Western Short Story
Part-Time Sheriff in Over-Reach, Texas
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

Slow Gargon, on a practical joke set up by the barkeep, Jeremy Sloan, at the Spilt-Over Saloon, saw his first murder before he got out of the saloon and would run home to tell his ailing father and mother he was the new sheriff in town. Slow was the only name ever carried by him since birth, neither parent too smart and kind of oblivious to jokes and verbal horrors they even understood were meant to hurt them, like “them plain damned fools” flung anonymously out of crowds gathered for any purpose.

Here he stood among a crowd of mouth-opened partly-there drunks on a Saturday night while Slade Gibson lay dead on the floor, no gun in his hand, and Teke Evens holding a smoky pistol in one hand and held his sombrero in the other hand and plunked over his heart in light of what he had just done, committed out-and-out murder in front of the men and a few ladies in the gathering.

All of them looked at Slow to see what the poor lunkhead would do. It didn’t take him long, not at all, not him, not butt of jokes his whole life and he was 20 years old already.

His pistol came out of his holster and he jammed it into the fat gut of Teke Evans, even before Teke felt the jab in the stomach, and taking the gun out of Teke’s hand with a highly-authorities sweep of his free hand, almost like the badge was speaking for itself in a moment of crisis.

“I arrest you, Teke Evans, for the murder of Slade Gibson, dead there on the floor in front of all of us, and I also arrest barkeep Jeremy Sloan because I heard him tell Teke that Slade had his gun drawn behind his back and was going to kill him, and he didn’t have no gun in his hand nor on his belt even during that observation or at any moment of the night.

There was some silence, some laughter and some loud disbelief in the crowd of faces. Slow’s gaze fell on an old acquaintance of his, the one and only Ezra Perkins, oldest of the lot of them, “Am I the sheriff now, Ezra?” the question loaded with every possibility at hand.

“You sure are, Slow, the sheriff of Over-Reach, Texas from one end to the other and both sides of the same road at the same time,” there being no other commission he could say with any more authority to it.

To which Slow responded, “And you’re my brand-new deputy who’s taking Teke and Jeremy Sloan down to the jail and locking them up, and this here saloon, with no barkeep to keep it going, is hereby shut down, and everybody not going to jail is going home right now before there’s another shooting,” at which he ominously waved his guns, both of them, in the air over his head like he was going to raise the roof itself off the saloon.

There was a large, single gulp emitted from the crowd of drunken Saturday-nighters, a large, loud, one-sided gulp if you can imagine that retort.

Nobody in the crowd knew just what Slow said, but none of them knew what he meant either, so they all backed off and out of the saloon en masse, like a herd of cattle heading for fresh new grass the other side of forever.

It was plumb-crazy quiet in Over-Reach the rest of the night, but that coming Sunday rose like Hell coming to Earth for the whole eventful take-over spoken to Slow from the Good-Book in the hands of a traveling Minister of the Good Word once in every blue moon.

Meanwhile, Slow had gone home to tell his ma and pa he was the new sheriff, and his father said on the first imploration, “And the next thing you do, my son, is arrest Paul Melton who made me pay my month’s rent on the house for the second time, him saying I didn’t pay him last week when I did pay him, the damned liar and cheat. Second time he’s worked it in his favor.”

Slow burst out laughing and exclaimed, “I’ll do it first thing in the morning, Pa, ‘cause I saw you pay him last month when I was chopping wood and he wasn’t six feet away from me and putting that there money in his trouser pocket. I saw him plain as day do it. I’ll keep him there until he pays back what he took from you, Pa, sure will, and until the day the Territorial Judge comes to lay down the law of the land, and even then, we’ll have taken for ourselves all his land and properties until he gets tried fair and square only if I let him out of jail to be tried by the judge who won’t get near him while I’m the new sheriff around here.” His father smoothed over the facts of the matter as best he could, but making no dent in his wheretofores and whatevers, no matter how deep he could dig into the situation on his own, which of itself had made Slow who he was and what he was, slow.

He loved the deep compilations they brought to conclusions in his mind.

Paul Melton, from his jail cell, made a continuous stink about the matter and the louder he yelled, the deafer Slow became, like there was no end, ever, to truth and justice in his case either way it was looked at, and how often it might be hung out to dry by the busybody of a run-along sheriff on the run all the time with his mighty deeds needing to be done in the land thereabouts. It was Slow, all the way, who knew what he was, the part-time sheriff of Over-Reach, Texas until the badge was squeezed off his chest and he wasn’t about to let that happen for the life of him, unless someone caught him in their sights for dead-sure.

And so, it was Melton’s wife, with dead aim from her rifle over a stone wall, ended all charades in process in Over-Reach, Texas, while her husband was locked in the stupid jail and she was locked out of her palatial kitchen.

And no sheriff to apply the law there-to.