Top Ten Western Short Stories For December
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Western Short Story
The shining off a granite portion of the Rocky Mountains near a Nevada chunk of mountain known as Glass Pass is often spectacular at certain time of the day and certain times of the year. The minerals in its granite base, an igneous rock, make it so, being quartz, feldspar, mica, and a dose of hornblende. It is said such places, worthy of sight here and there, may shine like the sun itself. and attracts many observers.
But earlier in a small settlement near its Glass Pass, named Spirit Bow, an older man built a small cabin at a narrow place in the passage, and demanded small payment from people wanting to pass through to view the shine. He stood daily with a rifle slung across his chest waiting to be dared to use it. He was so old, so bent and feeble-looking, it was sure he’d never get off a shot, but there had to be takers for such a dare,
The old man’s name was Gumbo Bradley, a veteran of Plains Wars of different eras and for different causes, making him sort of a universal hero to many people who could tolerate his ingenuity of income. Small potatoes meant little regards in this case, but he was damned near inform and owed something by someone.
When the young gunhand with a big reputation tried to go past Gumbo without dropping a small coin into an old hat propped on a stick, the rifle came to the ready and Gumbo said, in a crackly kind of voice, “Not today, sonny. No free passage for you or any young gunhand tryin’ the same routine. This is paid privilege for everybody,”
“Old man,” said the youngster, “I could blow you to Kingdom Come and a hundred other places before you could squeeze the trigger on that old blunderbuss, I swear.” He tipped back his sombrero, uttered a rude laugh, and appeared to be asking support from those standing behind him
He was about to quick draw a weapon when Gumbo Bradley said, “and before you become the target of a thousand old cronies who’d shoot you as soon as look at you/ Them’d be all my old pals from those other days, all of them on plain dry scratch now, just like me.”
“Hey, mister, you know damned well your time has come and gone a hundred times over,”
And even as he spoke a dozen older citizen had gathered at the same point, one of them yelling out, “Hey, Gumbo, are you gettin’ any herd drop from the kid with those shiny two guns a his?”
The young gunner of sorts spun about, looked over the collection of elders and said to Gumbo.” You got an army out there, or right down here, an army of old folks nearly done with their livin’?” The same derisive laughter, almost like a hoot, came with his latest laughter, like it was punctuation.
It sure rubbed Gumbo Bradley the wrong way again. “Sonny boy, we been to places you ain’t ever been to yet and more likely won’t ever get to, and pray all your days for missin’ that kind of growin’ up to in a damned quick hurry. What the Hell you think we did all that damned fool warrin’ for if it wasn’t for the likes of you with your phony bony six guns sittin’ in their holsters like they was no more than a high-polished birthday present or a Christmas present under the tree for a tot of a kid? Hell, we ain’t even seen you shoot them pretty irons quick like you promised, like at that there piece a wood hangin’ off my cabin like it was goin’ to be there until the whole Earth stood still on its own ear, until full Eternity comes on us all.”
He pointed the rifle at the single piece of solid timber on the side of the cabin as though it waited for a likely sign to be posted.
At which the boasting youngster quick-drew his weapons, both of them and shattered that hanging limb into a Limbo of being with a dozen shots, which of course for us who can count that high, said all his twelve bullets from his two pistols were fired and gone from existence, and he felt the old blunderbuss like a bayonet at his gut
He dropped the empty pistols, at which Gumbo said, in an even-steven voice, “You ain’t said what your name was and still is, sonny boy, of which I’m waitin’ declaration.”
The unarmed young man replied, “My name is and always has been Elias Waco, but most folks call me plain Waco. Kind of fits me, don’t it?” he flashed a very friendly smile, first at Gumbo, and then at the folks gathered behind him
“It used to fit you, Waco, but it don’t anymore, like they used to call me Rocky Bradley back in the fightin’ days but figure it don’t fit me no more, so now I’m plain old Gumbo who’s wonderin’ what they’re gonna call you from now on.”
“Do I get my guns back?” said one-time Waco, or are you gonna keep them?”
“Well, Elias, I wouldn’t leave any mostly proper man without his weapons on one side of a promise of him sayin’ he won’t use them against the good people wherever he’s at, and that plain covers all the parts of this here world that I know, from here to the great river, north to a dozen Indian nations and all ways to the real big waters.”
“You mean I can have my guns back?”
“Yup, soon as you cough up that coin sittin’ in your pocket and droppin’ it in the old hat like I said way up front of all this discussion.”
The coin of unknown value tinkled as it hit the other coins in the old hat, Gumbo Bradley nodded at Elias Waco, who picked up his pistols and put them in their holsters without cramming new shells into them. He repositioned his sombrero the way it was earlier in the encounter, and walked on ahead of the group of people to see the sun rising off the sides of the granite walls of Glass Canyon, a sight many folks still enjoy to this day, though the passage is free and the old cabin is long gone.
Nobody in the area of Glass Pass or Spirit Bow knows what happened to Gumbo Bradley or how he spent his income, if he did.
Every so often, rumors pop up in that area that all of it is buried somewhere near Glass Pass and coin collectors galore start looking in earnest for that treasure trove and end up enchanted and enriched by the rising sun reflecting from the granite walls.