Luck of the Irish

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic
A shell-shocked Civil War veteran wanders the West trying to outrun the bad luck that seems to follow him where ever he goes.

Submitted: September 11, 2019

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Submitted: September 11, 2019

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The trail-weary man squatted on a rock ledge overlooking the town and got out the makings. His gray eyes glanced up to the roan and a wry grin came to his sun-browned face.
“I know, you don’t like people much either do ya Bob.” he said quietly to his horse.

The man’s square jaw was covered with several week’s whiskers and his dusty black flat-crowned hat was pushed back on his head to let the breeze cool his forehead. He stood up and lit his cigarette, taking a deep draw and then letting the blue smoke trail through his nostrils as he scanned the busy street far below. He was a tall man, with dark hair, broad chest, muscular build, and a cool, quiet demeanor. He looked at the horse again and saw nothing but suspicion and urease in its eyes.

“Ya know Bob, we gotta go to town sooner or later. We’re just about out of side meat and whistle berries, and that’s the last of the coffee right there. That’s bad luck, ya know.” He gestured to the small smokeless fire that warmed his coffeepot and took another sip of the weak brew. His looked back upon the town below for some kind of sign, then his eyes drifted up to the foothills above the town, then to the blue-green spruce forest and rugged rock outcrops across the valley, and then up to the purple, snow-capped peaks beyond.

“The Rocky Mountains sure are pretty, ain’t they Bob?” he said to his horse, but Bob was too busy munching a tender tuft of grass to notice.

It was not unheard of or even odd in the Old West for a lonely man traveling the grub line to talk to his horse, but Will Stone could never get used to feeling a little crazy when he did. And that was pretty much all of the time. Stone was a loner among loners and there were plenty of reasons why.

He had been a lieutenant in the Civil War. He had fought for three long years and had seen and taken part in enough violence and carnage for any twenty men. He had returned to northern Georgia and had found that nothing remained of his former life, no home, no family, and no reason to stay. He had drifted south and had worked as a black leg, gambling on the Mississippi riverboats for a while. He found that two Colts trump three aces after catching a man cheating, and he had then taken a quick swim to avoid the man’s friends. He had then worked a steamer headed up the coast to Boston but was too restless to hold a steady job there. After killing a man in a drunken brawl he had been forced to leave Bean Town the same night. He had then gone west to Kansas, worked as a Marshall in a small town for a while, with its accompanying violence, and then had taken a job as a meat hunter on a westbound wagon train. He had fought Indians along the way, gotten wounded, and had stopped in Santa Fe to recuperate. He found himself a wanted man after yet another card game turned violent. He changed his name and headed north for Wyoming, working as a bull nurse for several outfits. He found that he was naturally good at cow punching, and quickly became a top hand, but whether it was bad luck or something else, he just never fit in with the other men. He was too quiet, too brooding, and too easily prodded into violent action. He found it hard to control his temper and he didn't know why, as he didn't used to be that way before the war. When the time for any kind of action came, it always came in the form of fire and fury, and so he had found himself perpetually on the dodge.

After numerous run-ins, he had finally learned to control himself by completely shutting off and trying not to care what people thought. He had found that the best way to control his emotions was to hide from them, and that the best way to stay out of trouble was to drift. He learned that the only way to get along with other people was to just ignore them, and had decided that the only way to not shoot people was to not carry a gun. Oh, he had a pistol all right, his ’58 Remington from the war, but he kept it and its extra four loaded cylinders safely stored away in his saddlebag. No use tempting fate after all.

Will bent down to the fire, grabbed the coffeepot, poured the belly wash out and spoke again to his horse. “That’s it. A man can’t live without coffee. And I ain’t had a bath in a month. I need more tobacco, and I could use a drink too. We’re going to town Bob, that’s all there is to it”. The horse shuffled its feet and snorted. Will chuckled and patted the horse on the neck. “This times gonna be different Bob. We can’t run into bad luck every time”.

An hour later, Will rode into Parrott City, hat pulled low. He let Bob have his head, his shambling gait leading them to what was obviously livery stable, as the wily horse knew that a rubdown and a bait of oats was waiting. If the horse could have reasoned, he might have hoped that if they were lucky, they could maybe stay awhile without having to high-tail it out of town in a hurry. When they reached the livery, Will unmounted and patted the horse on the neck. The livery owner took the reins but raised his eyebrows when the horse’s ears went back.

Will chuckled and lent some advice. “You be careful with that ornery one. He bites. And watch yourself as he likes to kick when ya least expect it. Give him an apple though and he be your friend forever.”

He flipped the livery owner a silver dollar and headed for the general store. There were two men arguing on the boardwalk in front and a very pretty girl with blazing red hair and a lovely shape was watching them in obvious distress. A huge, muscular man was standing over a small, older man and speaking so all could hear,

“I can’t give you no more credit you no-account bum. I oughta have the sheriff lock you up. Why don’t you just pull clear outta La Plata County? We don’t need you around here nohow,”  said the big man.

The older man, visibly distraught, was holding his hat in his hands and pleading his case in a thick Irish brogue, “ Now Mr. Wellington, now’s the first time I’ve been late on my bill, an’ I told you that we’ve been havin’ some hard times. I don’t know why the money is late, laddy. That herd we sold last month? Well, I figgered we were supposed to get that money within a few days, an’ there ain’t nobody knows what’s going on with it. I can't get any answers at the bank. And besides that, someone’s been rustlin' my herd, cuttin' my fences and…” The big man interrupted him with a violent push and the smaller man fell down into the dusty street, moaning in obvious pain.

“That’s all blarney. Pack your bags Sullivan, don't you know that I own the bank too? You’re a week late on your mortgage as well. I’ll give you $100 for that ranch and not a penny more! You better take my deal before I repossess it!”  The big man turned away and bumped into Will. He looked him up and down with disgust.

“Watch where you're goin' saddle tramp” he said gruffly. Will stepped aside and said nothing. The young woman was kneeling beside the older man with a defiant look on her face. She could hold her tongue no more.

She tore into the big man with hell’s fury. "You think you’re such a big man in this here town, Frank Wellington. Just because you own everything don’t give ya the right to treat people liker ya do! Ya should be ashamed of yourself!” she scolded.

The big man stopped, turned around and laughed derisively. “Yeah? I don’t know why you live out there on that run down ranch with your no account pa”. You oughta just shut your big bazoo and marry me like you should.” He walked over to her and picked her up roughly by the arm. “In fact why don’t we go see the preacher right now?” he said with a wicked laugh as she wriggled to get free.

“Get your hand off of me ya barrel boardin’, slumguzzling screw!” she hollered as she tried to kick him.

“Whoa filly, you shore do have spunk!” he yelled with a wicked smile. By now a few onlookers were standing around watching the spectacle with disdain, yet Will noticed that no one lifted a hand or a voice in opposition to the powerful man.

Finally, Will stepped down from the boardwalk into the street and quietly asked, "Why don’t you just leave the lady alone?” The big man let go of the girl and turned to Will with amazement on his face.

“You stay out of this stranger, this is my town! So why don’t you just get on your horse and ride on out of here.” he said with menace.

Will stood straight with his shoulders back, kept his calm and said, “By good rights, it would be best for everyone if things just calmed down a bit, that's all I’m sayin.”  The big man thought about swinging, but the thought died when he got a better look at the stranger’s eyes. There was something very disconcerting about them. Wellington couldn't put his finger on it but a chill went through him.

“Aw just having a little fun that’s all.” he managed. Wellington turned to Sullivan and warned him again, “You better sell, you no good squatter. You're done in this country. You just don’t know it yet”.

He started to walk away but stopped and turned to Will again and said, “Your done in this country too saddle tramp. You best be gone by sunup tomorrow!” By this time the boodle of people had seen enough of the bobbery and was breaking up. Sullivan tried to get to his feet but had twisted his ankle badly when he was pushed to the ground.

Erin, still angry, helped her father into the buggy, then turned to Will with blazing green eyes and said bitterly, “Why didn't ya help us? What kind of man are you anyway, a real man would have shown him a good beatin’” She slapped the reins and the carriage shot off down the street. Will stood bewildered for a few moments, took off his hair case, wiped his brow, and wondered why he had ever come to town.

“That horse was right” he murmured to himself as he made for the saloon. “I guess any hoss’s tail can catch cockleburs. Anyway, I gotta get a drink of oh-be-joyful after that ruckus!” He stepped through the batwing doors to the saloon, edged up to the bar and ordered rye. It had been a month since he had enjoyed a drink and he needed one now. That had been a close call. That man might be the biggest toad in the puddle, but he surely had not known how close that he had come to deadly violence. Will was quite proud of his newly cultivated constraint though, and after the first shot, he ordered a bottle and sat down at a table to relax.

“One thing I’ve learned”, he thought to himself, “never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody.”

Frank Wellington had made for the sheriff's office and was going through wanted posters when Sheriff Crawley came back in from his rounds.

“Hey Jack, what do you know about that drifter that just got into town today?”

The sheriff looked puzzled and asked, “Which one are ya talking about Frank?” There must be a dozen drifters in town”.

“This one’s different. He ain’t no pilgrim, and he looks real salty too, probably bellyin’ through the brush.” replied Wellington. “An’ he looks familiar to me somehow. I want him out of town as soon as possible.” Wellington looked up from the posters and added pointedly. “He was mighty interested in the Sullivans today. Maybe he knows something about what’s buried on that ranch.”

The sheriff looked surprised and asked, “What makes you think that?”

Wellington hesitated, stood up, then replied, “Oh its nothing, I just don’t want anyone messing up this deal of ourn. We’re getting too close to forcing the Sullivans out, and I don’t want nothin’ fouling it up, that’s all.”

The lawman thought for a moment then asked, “Are you sure that the ingot came from somewhere on that ranch? Those two Ute kids that sold it to you didn't really say it came from there. All you got to go on is that you trailed them back into the hills behind the Sullivan ranch. It doesn’t mean that they got that ingot from anywhere near there. And another thing, you shouldn’t have questioned them so hard. It scared them so bad they won’t never come back. They might have brought more of them ingots to us if there was any. We could have both got rich with what little you paid them. But then again, maybe they ain’t come back with no more cause now they don’t think they’re worth nothin.”

Wellington turned red with anger and shook his head, “I know that’s where those little buzzards got that silver bar. And there’s got to be way more there too. I did a little diggin’. That old timer Reynolds use to trap around here before anybody came to this country. He says that the Old Spanish Trail goes right through that property. Stories have it that 200 years ago the Conquistidors and Jesuits were mining all around this here country and sendin’ the gold and silver back to Mexico City by burro train. From what the old timer says, a whole shipment got lost after being hidden during an Indian attack and that it’s supposed to be buried somewhere near here. That ingot has just got to be part of it. Get it out of the safe and let’s look at it again. I want to take another look at the markings on it.” The two men locked the door to the jail, closed the curtains and opened the safe.

Wellington pulled out the heavy bar and read the inscription, “It says 2380, look at these Roman numbers, it reads 1667 if I’m not mistaken, and this symbol sure looks Spanish to me. Its got to be from that lost Spanish treasure.”

The two men put the bar back into the safe, then Wellington turned to the sheriff and cautioned, “If those boys know about it maybe somebody else does too, so that means we've got to move fast. You get rid of that nosey drifter and I’ll take care of the old man and his daughter... one way or another! Maybe the next time I see that daughter of his in town alone, I might just go out there and plant that old man in the boot yard.”

Will had tossed off another couple of shots, then crossed the street to the hotel and had checked in. He ordered a bath, hopped into the copper tub, and was busy shaving when the door busted open and the sheriff strode into the room. He looked at Will keenly. Although he thought the man in the tub looked vaguely familiar, he could not place him.

He hooked his thumbs into his cartridge belt and told him curtly, “You’ll be leaving town tomorrow morning. We don’t like your type here. Don’t bother coming back either”. The sheriff gave Will a meaningful stare, turned on his heel and left, not wanting for an answer from the astonished man in the tub.

“Well that does beat all”, Will muttered to himself. “What in the world is going on around here? Why in tarnation is everybody on the prod? And why does Wellington want that Sullivan ranch so bad? And why does that Sheriff looks like somebody I used to know?” He thought of the pretty girl and her father.

“I’m gonna to have to do some investigatin’ tomorrow”. After soaking and thinking for a while, he stopped by the telegraph office, then walked over to the cafe, ordered and ate a meal, then went over to the general store and bought his supplies, including a new suit of cloths. As he was leaving, he turned around and ordered extra cartridges.
“Might as well try to make my own luck," he murmured to himself as he strode back to the livery. Bob was happy to see him and the apple in his hand, and they trotted out of town, back towards the Sullivan ranch.

Will leaned over and murmured to the horse, “There was something fishy going on here, Bob, and I mean to find out what it is!”. Will chirked and the horse picked up the pace, following the river out of town and up the canyon toward the Sullivan ranch. The closer he got to the ranch however, the less sure he was that he was making the right decision.

“I should just keep ridin," Bob. We got no business here, and everybody says the rim country is awful pretty. He caught sight of the house, and got cold feet. Just as he was about to turn around, he saw the girl drawing water at the well. She looked up at him but her face was unsmiling and cold.

He rode up, got down from his horse, took off his hat, and said, “Hello mam, my name is Will Stone. I’m sorry about yesterday. I heard that about you folks having some problems and I thought I’d make it up to you and lend a hand if ya needed it”. The woman’s face softened as she looked up and down the now presentable young man. She extended her hand with a pretty smile.

“Oh yes, well I hardly recognized you, Mr. Stone. I’m sorry if I was rude yesterday. It was kindly of you to speak for us. I don’t know what came over me, I was just so mad at that scoundrel Wellington, I guess I forgot my manners. My name is Erin. Erin Sullivan. This here’s my pa's ranch. Won’t you come in and have a cup of coffee?” she offered sweetly.

Will answered softly, “Don’t mind if I do mam, thank ya kindly.” They turned for the house, and Will noticed that the place looked a little run down.

As they entered the door, a voice came from the back, “Whose that Erin, have we got company?”

“Yes pa. Its that fella from town that spoke up for us yesterday”. The old man came to the door of the bedroom, hobbling on a cane.

"Well, thank ya young man, there aren’t many that will stand up in any way to that blasted Wellington and his crew. He’s got the whole town in his pocket”. He extended his free hand and said in a thick Irish lilt. “My names Conor Sullivan. This here's my daughter Erin, and were thankful to ya, my boy.” They shook hands and Conor gestured for Will to take a seat. Erin got the coffee and cups and filled one for each, then busied herself serving up a piece of apple pie for Will.

“Thank ya mam. I don’t get pie too often!” he exclaimed. They all chuckled as Will dug right in. “What's your story Will?” Conor asked. Will finished chewing, swallowed, and simply said, “Driftin' mostly. Picking up work here and there.”

Conor’s face lit up and he asked, “How about a job right here on the ranch? I need a good hand more than ever with all the rustling and shenanigans we’ve been dealing with, and now I’ll be laid up for a week or so with this danged sprained ankle. It’s just me and Erin now that her ma passed away. And all my help has quit for no reason at all that I can tell. What do ya say?” Will put his coffee down, smiled faintly at them both and said. “I reckon that would be worthwhile, as long as I can get paid in apple pie!”

They all laughed, then Will’s face became serious. “Mr. Sullivan, why is Wellington ridin’ ya so bad?”

Conor lit his pipe and pondered the question for a moment. “I think he just hates that Irish that’s all. I can’t figure out any other reason.”

Will looked up at Erin and grinned. “Maybe he’s mad cause someone’s got a mind of her own.” Erin blushed, turned away into the kitchen. “It’s gonna take a way better man than him to turn my head” she said flatly.

The smile quickly left Will’s face and he got up from the table. “Thanks very much for the coffee and pie, mam.” He turned to Conor, “Now, Mr. Sullivan, I can start right now, so what to you want me to work on first?” Conor told him the location of the fences that needed mending, the waterhole that needed digging and a dozen other jobs that begged attention.

When he was through, Will headed for the door and said, “Well, I guess I’d better get busy on the betterments, the day’s wasting away.”

Conor got up from the table and limped to the door after Will. “Supper is at sundown, all the tools are in the shed, and you can bunk down in the barn if you’d like.”

Will nodded, went to the barn, changed into his work clothes, and then walked toward the tool shed. “Are you loco?” he murmured to himself, “That girl is way out of your league. What have you got to offer? How could you think you had any chance at all with her? I’m just a down and out drifter with no stake and no future. I can’t give her anything.” Will ruefully tied the fence tools onto his saddle and rode Bob out of the yard and out into the valley. It would be good to work his muscles, get some fresh air and clear his head. He wanted to forget about the past and the last couple of days had been just a replay of the last few years. He was starting to believe that he would never have any good luck in life, and so maybe the best thing to do was to drift. But he had given the old man his word and they did need his help for a while. It wouldn’t be so bad after all. He didn’t have a tail feather left after buying those new clothes and supplies, and he could make enough of a stake to get to Arizona with a month of steady work. He suddenly thought of how Erin had looked at him when she had brought him the piece of pie and his heart suddenly sped up. He patted the horse on the neck and said, “This won’t be so bad Bill. The grub is good, and besides, the scenery around here sure is pretty.”

Will lost himself in the work for a week, fixing fences that he noticed were obviously cut with a wire cutter, digging out waterholes, repairing the corral, nailing new shingles to the roof of the house, taking care of the horses, and completing a host of other odd jobs. He made a quick trip into town on his day off in order to check on a hunch, but was careful to keep a low profile and avoid the sheriff and Wellington. He got up early each day and worked until late, and after another week of labor there was a visibly marked improvement on the ranch. Will looked better too, as the sunshine, fresh air, steady meals, and exercise was doing wonders for his health and spirit. He just had to remember to not get his hopes up, for trouble and disappointment always seemed to be just around the corner.

Will awoke early on one sunny day, walked into the house, and was welcomed to the smell of bacon. Erin was flipping bonny slap jacks and offered him a cup of coffee. “It sure is looking good around here WIll”, she said cheerily. “You’re doing such a good job, and we sure do appreciate it!“

“Well, thank you mam," he said with a shy grin.

“Oh please call me Erin," she said with a smile.

“Yes, Miss Erin, he replied.

Conor looked at Will and smiled, “I think that you’re far enough along that today ya can start roundin’ up some of that stock that’s up in the foothills.” He drew a crude map for Will that showed where the cattle were holed up. “Just drive them down to the south forty and then we’ll do a count and see what we got. There might be some strays up there, so be sure to bring an iron along.”

Will nodded, finished his breakfast and turned to Erin. “Well, thanks for the breakfast, I guess I’ll see ya for supper, Miss Erin.”

Erin turned to Will and replied, “I’m going to town today for supplies and I might be a little late getting home. You just might have to do for yourselves”

Will glanced at Conor and said with a grin, “Me as a bean master? I think your Pa might be better off starving than eating my cooking!” He left the cabin, made ready, mounted up, and headed for the hills at a trot.

Meanwhile, back in town, Wellington and the sheriff had forgotten about the drifter and had assumed that he was gone for good. They were sitting on the boardwalk in front of the jail when they saw Erin drive by atop her wagon and stop at the general store.Wellington stood up quickly and said to the sheriff, “There she is, by herself. Nows as good a time as any to seal our deal. Let’s ride out there now and take care of business. We’ll have that ranch in no time.” The two went back into the jail and left by the back door, mounting their horses and leaving town unseen by a back street. They followed the riverbed out of town and then urged their horses into a gallop. When they got to the ranch they pulled up in front of the house.

Wellington loosened his gun strap and bellowed, “Hey Sullivan, I want to make you a real sweet offer on this place.”

Conor came to the door and stepped out onto the porch with a defiant look on his face. “I told you that I would never sell to ya, not for any price. I’m happy here and I’m trying to build somethin’ for my daughter. You just quit botherin’ me. And what’s the sheriff doing here? I haven’t broken any law!”

A malicious grin came over Wellington's face as he drew his pistol. “I warned you that you were done in this country. You wouldn’t listen to me. You got this comin’ old man.”Wellington shot him and saw the blossom of red appear on his shirt. Conor fell down on the porch. Wellington urged his horse closer, took aim and then shot him in the head just to make sure. “Told ya, now your done for good!” he said with a harsh laugh. The two men turned their horses and galloped out of the yard and back toward town. They took another route in order to avoid anyone seeing them and eventually made their way back along the creek and into town with no one being the wiser.

Will was branding a calf when he heard the shot. He stood up straight and tried to decide from what direction it had come from. Then he heard the second shot, and he knew that it was in the general direction of the ranch. “I got a bad feelin’ about this.” he said to himself. He quickly snuffed the fire, let the bawling calf go, then mounted his horse and bolted for the ranch.

When he got into the yard he saw Conor laying prone on the porch, his heady bloody and stain of blood growing under him. He went to work immediately, boiling water and making up bandages. Will knew exactly what to do as he had field treated many wounds during the war.

He brought the unconscious man into the cabin and tended to him until he heard the carriage in the yard. “Erin, in here!” he hollered. 

Erin came into the house, she her father and her face turned pale. “What happened? Oh no!  Is he going to be alright? ” she asked. “I don’t know, I was out branding cattle in the south forty when I heard the shots. I came back as fast as I could and found him shot on the porch. He took one to the head but it was a glancing shot. The one in his shoulder just passed through. He’s lost a lot of blood but I think he’s going to be ok. He real lucky, that’s for sure. If either one of those shot would have hit him a little differently he’d be a goner by now.”

Erin ran over to the bed and kneeled beside her father. “Pa, are you all right? she said with tears in her eyes.

The old man half opened his eyes and a faint smile came to his face. “Sweetie, I’m so glad you are there,” he said weakly.

“Who did this to you Pa? What happened? she urged.

Conor lifted his head and tried to speak. “The.. it… was Well.. Wellington an, that danged sheriff.” he managed.

“What?” exclaimed Erin. “Why, what reason would they have to shoot you?”

The old man passed out again and Erin turned to Will. “Will, has the world gone crazy? Why would they do this?”

Will’s face was a mask. He calmly told her, “Erin, you stay here and tend to your Pa. I’ve got work to do in town.” He left the cabin, went to his horse, dug the Remington our of his saddlebag, and secured it under his belt. He mounted his horse, trotted out of the yard, and headed for town.

When Will entered town, he made his way to the doctor’s office and told him about the shooting. The doctor left for the ranch in his buggy and Will then rode over to the Sheriff’s Office. Dismounting his horse, he felt for his gun, straightened his hat, took a deep breath, and opened the door. The sheriff and Wellington were sitting inside and were sure startled to see him. The lawman stood up.

“What the hell? What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to get out of town and stay out?” he blared.

Will ignored him and looked at Wellington. “You shot Conor Sullivan in cold blood. And you watched him do it sheriff. He’s still alive and he said you did it. Your both under arrest and for sure headed for the big pasture.”

Wellington laughed and stood up. “Who do you think you are anyway? You ain’t got no proof. It’s the old man’s word against ours. Jack’s the sheriff and I own this town.” he replied confidently.

Will's face was emotionless as he spoke, “Well, for one thing, you ain’t Frank Wellington, you're Frank Miller the outlaw.” He turned to the sheriff, “And you ain’t no sheriff, you’re Jack Wilson, his partner from El Paso! You both wanted for that big bank robbery in Denver ten years ago.”

The two men stood stunned for a moment then both went for their guns. They both stopped in mid-draw however, as a pistol had suddenly appeared in Stone’s hand. “All right, take those pistols out real nice and easy and drop ‘em on the floor”

The two men did as they were told. “Now throw me those keys and back up into that cell.” The two men grumbled but were in no position to argue. After the cell was locked Will got out a couple of shotguns and extra shells, barred the door, and sat down.

“How did you know who we were?”Frank said from the cell.

“I remember you both from when I was the Marshall in Dodge City.” replied Will. “I had a deputy that knew you then too. He’s the Federal Marshall in this territory now, and when I remembered who you were, I sent him a telegraph. He’s on his way here by stagecoach to pick you up and bring you back for trial. You’ll both be lucky if ya don’t get a California Collar out of this caper.”

A couple of hours later the stage arrived from Pagosa Springs, and the men were handcuffed and loaded onto the stage. Will got on his horse and left for the ranch. On the way he began talking to his horse again. “Ya know Bob, I can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Everywhere we go I run into bad luck. And that girl ain’t never going to have me. She’s probably going to be mad at me for not shooting those two fellers that shot her pa. I might as well pack my bags and drift again.”

Will entered the yard, wearily got down from his horse and walked into the house. The doctor was just finishing up. “Well, young man you did a fine job of patching him up. He’s lost a lot of blood but he’s going to pull through. He’s awake in there if you want to talk to him.”

Will took off his hat and entered the bedroom. Erin was at Conor’s side, holding his hand.

Conor looked up and whispered, “Thank ya laddy, ya saved my life for sure. What in the world was wrong with them two varmints?”

Will sat down and related the entire story to them both. When he was done, he shook Conor’s hand and said quietly, ‘Well, all is well here, and its been nice knowing ya, but I figure that I should drift. Thanks for givin’ me a chance.”  The old man tried to talk him out of it, but Erin was quiet and just looked down at her hands.

As he left the cabin, Erin followed him out. “You’re sure you don’t want to stay? It’s getting late in the day and you might as well get a good night sleep, then you can leave in the morning fresh. ” she suggested.

“Naw, I’m not much for staying in one place for long, and seein’ that trouble just seems to follow me around where ever I go, I figure to save you and your Pa any more aggravation. I’m gonna miss ya though. Take care now ya hear, Miss Erin?”

He turned, mounted his horse and headed for the hills. “Bob, Im just a saddle tramp with bad luck. I don’t have anything to offer that girl.” Will walked his horse back up into the hills above the ranch as the sun was setting. “Bob, I’ve got to at least get off this ranch today, then I’m gonna make camp, cause I’m bushed. We’ll head for the rim country in the mornin,’” he said to his horse.

When he was sure that he was well off the property, he went a little further, then made camp and brewed some fresh coffee, fried some side pork, and stretched out on his blankets next to the fire under the cliff. His melancholy thoughts went back over the last few weeks. He tried to figure out just where he was going wrong. He had seemed to have harnessed the violent part of himself. He had stood up for those folks and had done everything right. He hadn’t run from trouble, but he just couldn’t seem to catch a break.“Must just be my bad luck.” he thought as he fell asleep with the image of Erin’s pretty face in his mind's eye.

The bright sunlight was in Will’s eye when he awoke late the next morning. “I didn’t know how tired I was.” he murmured to himself as he stretched in his blankets. He looked over at his horse, who had managed to pull up his ground stake and was busily grazing on the fresh grass near a thick bush against the face of the rocky cliff above. He hollered glumly over to the horse, “What are we going to do now Bob? Head for Arizona? I just don’t know what we should do.”

Will put his hands behind his head and looked up at the cliff above him. His eyes blurred a little and then he noticed the pattern in the rock. From that angle and in that morning light, it looked like a cross had been scratched into the rock. “Hmm, that’s interesting, wonder what that is.” He sat up and looked more closely. “Sure enough, I wonder if that ain’t some kinda Indian markings.” he said to Bob, but the horse had disappeared behind the brush. “Bob, come here boy”. He whistled but Bob did not come to him like he usually did.

Will walked over to where he had last seen the horse and then walked behind the thick brush. He was surprised to see a small opening, a cave in the rock, which has been obscured by the brush. Bob was standing just inside the cave, looking back at him while chewing some grass. Will walked into the cave a couple of steps and lit a match. His foot stumbled against something. He bent over and picked up a round piece of metal from the floor. It was an old helmet with a face guard. Nearby there were a dozen chests, and what looked like bricks stacked against the wall. He struck a match and opened one of the cases. It was full of gold nuggets of every size, numerous emeralds, and crumbling leather bags full of heavy dust. He turned to the bricks and picked up one. It looked to be made of pure silver and had strange markings on it. His hand trembled as he opened a smaller, fancier chest. It was full of jewel-encrusted gold jewelry and religious artifacts.

Back at the ranch, Erin was tending to her father. She had listened intently to the doctor’s instructions and was relieved that Pa was going to be just fine, but on the other hand, she was strangely sad that Will had left, in spite of herself. “What was it about that man?” she asked Pa. “Why can’t I stop thinking about him? I should have been friendlier to him. I’ll probably never see him again.”

Just then, there was a knock on the door. She got up from the side of the bed, walked to the door and opened it tentatively. She was surprised to see Will standing there with a small golden chest at his feet. She flung herself into his arms without thinking. “Oh Will, I’m so glad you came back. Did you just forget something? Did you need something?” 

Will smiled broadly, stepped back a little, reached for her hand, and slipped a gold ring with a huge emerald onto her finger. “Yeah, I guess that all I needed was a little luck of the Irish”


© Copyright 2019 Steve Heriot. All rights reserved.

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