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Western Short Story
Jock Clifford, Sheriff of Kenney's Korner
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

The illegitimate son of a wild and wooly cowpoke and a native girl of an unknown tribal affiliation, became a deputy and then a sheriff by hard work, knowledge of the territory around the southern part of New Mexico, and eyes as open wide as any man on the prowl for criminals, clues and data found hanging practically in the air but only for the good eyes at searching.

As could be said, “He was born for the job, part white, part red, part animal at his best.”

It was said hundreds of times that Jock was the best man ever to get pinned with the badge. Nobody in that part of New Mexico, called Kenny’s Korner, ever doubted him on any matter of his profession. So, it was when two elderly miners were found shot to death on a nearby trail. A posse was formed for a search of the immediate area, but a day’s effort produced not a single clue.

Jock went out alone the next day, found his clues, found two killers napping away comfortable after eluding the posse entirely on the preceding day, all the good earth waiting his inspection and no distractions to clutter the way. When he rode in, the two killers in ropes across their saddles, both horses wracked with bad shoes, following Jock like kids from a prank outing.

The legend had a new leaf to add to its pages, a clear-cut look at distractions adding weight to their discoveries, the two killers enjoying meal-time at a lonely fire in the hills, their horses fed to the gills by way of their mouths, but their feet, or hooves, doing all the talking for them. Such is one way of sinning for the good of man, Jocko on the prowl.

The town threw a party for Jock, who drank too much, slept too late in the morning, when the bank was being robbed. The sleepy town woke Jock up and threw him to the wolves again, then they went back to bed, it seems., for the next half a day, until Jock found the robbers doing their own celebrating, all done around a neat little fire in the heart of night, eagle-eyed Jock walking in on them counting out the shares of paper money, several small bills that gave off an inky odor, which Jock picked out of the atmosphere all by his lonely self, and the nose to prove it could smell a buck burning a mile away; when money burns, one can be sure it’s paper in the flames.

“Nothing’s too big for good old Jock,” said everybody in Kenny’s Korner and all the abounding towns.

But all good things come to those who wait strokes of luck, enjoying the good times, knocking off the odd disparity in luck or chance, and those knowing they do not yet know all their best friends to this point in life.

So, Jock spent some time shooting rabbits on the run, which warranted a quick eye and a quicker gun, but good training, even for the experts, in slow times. From one perch he observed a regular stagecoach coming directly at him, and two men, stranger, ahead of the coach, dragging a dead log across the trail right after a fork in the trail, forcing the stagecoach down the other trail; the first step in a robbery of coach and passengers. When the bandits turned back to a hideout spot, Jock slipped down beside the impeding log, his horse out of sight.

He did not know that a future mayor of Kenny’s Korner, as well as the future governor of the state, was a passenger, as was his daughter, luscious, dark-haired, smooth as butter left in the barn or old rum in a forgotten jug, by name of Carla Chase, the one woman in all the west to ne his woman for life.

As the two bandits brought the stagecoach to a halt, ordered all aboard to step outside and empty their pockets, wallets, handbags of anything of value, like money, jewelry, watches, deed information, and those people waiting their arrival at Kenny’s Korner. None of the passengers, as well as the bandits, saw Jock in hiding behind the impeding log, his guns drawn, ready for use. That was except for Carla Chase whose heart was already beginning to race her nerves as she sent the hidden savior a soft, heart-rending smile of hope. She coughed loudly a few times to keep the bandits at attention to her simple plight, one of them saying, “Take it easy, Ma’am. we’re not going to hurt you or anybody else.”

Carla Chase wanted to scream out, “But someone is going to hurt you!” She managed to keep that scream in her throat, forcing another cough into the scene, the same bandit saying. “I mean what I say, Ma’am, no one is going to hurt you or anybody else. That’s my word on that issue, and you can take it to the bank.” He nodded in assurance, then nodded at his buddy, and said, “Ain’t that so, Harry?” at which Harry almost shot him in retort for giving up his name.

Carla Chase, letting go a new terrific smile, replied, “Don’t worry, Harry, I won’t tell the marshal or the sheriff your name as long as you don’t hurt any of us.” She had scored a bit of time for the man behind the log, as evident yet only to her, only the slyest wink allowed to leave her person and directed to the fallen log in the middle of the trail.

Jock, for news of the moment, had fallen madly in love with her, her nerves, her play-acting, her courage under duress, her landmark wink in the face of possible death. He could have kissed her a hundred times or more, but was waiting for the exact moment to emerge, and fire away with both guns.

That moment came when one of the passengers handed over his wallet loaded with paper money of high order, each one gasping with pure joy and surprise at their good luck, and then at their sudden bad luck, as Sheriff Jock Clifford of Kenny’s Korner fired two rounds right beside heir ears, scaring and surprising the living Hell right out of them, suddenly at firm attention to an official man of the law, the badge on his chest making the quiet announcement.

Carla, as the bandits were roped and tied onto their horses, could not take her eyes off the sheriff, he was so handsome, so daring, so much in command of all parties now, bandits, passengers, and coach drivers. She patted her father on the back, and in a low tone advised him, “Dad, I think you just met the man in my life come onto the scene. Isn’t he marvelous?”

Atop a nearby hill, a young man from Kenny’s Korner raced back into town to tell all the people in the saloon what he had just seen, saying, “They’ll be here before we know it, so we better get ready for them.” The urgency was in his voice and Kenny’s Korner spread itself to make ready a proper arrival for the sheriff and his prisoners, along with a soon-to-be mayor and a soon-to-be governor of the state, and the soon-to-be promised wife of their sheriff who had spun the wheel of fortune again for the benefit of all.