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New American Western
Saddlebag Dispatches




Western Short Story
Double Cross Creek
R. Orin Vaughn


Western Short Story

I know what you’re probably thinking, however, nobody got swindled or cheated. This is what happened for the town to get this rather distinctive name. Two prospectors, one named Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Brooks; he was a Sargent fresh out of the US Armies 10th Cavalry and had somewhat of an upright moral character. The other fella was named Karol Stewart and he could care less about anything but money. He had been a prospector ever since he was released from a Union prison after the Civil War. In his fourteen years of prospecting he had never hit anything big until he came to this little creek that ran down from the mountains in Arizona Territory. These two men happened to arrive on opposite sides of a mountain stream at exactly the same time to pan for gold. There was a copious amount of cussing, name calling, threats and shaking of fist; mostly from Stewart, finally though, the two of them decided that each would claim opposite sides of the creek. After both men had panned and found a number of nice nuggets they arrived at the assayers office to file their claims at the same time. ‘Some coincidence huh?’ Thus, TJ’s claim was on the north side of the stream and Karol’s on the south; another coincidence, seeing how TJ was from the North and Stewart from the South.

So―two communities developed, one on the north side and one on the south. TJ’s side had a mercantile store, a post office and assayers office. On Karol’s side was the bank, two saloons, a bathhouse with female amenities, and after a few months, the Marshals office and jail. Thus, people were continually crossing the creek to go back and forth to do business. At first, one side was called Brook’s and the other Stewartville. After both men made quite a fortune they each sold out to a mining company. Because of the constant traffic across the creek, a bridge was constructed and soon after the town of Double Cross Creek was founded.

I am Greg Middleton, I started the first saloon in the area on Karol’s side of the creek, the DEAD DOG SALOON. Okay, I’ll explain how it came to be called the Dead Dog Saloon; cause I know you’re just itching to know. When the town was established and annexed, they auctioned off lots for businesses, most went for around twenty-five dollars each. Well, it just so happened that no one wanted to bid on this one particular lot, because, there was a dead dog on it. So, after all the other lots were sold, it was the only one that remained. Everyone was done, I bid five dollars for it and they sold it to me, thus the name, DEAD DOG SALOON. Now, twenty-eight years later, only a few businesses remain. I am the area Postmaster in one of the three business buildings that remain. I still have a small bar and serve drinks and breakfast on occasion. I’d like to tell you a few tales and experiences of this once Wild West Mining Town, that is, if you’ve got time.

***

This story is about how the law came to Double Cross Creek. When the population had reach around eight or nine hundred, the Town Counsel started seriously searching for someone to appoint as Town Marshal and a person to be his Deputy. This was especially their desire because they had already spent the money and built a Town Marshal’s office with a jail. Trouble was, no one in town met up to their expectations, and, no one wanted the darn job anyway. That is until, Levi (Lightning) Jordan and his son Mitch (Thunder) Jordan, came to town. Yes―yes, I will explain as we go along where and how Lightning and Thunder came in to play here.

You see there was this band of rowdy, no-good thieves in the area, the Garcia Gang. They came to town one morning shouting, shooting and scaring people off the streets. They stopped in front of The Dead Dog and waited for each other to dismount before coming in. I knew they were up to some serious drinking and partying that would lead to some major damage and I didn’t want my place to be host to such shenanigans; I checked the load in my 10 gauge coach gun, shooed my two barmaids out back to the storage room and met them head on at the door. There were five of them, the leader Raul Garcia, his younger brother Chico and a cousin Raphael. There were also two gringos, Heck Nielson and Paul (Hat) Hatfield. As they walked through the doorway I greeted them by clicking back both hammers on the shotgun and saying, “You boys will have to take your party somewhere else, I just closed.”

Raul motioned with his head toward the door and said, “Okay, for today. No women here anyway, but we will be back, sometime,” he smiled and laughed, “and…open you up señor.” They all chuckled at what he said, which made me pretty uncomfortable. Then to my surprise they turned and left to party somewhere else.

That day they left my place and went to Digger’s, the other Saloon in town. There, they commenced to drink up his best whisky and rip the place apart. They broke out windows, abused his three working girls and smashed up some tables before the party was over. The last thing they did before they left Digger’s was put a half dozen bullet holes in the 5x12 foot picture of Lady Godiva he had hanging on the north wall at the end of the bar; one bullet went right through the center of her bellybutton. Can you imagine that, what a lack of appreciation for a beautiful piece of art-work. Then the bunch rode out of town pretty much the same way they had come, on their horses in a cloud of dust, shouting and shooting. As they rode by my place they shot out the front window and shouted threats of returning.

***

Things were pretty quiet for the next couple of months, except for the shooting between a miner and a cowboy over who was going to have the privilege of buying Brown Sugar, my pretty dark skinned bar maid, a drink. The cowboy won of course, everyone agreed it was self-defense.

In the Spring Levi Jordan, his son Mitch and their families, moved in and took over the Oliver’s General Mercantile Store after old man Oliver died. They seemed to be pretty good business men, though by the way they wore their six-shooters and practiced out back of the store, there was no doubt they hadn’t always been store keepers.

Both seemed to be committed family men; they did like afternoon whiskey two or three times a week and they seldom missed a Friday night poker game.

They were sipping whiskey at the bar in my place one Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock when, unexpectedly, Garcia and his gang pushed through the swinging doors and entered my saloon with their guns drawn. No yelling and shooting in the streets this time; I figure they wanted to catch me off guard, which they did. There were about a dozen people in the saloon that day, including my two barmaids when they entered. Everyone pretty well froze when they noticed these men had their six-shooters ready for action.

Raul looked straight at me and grinned, his smile displayed discolored brown teeth, a few missing in front. “W-ell, I tol’ you I’d be back an’ open you up señor,” he said. By his slurred speech it was apparent he had been hitting a bottle pretty hard before he came to town; which was rather fortunate for me since he was known to be a dead shot and it probably threw off his aim some. Without any other warning he sent a .45 slug through my left shoulder which was for sure intended for my heart. That was the last thing I remember, because, I fell to the floor behind the bar and laid there until they carried me to the Doctors house only half conscious.

This is what I have been told by the onlookers and my two barmaids; as I fell to the floor, Levi and his son Mitch as fast as lightening striking, drew their .45 Colts and in a blaze of hot lead, stilled all five of the gang in an instant. Three were dead, one was mortally wounded, being gut shot. The last survived his wounds and after he healed up was run out of town with the warning, if he ever returned he would be shot on sight. These last two hombres, Fernando Garcia who died later that day and (Hat) Paul Hatfield, were the first to occupy the new jail cells.

The towns people who had witnessed the gun fight began referring to Levi as, Lightning Jordan. Some said if he was Lighting, then his son was, Thunder. Thus, those handles pretty well stuck with the town. About two weeks later, as Lightning and Thunder enjoyed their afternoon whiskey at my place, the four members of the town counsel approach the two of them and offered a very generous two year contract to them if they would become the Town Marshall and Deputy.

The two of them thanked the Counsel for their generous offer. They said, ‘they would consider the offer, but had never given any thought to being lawmen’. The Councilmen told them the offer would be open until someone filled it.

***

A few days after that, while Mitch (Thunder), was helping his wife Cami stock shelves in the store, a woman was shopping for supplies when her drunken husband came in and started harassing her about money. “NO,” she insisted. “That money is for food and things for the house.”

Speaking hatefully loud, he said, “It’s my money too. You best give me that money, woman.”

N-O,” she said a second time. “You’re not gonna drink up our food money again. The kids and me are gonna have something to eat this payday.”

Her husband grabbed her by the arm with his left hand and cuffed her hard with the right sending her to the floor as he barked, “Give me that damned money woman…it’s mine.”

Still having a tight hold of the woman’s arm he attempted to pull her up from the floor, but she strongly resisted. He raised his hand to cuff her again; this time he was stopped by Mitch’s pistol butt slamming into his head just above his temple. He crumpled to the floor into a moaning heap. Mitch holstered his .45 and snatched the man to his feet and proceeded to push the fella toward the door. When they got to the doorway, Mitch shoved him into the street and he landed on his bottom side. Mitch said, “Go somewhere and sleep it off mister. Let your Misses be a wife and mother.”

The man meanly scowled back at him and slurred, “You ought ta keep yer face out’a other’s business. I’ll be back storekeeper. I ain’t feared of yer gun.”

Mitch replied, “Better do what I said. Go somewhere and sleep it off. You’ll be of better attitude if you do.”

When Mitch entered the store the woman was gathering up the things she had dropped when her husband came in and confronted her. She picked out a few more items and came to the counter to pay. She avoided eye contact with Mitch and his wife as she search in her handbag for money. After she paid, Mitch offered her a few candy sticks for her kids. “I thank you for what you did, but we don’t need no charity.”

It’s not charity,” he said. “I appreciate your business at our store. Besides that, I like kids and think they ought to have a treat once in a while when they’re good. Don’t you?”

Well, yes. Okay then.” she replied as she took the candy. The woman started for the door. Before she walked through the doorway she said over her shoulder, “He won’t let it be, he’s very vindictive. He’ll be back.” The woman walked away from the store down the boardwalk.

Cami said, “I hope she’s wrong about that. We don’t need that kind of nonsense. I…I didn’t even get her name.”

Yes, of course the trouble came to my place again. Lightning and Thunder were there in the afternoon sipping Canadian whiskey, when Grady Edmunds, a sandy haired miner of Irish decent that everyone called Irish, stormed in with an old Colt Dragoon in his hand. Irish was the man at the store the day before.

Yer gonna pay for insulting Grady Edmunds,” Irish said as he raised the big pistol. “I want an apology before I shoot you mister.”

Levi smiled and looked over at his son and said, “Mitch, I really think, he thinks, he can shoot you with that old pop-gun without cocking it first.”

Cocking it?” questioned Grady as he looked down to see; when he did Levi drew and fired his Colt .45, sending a slug through the meaty part of Grady’s upper arm. The heavy pistol fell to the floor with a thud and a loud explosion as it fired and blew a large hole in the front of my bar about three foot down from where the Jordan boys were standing. Yep, that Dragoon was cock. And yes, Lightning and Thunder escorted Irish down to the jail, where the local Doctor fixed up his wound; the bullet had chipped one of the bones in his arm and took several weeks to heal. He was lucky, he would be able to work again.

Irish was kept in jail for about a week and then let go after promising he would cause no more trouble in town or with the Jordan’s. He even apologized for the trouble he had caused and swore off drinking.

Levi and Mitch decided since they had the most experience hauling people off to jail and the fact that the town needed someone to keep relative order, they would take the Town Counsel up on their offer.

Well folks, sure there is more tales I could recount about Double Cross Creek, Lightning and Thunder, and The Dead Dog Saloon, but I’ll just save those for another time.