Western Short Story
He was straggly and raggedy and looked the Devil in wayside-found clothing, had little promise in any aptitude associated with the farmland people in his own Kentucky, until the day he found in a messed-up and twisted rig, a pair of pistols he’d never owned or even palmed before.
For a month of weekends, he worked for others for mere pennies so he could buy ammunition, and began to practice, getting so good at it that he felt a need to clean up his appearance, make himself over into a cowboy; he’d seen a couple of desperado types and felt captured by their lively bravado and general stature among his peers, becoming extremely jealous of their status among all men, and among the women, too.
He never told anybody his name was Milkweed Montrose, just calling himself, at every chance, Bucko Black.
Eventually, he bought a horse and a sombrero. from shooting at targets for winning money: he never missed, and before long, he began to hunger for parts west where real cowboys rode their horses like wild men and shot their guns like wild men.
In one day of travel he felt recognized as a cowboy, all gazers thinking him out of his prime territory: “What cha doin’ out here, cowboy. Ain’t cha supposed to be lookin’ for Injuns?”
“Oh, I came this way to get a new set of guns, find a new horse good on the mountains and the rocky trails out west where Injuns play their hide and seek much of the time. And as I come from a region where there’s lots of cattle, I am used to tending them, driving them to market, too. So, I am ready for all things coming my way, including some of those saloon-smart beautiful women all bound-up in red dresses like they was lit candles in a celebration.”
Many times, he could rouse a few laughs when he wanted to warm up a situation.
Truly, high on this horse, dressed in these duds, pistols secure in place on his hips, he was Bucko Black, at the start of a legendary legend. He was sure there was no end to the possibilities that waited on him.
Before he knew it, his constant travel brought him through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and into New Mexico, some parts were new states and some still known as territories. He was never sure which until he stopped, got a job driving cattle, talked to old timers in the crew, found comfort in his labors, a cowboy at last, and heard all the local legends: history, he found, has a way of diversion, especially in the telling.
It became apparent, that in many saloons on the way, he became himself, managing the crowd, the barkeep, the ladies, all those who had heard of but never seen the one and only Bucko Black who was there in their midst, the one and only Bucko Black, “Man, listen to him hold all these folks right there in the palms of his hands, on the tip of his tongue, a magician of some art looking for a name for a new westerner.
It was in the Great Elk Saloon in Cauruther’s Bend, New Mexico, when he first spotted a big rough dude, two foot wide at least, wearing twin guns shining on his hips like they had been just made of new metal, who had in one fist the wrist of a lovely young lady in a red dress, and was being yanked all over the saloon like a rag doll by the big dude, and her in obvious pain with every move, the dig dude oblivious to that pain blasting her arm and all over, as she screamed her holy terror and not a soul in the saloon took any step to help her.
Black Bucko could not take much of her agony, nor much of the pain the big dude was handing out to her, paying little attention to anybody else in the saloon.
That is, until he saw the new stranger standing in the middle of the saloon, at the alert, his legs spread in the stance that, of course, was saying in its readable way, “It’s you I’m looking at, Big Dude, and the way you’re manhandling that pert little lady in red not near half your size, and no weapons in her hands, but I’m right here, me, Black Bucko, with ready guns to relieve you of your prisoner of sorts, in pain that is obvious to every sit-down-and-take-it customer in this whole damned joint who ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
The whisper of Black Bucko came off every lip in the joint, all of them recognizing the name of the stranger now in the midst of a challenge against the biggest brute probably ever seen in the Great Elk Saloon.
Cauruther’s Bend, New Mexico knew at that moment it was going to witness a classic gunfight between the good and the bad, between the Big Dude and Black Bucko.
The Big Dude, sometimes called by his real name, Hartley Brewster, was best known for his fast draw and his brutality towards women, especially saloon women, where his mother conceived him and brought him up in the middle of general turmoil and pain.
He looked at Black Bucko, his fist still locked about the girl’s wrist, and said, “What’s a shrimp kid like you going to do about this. You’re really not facing me are you, just showing off to the crowd and this little flirt of a gal, calling yourself Black Bucko that all of us know is in Nevada right now, according to the last stagecoach driver who popped in here with his usual stories, and you know he’d never tell me a lie, not on a dare, else I’d plain break him in half, not leaving one half touch the other half for the whole night.”
That outburst, that splurge of terror, flushed the crowd to silence as they measured the two men, all of them forgetting the poor little chick in the red dress and her wrist still caught up in the midst of real terror and real pain.
One watcher was saying to himself, “Wait until I get home and tell Carmella what I saw here tonight. She won’t believe a word I say, thinking I drank too much. I got to remember everything said here tonight, every move made.”
He sat back in his chair like an act was about to come on stage, players, actors, musicians, dancers, all at once, the night finally getting ready in style.
Black Bucko knew for sure that Big Dude was going to let go of the girl sometime so that hand could get set for a draw of his right-side weapon; no man could draw otherwise, even the girl, with a yank or a simple shove of her tiny frame, could spoil his aim, leave him for the big target he was, and right dead and right quick.
Black Bucko kept his eyes on that grip, saw fingers move a little, knew the time was coming’
The girl was free, her wrist coming to her mouth, a shiver in her frame; and Big Dude, Hartley Brewster, saloon-trained, quick-draw demon with many kills to his credit, went for his weapons, both of them, and Black Bucko, once becoming excellent at practice, shot him dead on the spot, a deadly silence reeling through the room at first, and then gasps of hurrahs atop hurrahs.
The girl swung her arms around her savior; “I love you, Black Bucko, with my whole heart and soul.”
“That’s not my real name,” he said. “My name is Milkweed Montrose.”
“Oh, my goodness,” said the girl in the red dress, “you’re a farmer from my old Kentucky, and I knew your family before I got caught up in this stuff. I sure am glad that I met you, Milkweed. We had the same beginnings, and I hope we have another start here,
She hugged him once more, and the Great Elk Saloon went wild again, as some of the crowd hustled the body of Big Dude out the swinging doors.