Shotgun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic
Harry is a trail boss leading caravans of people out west to search for their fortunes. It's his job to make sure his charges make it to California safe, even from themselves.

Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Blazing heat slams into the earth, cracking the packed dirt. Endless sky stretch uninterrupted for miles. Distant mountains peak over the horizon looking over the barren landscape. Scrub grass and cactus are the only signs of life visible to the naked eye, visited by the odd vulture circling lazily above.

There was nothing to mark out the trail in this empty land but Harry had made this trip many times before. Leading caravans of hopeful people west to strike it rich and on occasion leading the crushed back home. There’s good money in this line of work. Plenty of people out there who wish for a better life.

Twelve pilgrims spread out over four families traveled with Harry and his company for a total of eighteen heads. Fairly large for a wagon train but the more the merrier. A herd of livestock followed not that far behind.

Harry reigned his personal wagon driven by a team of oxen with a double barreled shotgun sitting by his side. He doesn't get many chances to use it despite all the stories of raiding redskins and packs of wolves. If he was lucky, he might get a shot or two at a hare running through the scrub or scare off a stray coyette.

Hours are slowly passed down the road until a red sun faces them over the horizon. At his signal, Harry’s boys wheeled the wagons around a loose circle for the night. A silent wave of tension seemed to escape the caravan at the notion of taking a rest.

Johnny, the youngest of Harry's crew, wasted no time in starting a fire for dinner. The boy is a terrible shot, a bit thin for hard labor, and just a touch yellow, but damn it if he wasn’t the best cook in the train. No one else can make salted bacon with a side of dried peas and corns taste so good, and his cornbread is often fought over.

One of the River brothers started playing his guitar joined by a crew hand with a harmonica. The duo have become a pillar of entertainment these last few weeks, even if they do only know three songs. Evenings are about the only time the caravan gets to take a break from the trail and they try to take advantage of every second.

Harry checked in with his charges, walking over to Jane, the only nursing mother here. “How are you holding up, ma’am?” His voice matches his ruddy skin after years in the dust and sun. He’s young for a trail boss in his late thirties but has earned a solid reputation on the trail.

Jane gave him a weak smile. “As well I could hope for, not that Jimmy here really cares. Nothing seems to bother him too much.” Jimmy is tiny ball of pink fuzz swaddled in a thin blanket looking up at the world with big, brown eyes.

Harry nodded. “Little guy is tough. It’ll take more than a little dessert to bring him down. If you need anything, just let me know.”

“Thank you, Mister Travers.” she said.

He gave her a smile before seeing to the others. Most have already laid out bedrolls around the fire making small talk with each other. Oxen outnumbering the people by at least two to one decided to rest alongside the wagon all loosely hitched together.

“How’s supper looking?” Harry asked John.

John gave him a glare over the large skillet hanging over the fire by a tripod. “It’ll be ready when it’s ready.”

“Uh Huh,” Harry said eyeing a thick slab of bacon.

“Try it and i’ll be adding your hand to the breakfast stew.”

Harry looked between John and the sizzling meat, trying to weigh the risk. “Guess I’ll have to wait.”

“Good,” John said. “Now get.” Harry clucked his tongue after being chased off.

“What the hell do you think you looking at, you satan worshiper?” A thick man yelled at another from across the fire. “I’ve told you that if you come near my daughter, that I’ll kill ya. That includes looking at her.”

Harry spun on his heel. “Whats going on now, Frank? I thought we came to a truce between you and the Smiths.”

Frank, a tall man with a bushy beard shot a finger at Richard Smith. “That fucking mormon was eyeing my Anna! I’ve already warned that rapist not to mess with my family.” Anna was being sheltered in her mother's arms. A look of utter disgust radiated from the lady.

Richard stood up ushering his small family away from the fire. His wife took their son back towards their wagon. He turned back to face Frank. “You’ve been drinking, again, Frank. I wasn’t looking at your daughter.”

“The fuck you weren't. I saw you with me own two eyes!” he said. “You callin me a liar, ya mormon?”

“I’m saying that you are mistaken.” Richard said. “I would never look at you daughter like that.”

A scowl worked over Harry's face. “Enough! We’ve settle this already. The both of you are to stay away from the other. We can’t deal with this bullshit right now. If you got problems, settle them once we get to California, else you can walk on your own from here.”

“I won't let my family be raped by that godless Mormon.” Frank said. “He comes near my wife or daughter, i’ll leave ‘em for the vultures.”

Harry's hand rested by his hip near his six-piece. His boys did the same, ready in case thing escalated. “I said enough, Frank. I’m in charge and I won’t let anyone be ruling cowboy justice on my watch. If someone touches yours or anyone else's family, they’ll face the law.”

Frank spat a wad of tobacco at Harry's boots. “What are ya? Some kind of heathen? As God as my witness, I’ll protect my own.”

“Got no problem with that, Frank.” Harry said. “So long as we all get along peacefully.”

“Hey, uh, suppers, uh, it’s uh, supper's ready,” Johnny stammered. His knees shaked just a bit but Harry knew that he would have jumped for his gun if needed be.

Harry gave him a nod. “Alright then, grubs up. Line up. Richard, just sit back with your family. I’ll bring over your food.”

“Thank you, Mister Travers.” Richard said. Frank gave him a long stink eye before pushing in line. Another sigh of relief went around the caravan with tonight's tension seemingly resolved.

Harry waited patiently for the pilgrims to pile their plates before making some for the Smiths. “You folk going to be alright?” He asked. Handing them each a plate stacked with bacon and corn.

Richard accepted the food gratefully. “ As long as god is with us, we shall endure. We’re no strangers of prosecution, Mister Travers. Thank you for your help.”

Harry scratched at the scruff under his chin. “Ain’t a problem. It’s what you paid me for. Just do your best to stay clear of the Donalds. I’ll have one of my boys make you your own fire from now on.”

Mary, Richards wife, took his hand. “Thank you, again, Mister Travers.” He gave them a smile as he took his leave.

Harry sat down looking up the crescent moon shining amongst the stars in the desert sky. “Let's hope that everything moves smoothly from here on out. God above knows that this trip is dangerous enough without throwing a crusade in the mix.”

 


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