Howdy there, partner. What's that there look all about? Am I blockin' yer way? Oh, you wanted to sit down. Oh sure, take a seat. Mind if I smoke? Thought not. What brings ya out here? The drinks. Right, right. Lord knows I drink here all the time. This been my spot for...oh round abouts forty years now. Funny you should mention it, I'm a bit older than I look. Oh, right abouts seventy, now. Sure thing. What's that? The war? Sure I remember...real well, sometimes...not so well other times. You wanna' hear a story? 'Course ya do.
Well, see, I was born in Illinois round-about...eighteen and forty-one. Good times back then. Hard, but good. I was the son of this farmer, pa's name was John Grosser, but folks just called him Grober 'cause of them funny lookin' German letters. Anyway, he done come to this country and made himself a man, or thought he did, and he went and married my ma, Russian lady who I never knowed, seein' how she up and died on me when I was born. Naw, I kid my dear old ma. Anyhow, where was I? Oh, so there was I, out in the Illinois famin' country, a regular little kids with my overalls and patched shirt and the works. I bet ya can see it in yer mind's eye. Well, anyhow, my pa had to raise me alone, well, except for all the animals and the hands and all, it was jes' him. Anyhow, times was always hard, but we came out pretty good anyway.
Shoot, we even came out a little ahead sometime. See, down South, that damned slavery still existed...God bless our nation, and forgive...never mind. Well, see, pa owned enough land where the government done gave him incentives to work it 'cause he ain't had any slaves, not that they was allowed in Illinois, but you know, we took advantage anyway. He was a good man, my pa. Raised me well, despite having to raise me myself. Well, I only went to school a couple a' times, and when I wan't at school, I was at home workin', so I had to teach myself most things I learned as a kid on my own...my ma had left behind an old grammar book she had used ta help her learn her English, and I done found it and used to help with mine.
Anyhow, by the time I was sixteen, I was real tall, tallest man in the old county, folks used to say. How tall? Well, I guess I went a shrunk a little bit since then. I used to be 'bout six-feet and seven-inches, and heck, I'm still a big fella' despite it all. Well, bein' a big fella' and not bein' awkward worked out pretty well, and folks used to say I was such a nice boy they'd call me over to help 'em with all their chores 'cause for a tall fella' it wan't to hard. Folks liked me, or maybe my memory was jes' kind to me and them. Huh. We had a lotta' land, kinda' the highest parta a' the bottom of the barrel, if ya' get me? Good, good. Getting' along took work, but we could manage. I grew up tough, but I knew I'd either be stuck on the farm with my pa or get out somewhere, and I knowed I wan't smart enough for a university education, so, well, when I turned twenty I made up my mind and enlisted in the United States Army.
See, the year was eighteen and sixty-one when I first enlisted, mind, and it was two months 'fore Sumter...I had no idea what I was diggin' myself into. Anyhow, I was outta' instruction and stationed in Pennsylvan-i-a when news came of the fightin', and they moved us down to Mare-a-land to counter them rebels...I wan't at Bull Run, but I heard the stories. Our commander, guy named Cunningham...see I was in the 94th Illinois, well, he moved us up under the main Army of the Potomac command, and we headed off up to Vicksburg...damn, but it took us a long time to get that shit together...well, we finally did, and we got crushed at Vicksburg. I done went and got promoted though. They made me an officer, for some reason...I ain't gonna' go into details from those battles. Anyhow, they went and relocated me, send me off to be in charge of some prison back in Pennsylvan-i-a.
Anyhow, while I was commandant of that prison, met a lotta' interestin' fellows form the other side. Guys like Daniel and J. Sanders and Bobby Evarts. Well, I wan't too harsh, and, to make a long story short, when the war went and ended, I parted ways with fella's from both sides on a pretty good note. Well, I come back home to Illinois and found my pa had died. I got mad, and quit the state, headed for Arkansas, tryin' to see maybe if I could find my buddy Dan...he was from Arkansas, see? Well, I didn't find him, and when I arrived on a worn horse and with my old Union coat I was so tired I nearly jes' dropped dead right there! I got a room, and actually I stayed in Arkansas for a little while. Even got married. I ain't gonna' talk about that, neither.
To make a long story within this here long story short, suffice it ta say that my wife was murdered by ta thievin', good-for-nothin' lowlife. I cried my young heart out. It was more pain than all the war had went and gave me, but the too together was too much. I decided to quit civilization. I done had hollow eyes at that point, and I took that old horse again, and this time, ran to the frontier: Texas. Well, I came up tired in what was then just the begennin' scraps of Laredo, and met a fella' named Tony. Big guy, crooked nose, ten gallon hat. He'd been in the war too, in Missouri. We became friends drinkin' at a saloon not too much like this 'un, only, 'bout forty-odd years ago. Anyway, we gets to drinkin', and to talkin', and I go and tell him about my wife.
He tells me he's got a problem with a woman and he don't wanna' lose her, but he means in a different way. By this point we was both stumblin' drunk. He done said that this guy, Charles, was gonna' take his woman, a Russian like my ma, and marry her. See, Charles was the banker, and bein' drunk, I told Tony we could go right on over to that bank and, ya know, maybe rough ole' Charlie up a bit. So we went on over, and I, bein' a drunk and young fool, fired my gun, an ole' Yankee Butterfield, up into the air. Charles come out with a shotgun and tries to shoot back, and a fella', a friend of Charles, run to get the Sheriff. Sheriff rolls up with a couple of them deputees, meanest lookin' pack-a-rats I ever saw, and then I recognize the Sheriff is the no-good bastard that had gone and killed my wife a year earlier. I shoots the deputees, killin' em both, and try to shoot the Sheriff...his name was T. Hayes...but I missed, and he done started shootin' back! Tony and I got our horses and ran, fast as we could, into the desert. I said we could try to lay low in Arizona, and he said that'd be as good of an idea as any, so we went.
Well, we get out and lost in the Arizona desert, and we stumble across some of them Anasazi pueblo...ya know? Spooky, abandoned, so we walk up, and it was fulla' folks! Men, women and children, all of 'em armed to the teeth! At first we thought they was Indian's but then we saw they was white, and we start hollerin'. Well, it was a fella' I had met in the war, leadin' the whole bunch, a Reb named...er...Mathew, and J. Sanders and Evarts was there too! They was robbin' banks and trains and the stages in Arizona, and they was hidin' out. Anyway, Mathew recongnizes me and takes us in, lets us rest, says he's also been takin' treasures from the Apache and sellin' em to buyers, mostly the Mexican army. We gets real excited talkin' bout where we've been. Also, Mathew's hooked up one of them old Civil War field pieces ta' defend his compound.
Well, the next mornin', we wake up and gunshots is ringin' all around the complex, and we find that the men Evarts brought and Evarts done killed Sanders and his boys, and run when Mathew started shootin, all ten of 'em runnin' for Tuscon. We tells Mathew we'll go after 'em and he says thanks, 'cause they got some of his money. So Tony and I ride out, when we sees the Apache comin' in. They killed all of Mathew's men and dragged him up, barely livin', to the tower where he had mounted the cannon. 'Stead of tellin' em where his treasure was, he drops a bomb and blows up all the shot in the tower, hisself, and them Apaches too!
We was ridin' hard now, and, after 'bout a day, we realize we was bein' followed. So we stop and jump the fella' and I find that it was Ole' Dan! You remember, the fella' I was lookin' for in Arkansas. Anyhow, he was all in cow-leather and conchoed up, sayin' he was an Arizona ranger. We ask what he was doin', if he was huntin' Evarts, and he said naw, he was lookin' for us, warnin' his old friend that Hayes got promoted by the State of Texas to Marshal and was on my tail with a company of Daniel's Texan counterparts. So the three of us ride for Tuscon, and when we gets there, we find Evarts and his boys holed up in the town jail, terrorizin' decent folk. I got shot as we rode in, and I still can't lift my good arm 'bove my elbow. See?
Daniel kills four of them boys outright, and Tony, me and a few boys from town distracted 'em while Daniel went to the telegraph and sent for more Arizona rangers. Well, instead, Hayes and his boys show up, kill Evarts and his men, and then start shootin' at us! Daniel managed to talk the Texas boys down, but Hayes wun't 'bout to give up without a good fight. So I said I'd do it. We stood cross from each other, but, even with my left hand, I was faster, and I done killed him. Daniel told them Texas fellas to go home, and bought us all drinks. I been drinkin' here in Tuscon ever since. What year'd ya say it was now? Nineteen and twelve? I thought so. Yep, guess that about makes me seventy one then, and, ya know? The more thangs change, the more they really do stay the same. Oh, that whisky for me? Still tastes like it always has. Cheers, partner.
© Copyright 2016 Unfortunate Cowboy. All rights reserved.
Book / Action and Adventure
Short Story / Westerns
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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