Western Short Story
Bill Dudley Do-Good, Dew-Guide Sheriff of Taxico
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

West Texas was going bone dry, and the first to show it were the beeves and the horses, their inert bones in short order picked clean of every edible bite by eagles and sundry hard-eating and hard-hunting birds, often as big as the dead they picked on, them throwing even bigger and darker shadows over the land.

“Oh,” someone under the flight path would say, “there goes another darker shadow from the wing of that awful bird.”

Bill Dudley, sheriff of Taxico, was appointed as official watch-guard in charge of water and water consumption for that part of the territory, which had gone dry as bone or rock several times in its history, as the local professors had pointed out from their studies.

Dudley swiftly became known as the Do-Good Dew-Guide sheriff the way he handled a drop of water, even if it as only a real drip as if it was leaked or tapped into a can, canister or canteen. He was water boss, drawing both guns when he had to in order to save a half jug of water, if it held a glass of the stuff at any level, like dew being its first or worst, a threat or savior at either end, as it often promised to be in this dry part of the whole mad world all around him..

Dudley came riding around a bone-dry mound just in time to see one man surreptitiously sneak a mouthful of water from another man’s canteen, which might have been the last mouthful. It was theft at its meanest and he drew both guns as quick as the thief swallowed the mouthful of saving grace, and killed him on the spot: so, the word would get around on the matter: A mouthful just ain’t worth it anymore with Bill Dudley on the prowl.”

This water thief by the mouthful was not his first kill in the matter of the bubbly stuff; three other men had been sent bloody dry to their deaths, And the weather predictors could feel more deaths coming in continuous dry days forecast for dry West Texas. “Hell,” it might have been said, and probably was said many times, “ain’t very far away from this part of Texas.”

Saloon barkeeps all over that part of the country realized they kept the keys to a safe and sane streak of lives with their pouring of beer into mugs, each customer knowing that they each had another full day under their belt with the new mug-full in their hands. “Life,” it was often muttered, “can’t get any better than this,” and so took their own damned time thinking they were counting on their last day on occasion. Yet, some barkeeps thought it was like Time itself was standing still for the most adaptable customer at their bar, mugs, it almost promised, lived for ages. But they could never say, “Hurry up, man, before someone dies,” which damned well could be the man they were talking to at that very minute, breaths still available for the taking, but not all that sipping, for some believed that the last sip was like the skull and crossbones being waved at their bar, the Ship of Fools in the mix in that dead-dry certain part of Texas.

“If deeds make the man,” as some older folks would say in measurement of another man, “he’d best be on his best behavior and drink most considerably as little as he could of the allotted pour best or least available for the drinking, or sipping, however one perceived it in his dire thirst that hung about every man in his dryness, because the best of them often went sweat-less, not allowing even a drop or a drip of internal life to limp away on false labor, meaning nothing got done that needed be done, lest a man sweat to death even just hanging around watching nothing on the move, like cattle at stillness or a remuda if once-fancy horses were caught in the fatal round-up.

But as the ground got dryer and dustier, and men gave up all rights to useless property by simply walking away from it, whereat some crusty folk managed to grab off huge hunks of the dusty lands, immense sections of the land, they also started praying for rain.

As nature has its own reigns, as well as rains, it finally let loose the reins on the rains, which poured from the heavens a multitude of rain amid thunder showers and steady drizzles in the interim, the land began to dazzle again, and the dry got wet, the poor got rich, the rich got richer.

Cattle and remudas glistened anew, hope swirled about like confetti, and the earth glowed clear across Texas.

Bill Dudley, of Taxico, had to pick up his guns once more as goo blossoming flew about, thieves got busier, banks git busted or tore loose from he sums, and life went back on the old-tie trail again,

When the bank at Taxico was ribbed by a dozen men in coveralls and carrying pitchforks, each tine with a high sheen on its surface, a sheen that promised to blind the sight of ore than one bank employee, none of them worried about being punctured by a tool of good old labor and harvest, they thought it would be to their honor to be so deeply gored by the tines of a harvest tool, that life would remember their honorable deaths, and seeds had been implanted within their bodies, to once again come up on the earth from the graves of the dead, so Help Him Hannah, ass it has been said, “A good turn deserves its own reward.”

And just at that very moment, worlds coming apart, two worlds in the mix of it all, the madness at a certain level of mastery, Taxico Assistant Deputy Henry Entwistle, III, decided to wake up his boss, to end all the open-cell twitchery going on.