Top Ten Western Short Stories For December
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Western Short Story
Ol’ Shotgun insists I tell ya’ll about what happened here one day last year. Oh, by the way, it’s me, Prairie Pete. Ain’t real sure how it happened, but it seems like I’ve become the mouthpiece around here in Iron Hole.
I tol’ Shotgun that ifin he thinks this is such a dad-burned great story… he should tell it. He just shrugged me off and said I was gooder than him at tellin’ things. He says I got the mouth fer it. Whatever that means. I finally agreed to tell ya’ll ‘bout the two yung’ins that stopped by fer lunch only cause I think ya’ll will git a kick out hearin’ it.
Ol’ Jake Withers an’ I was cleanin’ up after the midday tourists all took off on the bus and Shotgun was in back in the kitchen. Jake said sumthin’ bout havin’ to see the baker for tomorrow’s order and started out the door when these two yung fellers came in lookin’ like they was dragged through a sand dune. Jake looked to me to see if he should stay. I waved him out. He nodded and left.
Besides wearin’ all that sand, they was packin’ honest-to-gosh six-shooters. They was a lookin’ like two cowboys from the movin’ pictures they make around here.
“You boys are looking awfully dragged out.” I said as they plopped down at a table. “You fellers like something to drink? Some water or soda?”
“Druther have a red-eye, Pops. That sun out there will drive any man to drink somethin’ what’ll keep him from feelin’ the heat.” The older lookin’ one said.”
“I’m with ya, Willy.” The other one spoke up. “Can’t rightly remember it being so hot. Damn near sweat the skin off ya.”
They both seemed to be a little ‘different’ from most other cowboy actors that stop by occasionally. There’s a big plot of land over the other side of Little Rest Hill, one of the three mountains that circle around about three quarters of Iron Hole. Some of these TV and movie companies come out here and do a lot of filmin’. Course now, we like it cause of the money they spend while theys workin’. Lots of times they’ll come in to town and eat and drink for hours. Like these two fellers here.
This Willy feller tried holdin’ the menu and finally put it down, mumblin’ ‘fergot my eyeglasses.’ “What’cha got good fer eats. Ol’ timer?” He asked, lookin’ at me.
“The name’s Pete. Not, Ol’ timer.” I answered. “We got sandwiches, steaks, eggs, hamburgers…”
“Hamburger?” Willy stopped me. “You got them there hamburger things here? Hear that, Buck? They gots them burger samiches.”
“You fellers alright? I mean, would you like to cool off in a cold shower before eatin’? You sound as if you’re a little mind baked. That sun is a real doozy today. I sees you ain’t got hats. How about it? Want to shower first to cool off?”
Buck spoke up in a nasty soundin’ voice. “Don’t play with us, Petey. We’re hungry and tired and real thirsty. Draggin’ that damned chest for four miles wasn’t easy. We don’t know nothin’ about shower coolin’, just eatin’ and drinkin’. Soes, ifin you don’t mind, get some grub and more whiskey. Don’t worry… we got money.”
I backed off a spell. Didn’t want to spook these two out of the saloon. They seemed more tired than mean. I told them we’d cook up the burgers and tators, but it takes a few. They nodded OK, and stuck out their glasses. I kept out front while Shotgun made the chow. When he brought it out, both men were already half dizzied from the hooch. One of ‘em said sumthin’ to the other in a real low voice. Thinkin’ sumthin wrong with the food, I asked what the problem was.
“Nothin’ Petey. Buck an I was jest wonnerin’ what this here is on top of the meat. It looks like a balloon made from bread.”
“That’s a bun!” I answered real surprised. “that’s how we make’em here. Shoot, I reckon that hows everybody does it.”
“Well, it tastes real good. Jest like the other place, but sumthin’ is missin’. I know! Where’s the cactus jelly to put on it? Ya gotta have the jelly or else it ain’t A Sam’s burger.”
I had been carryin’ a tray of coffee cups when the cowboy said that. It hit me so hard that I dropped the tray and let loose with all the cups goin’ everywhere. When I caught my breathin’ agin, I asked, “what did you say about Sam’s burgers?”
“Shoot, Petey, boy. What got you so riled? All I said was the meat was good. Jest not as good as Sam’s. Ya know…Sam and Sam’s Burgers. Ya know, over in Hallow Town. Shoot, it ain’t no more than five miles from here. Ya gotta knows the Sams. That’s why you make their meat sandywich ain’t it? Don’t worry non, we ain’t gonna tell them ya stole their idea.”
I had to find out who was playin’ Shotgun an’ I by bringin’ in these two actor types to fool with us. I was bettin’ it was Henry, the barber. He’s still sore that Shotgun and Ol’ Jake Withers beat him bad in a poker game one night. Wouldn’t put it past Ol’ Henry to try it.
I asked the actors ifin they could backup what they was sayin’ about Sam burgers.
Willy looked a mite peeved, but answered me anyways. “I don’t know yur problem, old man, but ifin’ ya don’t want our business, jest say so. No need to be mean about it. Here, ya want proof.” He held out his hand to show me some money. This here is Sam and Sam’s own money. See here it got their name on it. Jest like sum of the other stores in town do. Its all good. Theys waitin’ fer the stage with the money from upstate to repay people proper-like. They asked a lots of us to hold onto these wooden nickels and tin dollars until next week when the real money shows. They told us that everybody in fifty miles of town used the same money. Nobody refuses it. I’m sure yur bank here will take it.” He put the money on the counter and stepped back.
I felt like a dad-burned fool fer sayin’ them the things I said. I was jest shocked to my shorts when they said Sam’s burgers. I had to get Shotgun out there. He wouldn’t believe me on my own. He’d swear I funin’ him. I said to the two men, “wait a minute fellers. I want my partner to hear you guys out. He never believes me that our meat is as good as Sam’s.” I lied, to hold them there. I left them out front an’ scurried into the back to get Shotgun.
“Hey! Shotgun! I called out as I busted into the backroom. Ya ain’t gonna believe what I jest heard. Come out front and listen to these guys talk about Sam & Sam Burgers.”
Shotgun stared at me, and then said, “you know an’ I know that Sam’s was in Hallow Town until 1902. The flood took Hallow Town out. There is no sign of the town…anywhere. That means Sam & Sam Burgers is gone too. Right?”
“That’s what I’m sayin’. These two jokers from the film company are trying to tell us they ate at Sam’s the other night. Come on. This is funny to listen to them. They’re good at this actin’ thing.”
As we walked out to the front of the saloon I started talkin’ to the two men. Trouble was… they was gone.
“Where’d they go?” Shotgun asked.
“Dunno. They was here. Maybe theys outside havin’ a smoke.”
We went outside, but no one was there. I looked at my friend an’ shook my head. We headed back in, that’s when Shotgun saw that they left the two empty whiskey glasses on top of the bill I wrote them fer the food.
“Hey, Pete. Did you see what they paid the bill with?” He held out a $5.00 coin, made from tin. It was from Sam’s.” He looked peaked. “How do ya think they got a hold of this tin? Ain’t been any around since the flood. Everythin’ was wiped out in ’02.”
“Shotgun!” I tapped him on the shoulder, to calm him down. “Get a grip, man. I already told you that those actors was funin’ us. They probably think two ol’ codgers like us would believe anythin’ they said. You OK? You getting’ a handle on yourself agin?”
“OK, Pete. You’re right. But I duz have one more question fer ye. Ifin these two cowpoke actors was playin’ with us, how did they get these old and really rusted coins? Look close, Pete, these here coins was made by the two Sams. You can tell because they dated ‘em. Looky here… 1899. That’s three years b’for the flood. Ain’t no way these two fellers ‘jest found’ ‘em. Ain’t no way the coins could last that long out there.” He pointed toward the desert. He added, “the flood, the sun, Hell… time alone woulda killed the tin picture stamped in, let alone the date on em’.”
Through all these years of knowin’ Shotgun, I forgot one of his many playthings (guess you call ‘em hobbies) was old coins and paper money. He would for sure, know what he’s talkin’ about. Not only those two men never came in again, but we found out that no film company was shootin’ nuthin. Ain’t been nobody out there for near on three weeks.
I’d offer to show ya’ll the tin coins those two left, but somehow… theys gone too.
Take care and remember this was Shotgun’s idea to tell ya’ll this yarn.