Western Short Story
From the moment Dagger Drune picked up a knife off the table in the small cabin on the side of Mount Dibble, in Montana, when he was just past three years old, his father guided knife after knife into and out of his hands, made him so apt at handling sharp objects, he became an expert in their use, for any and all purposes, in a closed fist or through the air at a formidable target, for food or to injure an enemy at combat.
That development was by his tenth or eleventh year, the word on him spreading through much of Montana’s population and onto Indian villages where warriors in particular, and some maidens, wanted to learn all the uses and applications of a knife, most of them in nearby villages of Assiniboine, Blackfeet and Chippewa tribes.
The early stories, most of them exalting his self-protection, leaped outward after a couple of unscrupulous men; wanting his weapons, possibly for sale on the curiosity market or as darn good souvenir of the kid himself, his name running free all over the state and onto all other locations where weapons were part of the day’s in’s and out’s of the people settling another part of the wide-open West.
Dagger Drune had become, in short order, the top topic of talk in most saloons, no matter the size of the crowd, and usually a throng in the making if not there already by early afternoon for his knife abilities, and other weapons as well, but knives were the real issue.
Barkeeps could regularly hear comments as they worked, for instance, “The word I got is that he can shoot a tin off’n his Pa’s head with either hand, with pistol or a rifle, and you can take that on faith, the same way I heard it and take it as Gospel. But what you have to see is him throwing that knife of his, or knives, as I heard he’s got dozens of them, in case one of them gets thrown up to the moon, and don’t come back, in a manner of speaking.”
But the first real good guy-bad guy scene, happened when Dagger was coming back to the cabin from a solitary romp in the woods, and saw one man tending two horses in front of the cabin, the cabin door was wide open and the second gent was standing over Dagger’s father, flat on the cabin floor, gun in hand in an obvious hold-up, a money-or-your-life situation.
Dagger had choices to make, which came first, take care of, the outside man or the inside man? He made it easy on himself, throwing a knife at the outside horse tender directly in the back, dropping him to the ground without so much as a sound, the horses not moving nor making any sounds of alarm.
Then that brash youngster stood quietly in the open doorway of the cabin, his rifle pointed straight at the back of the inside gent, saying with great surprise and much anger in his voice, “That’s my father on the floor. If you don’t drop your gun, I will drop you tight where you stand, with a bullet at the back of your neck and another quick one right where your heart is, if you have one, in two more seconds.”
A pistol fell to the floor, where Dagger’s father, looking up at the intruder, managed to say, “I ain’t seen him miss yet, son. It’s best alive than dead beside me here in the floor and dead certain, as they say.”
In short order, all the folks in Hilltown, Montana later that day saw four riders, one on a mule, ride directly to the sheriff’s office, Drune senior saying to the sheriff, “We got two robbers here, one dead on a mule and one upright in the saddle, without his guns, ready for your jail. My son Dagger owns the kill on the mule and the upright gent sure knew better in a hurry that it’s better being alive than dead on a floor in an old cabin in the mountains. Them’s words from the horse’s mouth, if you want to know. The upright gent is Loose Louie Glabow, wanted elsewhere as he admits, and the mule’s burden is his partner in crime, Val Kinsey, also a poster boy in a dozen states and territories,”
The sheriff said, “That’s good work, sir, and you’ll get any reward coming, and I’ll pay you to bury the man on the mule, getting his last ride,” He managed a wide smile as he joined in the mini-celebration of sorts, where a man was saved by his son
“That’s a deal, Sheriff,” said the elder Drune as his son stared at the window of the general store, none of the bystanders knowing what he was transfixed on. The sheriff finally spit out his curiosity, asking, “What’s caught your eye, Dagger?”
Dagger eased off a smile and replied, “That box of tarts in the window,” He pointed one steady as a rock hand at a box in the store window, the top of the box wide open and shining with its goods on show.
“My treat, son, You go tell Mr. Carter that I’ll be in to pay him later today. Is that all you want?”
“Yup,” said a boy becoming a man, but not all the way there yet.
The story, as I said, has made the rounds elsewhere, and was making headway toward the legend in the making; a boy dropping a bandit for a box of tarts, at no cost at all, not even a single copper in the deal.
The legend grew from then on, through a series of similar circumstances, like averting a stagecoach robbery by holding over his head in a ready position a foul-looking knife with a broad blade catching a chunk of the sun on its gleaming edges, that alone being enough to back off two potential robbers who rode off in one damned hurry, as reported by the stagecoach drivers at their first stop at a saloon which happened to be on their way elsewhere and no hurry to get there.