Luke. Thar ridin’ ta Silver Rock ta rob the bank. Chances be thar a-comin’ back this away afterward.”

“Don’t say. So if we wait for them here, we’ll get that no-good, low-life that attacked Jeannie. That right, Dewey?”

Jeannie was standing in the glow of the fire. Dewey noticed and turned to watch her dust off her riding skirt, blouse, and vest. “Huh? Uh... Oh... Yep... I... Reckon we’ll get ‘em when they pass through, Ma.”

Ma looked at Dewey, then Jeannie, and smiled.

###

Infection

Dewey tossed and turned most of the night. The events of the past two days replayed in his mind: being shot, Jeannie telling her story, and experiencing feelings he didn’t understand. The moonlight yielded to sunrise, and Dewey had been awake for hours.

Ma stirred. “How’s ya feel this mornin’?”

“Not too good.”

“Lower yer trousers a bit so’s I can look-see. Um... It’s ‘nfected, alright. Pus be a-drainin’ in a couple of places. Gotta remove the scab, son, and it’s a-gonna hurt a might bit. Billy! Billy, get up and build a fire. Jeannie, get some water a-boilin’.”

Dewey pulled down his trousers to his knees and gritted his teeth in anticipation. “Calm down, son. Ain’t started yet... Billy, fetch some medicinal whiskey.”

“Okay, Ma.” Billy retrieved a bottle of Kentucky’s finest from the supplies.

Dewey took a swig. “Where’d ya get this, Ma? Ain’t tasted nothin’ this good since comin’ west.”

“Husband was a drunkard, but he liked the best and left a few bottles when he passed. Keep them for medicine’s sake.”

“I could sure use a good slug.” Dewey chugged a couple of gulps, and on an empty stomach, the alcohol put him in a stupor in short order.

After an hour, Dewey was ready. “Okay, Ma, dig... a... way.”

“Jeannie, bring one of them hot cloths yer a-boilin’.”

“Here ‘tis, Mama.”

“This’ll burn a little, but it’s what you need,” said Ma, piling the cloth on the scab.

“Yeeowl... Gemme another swig.”

“We’ll let that set a spell to soften the scab... not too hot, ain’t it?”

“Noooo... ‘Tain’t... Ma’am,” said Dewey, squirming from the sting.

“Little longer... Billy... Keep that fire a-goin’... All right, son, that be enough soakin’. Let’s see what we got. Ummm... Not so bad as I figured it’d be, but I gotta remove the scab. Billy, stick this knifepoint in the fire, get it white-hot, and bring it to me. Son, ya’d better take another swig -- a big one.”

Dewey chugged another gulp. Ma took the knife and poured some whiskey on the hot tip to cool it. She slid the point under the scab’s edge and lifted it. Pus and blood seeped out, and Dewey let out a yell that echoed through the valley. More pus and blood drained from the wound when she lifted other scabs. Dewey’s screams and curses sent wildlife scurrying for cover. With the last scabs removed, Ma could see where the infection sites were.

“You better bite on this,” Ma said, handing Dewey his belt.

Ma poured whiskey on the wound and scraped all the visible pus. The injury bled and pooled where Dewey lay.

“Bring me the salt, Jeannie.” Ma sprinkled a generous portion on the wound. Then, she took a boiled cloth, folded it, and pressed it on the wound.

Dewey writhed in pain.

“Need another swig, son?”

“Yeeeeeah... might say I do.”

“Come here, daughter. Press this tight. Your ma’s knees done give out.”

“Okay, Mama.”

Jeannie knelt next to Dewey and pressed against the bandage. His buttocks tightened. “Relax, Mr. Gibson, I’m not a-gonna hurt ya.”

“I’m a-tryin’ ta be relaxed, but ‘tain’t easy with ya so close ta me.”

 “No mischief betwixt the two of ya.”

Dewey thought he saw a twinkle in Ma’s eyes.

“Lemme see the wound.” Ma bent over Dewey for a closer look-see. “Leave it airdry fer an hour. Ya hungry? Jeannie can feed ya breakfast.”

“What about me?” asked Billy. “I’m hungry too.”

Beaming, Jeannie went to get Dewey something to eat.

###

Love’s First Bite

“Yer wound looks good fer two days healin’... No signs of ‘nfection, neither,” said Ma. “Ya should try ridin’ a bit.”

“If ya think it’s healed enough.”

“I can help saddle yer horse,” said Jeannie, “if ya need any help.”

“I can always use help.”

Jeannie handed him the blanket, and Dewey’s hand touched hers. She smiled and blushed. He put the blanket on the horse’s back. After heaving the saddle on the blanket, he bent down and reached under the horse’s belly for the flank cinch. Still smiling, Jeannie crouched and extended the cinch to him. Dewey paused, not knowing what reaction he should have. Taking the cinch, he stood and watched her over the saddle while he tightened it.

Jeannie shook, then cocked her head to one side, allowing her long hair to flow across her face and shoulder. She combed several strands from her face and pushed them behind her neck using her fingers. “Here, Mr. Gibson,” she said, handing him the bridle.

Dewey marveled at how easily Jeannie adjusted her hair and why he hadn’t noticed how downright pretty she was. He laid the reins over the horse’s neck and slipped the bit into its mouth. “Ya wanna go for a ride?”

Jeannie giggled. “Never thought ya’d ask.”

Dewey helped her onto the saddle and climbed up behind her. The saddle’s cantle jabbed his wound, and he suppressed a yelp. They started with a walk, followed by a trot. But with each bounce, pain shot through his buttock and down his leg. He stopped. “Let’s swap positions.”

“Whatever ya say, Mr. Gibson.”

Dewey dismounted, and rubbing his behind, he wondered if he was able to keep riding at all. He helped Jeannie down.

“Will ya stop with the ‘Mr. Gibson’? That’s my Pa’s name. I’m Dewey.”

“I like Dewey better, but it’s that we’s never been introduced proper-like, ‘n Mama said I should always be respectful with last names ‘til bein’ introduced.”

“So we don’t upset Ma, I’m Dewey Gibson, near onta twenty-six, of Lawrence, Kansas, and go by ‘Dewey.’”

“Glad ta meet ya, Dewey. I’ma Jean Ann Higgins, ‘n everyone calls me ‘Jeannie.’ I just turned nineteen ‘n we’s from Wichita. Wichita, Kansas.”

Dewey extended his hand, and Jeannie took it. He bowed, she curtsied, and they both laughed.

Dewey remounted, reached for her arm, and pulled Jeannie onto the horse’s croup. This time, the horse slowly galloped without causing Dewey much pain; all the while, Jeannie held tight to Dewey’s waist.

“Whoa, easy, girl,” said Dewy, patting his horse on its neck. “Weren’t that fun?”

“Yes, it were,” said Jeannie as she and Dewey dismounted.

“I enjoyed ridin’ with ya, ‘n holdin’ tight to ya, ‘n... ’N... Bein’ so close to ya.”

“Yer kinda special, different from any girl... Err... Woman I ever met before.”

They were looking into each other’s eyes when Ma approached. “How were the ride? Oooh, did I interrupt somethin’?”

“No, Mama. Dewey and me was just talkin’, nothin’ more.”

“So, it’s Dewey now.”

“Yes, Mama, we’s been introduced...  Proper-like,” said Jeannie as she led the horse to water.

“She’s a right, pretty young woman, don’t ya think, Dewey? Hard worker too and built strong fer bearing grandbabies. Gonna make the right man a perfect wife someday and an old woman happy in her autumn years.”

“Ma, yer as subtle as a mule kick, ya know?”

Ma sauntered away, humming a tune.

Dewey glanced toward Jeannie; her chestnut-colored hair was glowing in the sun. A man could do a lot worse, but I don’t see how he could do no better.

###

Bank Robbers Could Return

“It’s been seven days since Hank and his kin left here ta rob the bank,” said Dewey. “I figure four days ridin’ ta Silver Rock, maybe spend a day in town, and three days back. So we got a day or more before they come up the trail.”

“What if they ride straight through?” asked Billy.

“Have ta give the horses time ta rest and feed, else they’ll ride ‘em in the ground. They took my rifle, but I have my revolver with twenty rounds. What else we got?”

“A rifle,” said Billy, “... and twenty... no twenty-five cartridges.”

“This old single-shot relic won’t be much good, but it has twelve shots,” said Ma.

“I keep Pa’s old handgun, but it only has six rounds,” said Jeannie.

“I’ma fair marksman, not great, but can hold my own. How about you, Billy?” asked Dewey.

“I can shoot out a gnat’s eye, buzzing at fifty yards.”

“Ma?”

“Not quite as good as Billy, but don’t challenge me to a rifle fight as long as they’re close up.”

“Jeannie?”

“Close up, only.”

“Got the makin’s of a small army. Surprise will be our edge against ‘em. If we get the drop on ‘em before they know what hit ‘em, we can capture or kill ‘em before they kill us. So, Billy, ya stand the day watch, and I’ll take the night. That ledge and those boulders on either side of the campsite should be our best defensive positions.”

###

Love’s Second Bite

“What ya doing here, Jeannie? Ya should be a-sleepin’.”

“I couldn’t sleep a-thinkin’ about ya ‘n what could happen if they sneaked up on ya durin’ the night, so I came ta watch with ya. Besides, I like a-bein’ near ya.”

“Okay, but be quiet.”

“... Dewey, what ya goin’ ta do when this is over?” whispered Jeannie.

“What ya mean?”

“I... I mean... Yer a young man... ‘N... ‘N... I’m a young woman... Never been kissed or nothin’... Well... I was a-wonderin’... Uh... Ta put it this way... If ya ever... I mean,...  Ever gave me so much as a thought. There I said it!”

“Jeannie, ya like me... don’t ya?”

“Of course I do, ya dumb old ox.”

“I like ya too, but this ain’t the time ta do no courtin’.”

“Dewe Gibson, yer just the...”

Dewey took hold of her shoulders, pulled her close, and kissed her. “Now, will ya keep quiet and go back ta yer bedroll?”

“Sure, Dewey. Anythin’ ya say, Dewey.”

###

They’s A-Comin’

“Hank. Listen up, Hank, we’s been ridin’ these nags real hard,” said Luke. “They’s about ta drop under us if we’s don’t give ‘em a rest.”

“We’ll stop where Jason shot that feller. There’s water and feed for the horses.”

“Ya thinks his sadda’s still there? I kilt him, so his sadda’s mine... his sadda’s mine.”

“You’re a perfect example against incest, Jason,” said Hank.

“What’s this here, incest yer talkin’ ‘bout?”

“It’s when our brother and sister, your ma and pa, give life to you. The seed don’t grow right when the fertilizer’s wrong.”

“Huh?”

“Fergit it, Hank; it’s above him,” said Luke.

“My point is, Jason, yer different and difficult to deal with. You do things you shouldn’t, like killing that stranger. ‘Twas no need for it. That’s what I mean. And you shot up the bank too. ‘Twasn’t necessary. Yer plumb dangerous at times.”

“I’s like shootin’. People take notice. They’s don’t call me dumb when hot lead’s a-flyin’ ‘round ‘em. Like shootin’ a lot.”

“I might as well be talkin’ to that rock over there,” said Hank, shaking his head. “We better get a move on. Should be at the clearin’ by sunup. We’ll rest there a day or so before ridin’ on.”

“Yeah, and I’s can get ma sadda.” Josh began singing. “I’s gonna gets ma sadda... ma sadda... ma sadda. I’s gonna gets ma sadda. Yes, I is. Yes, I is...”

“Good Lord,” prayed Hank, “help me get through this, so’s I don’t shoot that ignoramus.”

###

Bank Robbers Returned

Dewey’s eyes hung heavy as the hours dragged on. His thoughts drifted back to what Jeannie said and the kiss. But horseshoes pawing against hard ground and rocks brought him back to reality. He scooted over and awakened Ma, Billy, and Jeannie. “Thar a-comin’. I reckon about a hundred yards up the trail.”

Each gathered their bedroll and stashed them behind a bush. Then, taking positions overlooking the campsite, they waited for the approaching men.

###

“Can we’s finally rest?” asked Luke, dismounting. “My arse’s near glued ta my saddle.” Luke stretched and rubbed his backside while his horse strolled to the stream for a drink.

Jason dismounted and looked around. “Where’s ma sadda? We’s left it here, but it’s gone.”

“Shut up about ‘ma sadda’,” shouted Hank. “Your horse is more important than any old saddle. It needs water and feed.”

“But I want ma sadda,” mumbled Jason while he unsaddled his horse. “It’s ma sadda... and I want it.”

“Luke, you didn’t take your saddle off. Your horse needs a rest, too,” yelled Hank.

“All right. All right, I’ll git it.” Luke waded into the stream, uncinched the saddle, and plopped it on the bank.

Hank dismounted, took the saddlebags of money, and pitched them near the burnt-out campfire. He loosened the cinch and let the saddle drop to the ground. His horse wandered to the stream and took a long drink.

Jason said, “Lemme see the money.”

“I wanna see it, too,” said Luke. “How much ya think we’s got?”

“I reckon it’s safe. Doubt the posse’s still on our trail.”

Luke and Jason stood over Hank while emptying the saddlebags on the ground.

“Put yer hands up,” yelled Dewey. “We got ya covered.”

Jason and Luke hunkered down, drew their guns, and searched for the direction of the voice. Hank gathered the money into the saddlebags and said, “Wait a minute, partner. We can talk this out.”

“There ain’t no talkin’ to it. Drop yer guns.”

“How many ya think there is?” whispered Luke.

“At least two,” said Hank, nodding toward Billy’s position. “See the rifle on that boulder?”

“Got thirty seconds... then we start shootin’,” shouted Dewey.

“I like shootin’,” said Jason, standing and firing toward the sound of Dewey’s voice.

“Jason, ya crazy idiot,” screamed Hank. “Yer pa should’ve fed ya ta the cows when ya was born.”

Billy took aim at Luke and fired. Luke fell backward, dead, blood streaming from a hole in his chest through his heart. Jason kept shooting wildly, missing his target. Hank fired two rounds toward Billy’s position, but he had already ducked behind a boulder.

“Looky here,” yelled Ma.

Hank pivoted and discharged his gun just as Ma’s rifle sent a bullet screaming towards its target. Grabbing his shoulder where Ma’s projectile shredded flesh and bone, the impact knocked Hank backward. He managed another round toward Ma’s exposed left arm and shoulder. It found its mark, and Ma winced when the bullet passed through the fleshy part of her upper arm.

“Hank... over here,” shouted Dewey, standing and firing three shots of his revolver.

Hank didn’t have time to shoot before the slugs hit him square in his chest. He paused, his revolver tumbled forward on his index finger, and he fell facedown with a thud.

Meanwhile, Jason scrambled for cover toward Jeannie’s location. She backed against a boulder when she saw him coming. Holding the pistol with both hands, she pointed it at Jason as he moved closer. Her hands were shaking. She recognized him as the man who had tried to molest her, and he was approaching fast. Jason dove behind the boulder and looked straight into the barrel of a Colt Dragoon .44.

“Hi, Missy,” said Jason, grinning from ear to ear and crawling closer. “‘Tain’t gonna shoot me, are ya?”

“You’re the man who tried to hurt me.”

“Sorry, Missy, I don’t know ya.” Jason inched forward.

“Ya grabbed me in Sedona, dragged me between two buildings, and tried to have yer way with me but couldn’t.”

“I could’ve if I wanted to.” Then, rising up on all fours, Jason extended his hand.

“Not from what I seen. Ya too dumb to know what to do.”

“I ain’t dumb,” yelled Jason, charging at Jeannie. “I’ll show ya I ain’t.”

She squeezed the trigger, and the hammer struck the cartridge, propelling a ball of lead down the barrel. The shocked look on Jason’s face froze in place when the bullet punched a hole between his eyes, and gunpowder residue splattered on his face. The exiting round exploded the back of his skull, and he slumped at Jeannie’s feet.

Dewey ran toward her, shouting, “Are you alright? Jeannie, are you hurt?”

“Ma’s been hit,” yelled Billy, “‘Tain’t bad, though.”

“Is Jeannie alright?” hollered Ma, getting to her feet. “Help me, Billy. Gotta see my baby.”

“She’s safe and unharmed. The varmint never touched her. She got him right between the eyes, stopping him dead on the spot. She’s quite a woman, Ma. She sure is.”

“Stop it, Dewey. Stop talkin’. Can’t ya see I’m hurtin’ inside? Never killed anyone or anythin’ before, and it don’t feel good--like I did wrong or somethin’.”

“It was him or you. He would’ve killed ya for sure if givin’ the chance. Ya did right.”

“He’s the one who attacked me in Sedona. So he deserved dyin’, I guess.”

“Yer right, and we won’t dwell on it.” Dewey put his arm around her and drew her tight. Jeannie leaned her head against his chest.

Dewey turned to Ma and asked, “How’s yer wound?”

“I’ll be okay, son. After we bury this bunch, what we’s gonna do with the bank’s money?”

“Return it, of course. ‘Tain’t right becomin’ robbers ourselves.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear. Billy and me will stay here while I heal up. You take Jeannie along to Silver Rock; she’ll keep you company. Besides, ya’ll get ta know each other a whole lot better.”

“What ya sayin’, Ma?”

“Nuthin’, son, nuthin’ at all. Just lettin’ nature take its course on the long ride to Silver City and back.”

### The End ###

 


Submitted: August 20, 2018

© Copyright 2022 DRayVan. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

A great Western tale full of character and vivid imagery.
nice job.

Sun, August 26th, 2018 3:07pm

Rob73

A well written Western story.

Sun, July 4th, 2021 7:00am

Pink Wish

your story has reminded me of the great video game "Red Dead Redemption 2" because of your setting and because of the sublime way in which you use your many characters and your vivid images to create a believable and well-crafted story that made for a highly enjoyable read. I really loved the Western Setting and your mastery at weaving a splendid story around it.

Thu, August 5th, 2021 2:39pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for your kind review. Glad you liked it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thu, August 5th, 2021 8:43am

Damon Nomad

Classic western the dialogue as well as the vivid picture you paint of the scenes.

Wed, February 16th, 2022 12:59am

Author
Reply

Thank you for your kind words. Glad you liked it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tue, February 15th, 2022 11:21pm

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