Hate Turns Deadly at Silver Rock

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

Prejudice and hate lead to deadly consequences when two drifters try to run a Chinaman out of town.

Sheriff William Duggan, thirty-eight, paunch, medium height, and tanned from prolonged sun exposure, tilted his chair back and lit a slender cigar. Smoke curled above his head in the still air. From his vantage point in front of the jail, the streets of Silver Rock were quiet for a Friday night. Maybe it was the excessive heat and humidity, unusually oppressive for a late August in Oklahoma. But the saloons were roaring, warm beer and all.

It must be twenty degrees warmer inside, thought Duggan. How can they stand it?

The sound of boots on the wooden sidewalk coming closer caught the Duggan’s attention. He rocked the chair forward, and its front legs hit with a thud. Scant light from occasional lanterns outside businesses was the only illumination for the otherwise dark street. Light from the lantern above his head made him an easy target; however, the approaching person was lost in the shadows. Caught in a similar situation once, Duggan instinctively put his hand on his revolver.

“Howdy, Sheriff.” Samuel Goodbody, twenty-nine, tall, lanky, and not too bright, approached out of the shadows. “Hot enough fer you?”

“For Pete’s sake, Sam, don’t ever sneak up on a person in the dark like that. Could get you shot. No questions asked.”

“Sorry, Sheriff. Just thought you’d like some company. But if yer not in the mood, I’ll leave.”

“Come on, Sam. Pull up a chair and enjoy the quiet evening. We don’t get too many quiet Fridays when the trail herds are in town.”

“That’s a fact. I remember last year... or was it the year before... maybe it was before then...”

“If you’re gonna tell a story, what difference does it make exactly when it was?”

“Well, it means a lot of difference. It’s what they call context. Got have the proper context of the story or it won’t make any sense.”

“Where’d you learn ‘bout that?”

“I was trying to tell Sally a story and she asked ‘What was the context?’”

“Did she explain what context means?”

“Sure she did. That’s why I’m trying to remember the date of my story.”

“Okay, Sam. Go ahead with your story.”

“Since I can’t remember when, the story won’t mean the same.”

“Suit yourself, Sam. It’s time I stroll around town and check on the saloons. Wanna come?”

“Sure. Can’t tell a story worth a darn anyways.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people can’t tell good stories.”

“That don’t help one bit. Not one bit.”


As they moseyed up to the first saloon, Duggan said, “It always amazes me that a town of this size can support three saloons but only one church. And most Sundays the pews are empty.”

“You ever go?”

“Where, Sam?”

“To church.”

“When I was a youngin but never here.”

“I went once but didn’t stay. I was the only one there. Preacher Tom was sittin’ in front with his head in his hands. Don’t know if he were praying or crying, but I skedaddled.”

“Don’t say.”

“Yessirree. ‘Twas like I said...”

“Wait a minute, Sam. Here Sally’s Lavender Rose Saloon. Should see what’s happening, seems quiet, enough.”

Sheriff and Sam pushed through the swing doors and looked around. Several cowpokes were drinking at the bar, two tables had poker games going, and Rusty was playing the piano off to the side. A steady stream of customers were coming and going--visiting the outhouse, Duggan figured--since it did not take long for warm beer to pass through. He spied Sally sitting alone at a corner table, fanning herself.

“Have a beer on me, Sam.” Duggan gave Sam some money.

“Why, thank you Sheriff. Don’t mind if I do. Been mighty thirsty of late. It reminds me of the time...”

“Later, Sam.”

Duggan strolled over to Sally’s table and tipped his hat.

“Hi, Bill. Take a load off your feet.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Duggan pulled out a chair and sat. “You’re looking fine this evening.”

“I’m sweating like a stuck pig. Can’t remember heat like this so late into August. And men have it so easy, being able to run around bareback, womenfolk can’t. I’m wearing enough cloth for a half dozen shirts. It’s not fair.”

“What got a bee in yer bonnet?”

“Don’t mind me. I’m just hot. How’s it going fer you?”

“Unusually quiet. I expected trouble with it being so hot, tempers being short and all. But so far, not so much as a fistfight.”

“Shorty’s sawed-off helps.”

“Say again.”

“Two cowpokes were stirring up trouble ‘bout an hour ago. Shorty got Betsy--his sawed-off shotgun--laid it on the bar, and everyone made up. Everybody’s best of friends now.”

Duggan chuckled. “That’s one way of keeping the peace. Who were they?”

“Two drifters, Charlie McCarty and Henry O’Shannassy, tried to start a fight with an Italian emigrant.”

“What was they arguing about?”

“Too many foreigners in town, taking jobs from able-bodied Americans.”

“That don’t make no sense. Their folks are emigrants, foreigners themselves.

“You’ll have a stroke tryin’ to figure those two boys out. Lean back and have a beer with me?”

“As much as I’d like to, I can’t tonight. Must check out the other watering holes.”

“Some other time?”

“You bet.” Duggan stood and walked over to Sam. “Gonna nurse that beer all night?’

“Might be a long time before I get another.”

“Drink up if you want to follow along with me.”

Sam gulped the last little bit. “I’m acommin’”


Duggan and Sam saunted to the next saloon, keeping a watchful eye for trouble.

“Do you need a deputy, Sheriff?”

“Why do you ask, Sam?”

“I could use a job. And I’d like working for you.”

“The town can barely support a sheriff let alone a deputy. I thought you had a job at Wilson’s Livery Stable.”

Well... I did... ‘Til... That is, until last Tuesday... Maybe it was Monday.”

“Forget about the context. Tell me what happened?”

“I was mucking out the stalls, and it was hotter than blue blazes. Flies were causing the horses to get all riled, so I led them to the corral--Hank Simpson’s thoroughbred mare and two over-the-hill stallions: a graying mix breed and a swayback. I went back to mucking the stalls. ‘Twasn’t long when I heared gunshots. I ran outside and seen Hank riding for all he’s worth toward the corral, firing in the air, and shouting. Behind him were Moses Crenshaw and his prize stallion. Well, no gunshots was gonna deter those two old stallions before they... Well, you get the picture.”

“Yes, I do, Sam.”

“Nobody told me the mare were in heat. And besides, who’d figure those two old stallions... You just never know. Anyways, Hank were so angry, I though he were gonna shoot me, but Mr. Wilson came arunnin’ and calmed him down. But he said to me, ‘Take your rake a go. You’re fired!’ But I it didn’t seem right.”

“What didn’t seem right?”

“That weren’t my rake, ‘twas his. So I left it in a stall, gathered my things, and left. Didn’t go back for my pay, neither. Won’t even walk near the livery stable. Don’t know what I’ll do if I run into Hank.”

“Why didn’t I hear about this?”

“You was out of town, Sheriff. And you know Hank: he blows up, and it’s over quickly.”

“Yeah. I wish more people were like Hank in that way. Some hold a grudge for a lifetime, and let it smolder until it bursts into uncontrollable flames. Like those two drifters in the Lavender Rose.

“What two drifters?”

“McCarty and O’Shannassy. They got hate smoldering from somewhere, and it’s gonna flame up some day. Yeah. I’d take more Hanks any day.”

Duggan and Sam finished their round about town and called it a night. Sam bid Duggan a good evening and moseyed home, while Duggan headed to the jail.


Next day broke cloudy with spotty rain and lower temperatures. After breakfast, Sheriff Duggan sat under the jail’s overhang, trying not to get too wet. Most people dodged the showers by staying inside, which left the streets virtually deserted. Barely enough precipitation fell for a good mud puddle to form then the clouds parted and the relentless heat returned.

Duggan was moving his chair to the shade of a tree when Sam ran up all out of breath. “You’d better come, Sheriff. There’s trouble brewin’ down at the train depot.”

“Hold on Sam, catch yer breath and tell me what the trouble is.”

“Well... See... Them two drifters’ got a China man cornered at the depot, and they is gonna cut off his pig tail, sure as I am standing here. So’s you’d better come.”

“Lead the way, Sam.”


McCarty and O’Shannassy were laughing and cussing at a small, Asian man, dressed in an eastern three-piece business suit with Bollman hat, sporting a shaved top head and a three-foot long queue. The Asian man stood resolute with his back to a wall, unflinching in the barrage of insults.

“We don’t need no China men in these parts,” hissed McCarty. “Go back wheres ya comes from.”

“Yeah,” chimed in O’Shannassy. “You’ins don’t speak the language too good, neither, do he, Charlie?”

“No they doesn’t. And comin’ here ta take our jobs. ‘Tain’t right. Ship ‘em back, I say.”

“I’ll teached him a lesson. You grab ‘im, Henry, and I’ll cut off that pigtail of hair he’s got hanging down.”

O’Shannassy stepped toward the Asian man. When he was within arm’s length, the man spun and planted his foot alongside of his face, sending O’Shannassy sprawling in the dirt. The man turned to face McCarty.

“Why you little weasel,” yelled McCarty as he raised his knife and lunged at the man. At the last moment, the man sidestepped the attack. He grabbed the hand holding the knife, and bent it backward. He jabbed his thumb into the base of McCarty’s thumb. McCarty dropped the knife and fell to his knees, yelling from pain. The man never lost his hat or dirtied his suit.

“You see that, Sheriff?” asked Sam. “Ever see anything like that before?”

“I saw the whole thing, and I’m having trouble believing what I just saw.”

“Sheriff, you see what he’s done did to Henry? Ain’t there a law agin it?” asked McCarty.

“Seems to me, you boys got what was coming to you. Now help Henry up and git outta here. And leave this gentleman alone.”

“This ain’t over, China Man. This ain’t over by a long shot.”

McCarty helped O’Shannassy to his feet, and the two of them staggered toward town.

“That was some mighty fine foot work, Mr. Uh...”

“Wong. Oliver Wong at your service, Sir.”

While shaking hands, Duggan said, “Glad to meet you, Mr. Wong. I’m Sheriff Bill Duggan and this here’s Sam Goodbody. But Oliver doesn’t sound Chinese to me.”

“No, it’s not Chinese, but my Chinese name is too hard to pronounce so I chose Oliver. I like the sound of it, don’t you?”

“Sure. Sounds okay by me.”

“Me too,” said Sam.

“What brings you to these parts? We don’t see many fancy-dressed gents around here let alone a Chinese one.”

“My family owns an import-export business on the coast, and we are looking for a supply of beef for export to China. I’m here to establish a line of credit through your bank, forge deals with ranchers, and enjoy the local color.”

“Local color?” Sam’s face looked puzzled.

“Yes, your people, places, and customs.”

“Oh. Not much to look at, if you ask me, but suit yer self.”

“Sheriff, could you recommend a place to stay?”

The Lavender Rose has a boarding house, diner, and saloon. Except for Friday and Saturday nights, it’s quiet. Food’s good, too.”

“Thank you, Sir. Where could I engage a horse, buckboard, and guide?”

“What’s engage mean?’ asked Sam.

“Hire,” said Duggan. “You could be a guide for Mr. Wong and get a horse and buckboard from the livery stable.”

“I dunna know. Mr. Wilson could still be mad at me.”

“Pete Wilson never turned down a chance to make a dollar.”

“What do you say, Mr. Wong? Sam’ll be yer guide.”

“My friends call me Ollie. My father is Mr. Wong. I would be delighted to have Mr. Goodbody escort me around your fine country.”


“Well, Sam, how did the sightseeing trip go?”

“Not much sightseeing. Ollie wanted to visit each rancher and talk business.”

“How’d that go?”

“Musta go’d alright. I waited outside, and each time, they shook hands, and we rode to the next ranch.”

“If the ranchers sell their beef and ship it by rail to the coast, there’ll be a boomtown in cows and work for every drifter for miles around.”

“Kinda looks thata way. Maybe I can find work too.”

“What kind of work could you do, Sam?”

“Don’t rightly know for sure, but them cows need feedin’ and waterin’ whiles they wait fer the next train. Somebody needs to do that.”

“You’re right, Sam. Somebody does.”

“How soon you think Ollie… I mean, Mr. Wong will start buying and shipping cattle?”

“I suppose he has to meet with the bank, and it being Sunday, they won’t be open ‘til tomorrow.”

“Kinda excitin’ thinkin’ ‘bout it though.”

“Yes, it is. This town needs a boost.”


Sunday evening was quiet; it usually was. The sun had set, and the temperatures were bearable. Sheriff Duggan finished his after-dinner rounds and settled in his chair for a smoke. Glad that most of the cowboys were back on the ranges, he hoped the evening would remain uneventful. He lit a cigar and drew a puff of smoke deep into his lungs. The Big Dipper was very intense, not a cloud to hide its marvelous view. The moon had set, but the stars were bright and doing their best to illuminate the night.

He was lost in thought when Shorty, Sally’s bartender, came running toward the jail. “Sheriff. Sheriff, come quick. There’s been a terrible fight and two’s dead, another’s wounded.”

“Where? I didn’t hear any gunshots.”

“Behind the saloon with knives.”

“Lead the way.”


In the shadows near the outhouse lay two bodies. A small crowd had gathered around to see the gruesome sight. “Somebody, get a lantern,” shouted Duggan.

When the light fell on the first body, the slit in his throat was still trickling blood, though he was quite dead. Duggan recognized him: McCarty. In his hand was two feet of the severed queue. Duggan swung the light to the other body, face-down in the dirt, back of his skull bashed in, lower portion of his queue missing. Before he turned the body over, he knew who it would be: Oliver Wong, hands covered in blood. “He put up a good fight to the end.”

A cowpoke with another lantern yelled, “Sheriff, I found a trail of blood.”

“Where’s it go?”

“Behind the outhouse.”

“Lemme see.”

Duggan and the men followed the blood trail to the alley between the livery stable and the wainwright. Propped against a barrel behind a stack of boxes, Henry O’Shannassy was bleeding from a knife stuck in his chest and several open wounds on his face and arms.

“O’Shannassy. I should’ve guessed. He got you good. You ain’t gonna last much longer. Why you do it?”

“Those foreigners comin’ here and takin’ our jobs.” He coughed frothy blood. “A man’s gotta fight fer what’s rightfully his, ain’t that so?”

“That foreigner was bringing more jobs than you could count to Silver Rock. Now that you’ve gone and done this, there won’t be any, no thanks to you. Chew on that during the time you got left.”

“I…” Blood dribbled from the corner of his mouth. “I didn’t know, Sheriff.”

“And in your hate, you never thought to ask, neither.” Duggan looked to those standing by. “When he goes, bury him and McCarty somewheres where they’ll be forgotten.”

“Sheriff!” Gurgling as he tried to breathe. “Ain’t… you got… no mercy?”

Duggan stood and stepped away, his back turned. “No more mercy than you showed him.”

Submitted: November 29, 2018

© Copyright 2020 DRayVan. All rights reserved.

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