Western Short Story
The Kid From Koda Downs
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

When he rode into Nevada in 1870, he had no name as far as on-lookers knew, and when he left, ten years later, he was known there and all over the Far West as the Kid from Koda Downs, which for the informative in your area is plumb square in the middle of Tennessee, named after the Cherokee village called Tanasi, and, surprisingly, has had a large cattle count all its years since.

That comfort around cattle stayed with him all his life, as cattle raising needs horses and horsemen, those drivers that moved the West onward to markets all over. He could ride most any horse, fire any kind of pistol, often to perfection, especially when challenged to protect herds of beef, and had no other name and none asked for.

He was The Kid from Koda Downs, familiar with cattle, caves and causes where help was needed. He once told a sheriff he had crawled in 500 caves as a boy in Tennessee, alone and unafraid, and the sheriff said also that he never heard The Kid tell a lie. He used The Kid moniker on all occasions when talking about the young adventurer on horseback or on his belly when in a cave, probably among snakes and such critters of the dark.

When a woman rode screaming into a small town in Kansas that brigands had killed her husband and captured her teen-age daughter, The Kid rode to her place, shot one of the gang on watch, killed one of their horses, caught the rest of them leaving their business when they tried to get to their horses, quieted down the girl, who waited for her mother to come home, nestled in the arms of The Kid. All Kansas hailed him as a hero, and that word ran off in every direction, him hailed far and wide. He realized that once they were behind bars, the rest of the inmates, or most of them at any rate, would make quick amends for the teen-age victim, laws inside as well as outside exacting revenge.

In all honesty, he told the sheriff there that nobody anyplace was faster than him with guns. “I am prone to peace, but a born killer when foul creatures hurt the young and females of any age.” That dictum, too, raced ahead of him.

Stories raced ahead of him, like a wagon wheel at high speed, and towns and saloons and all kinds of people welcomed him with open arms like Robin Hood and had come to visit for a while, some folks looking around for Little John. Even then, he was called on for assistance, for justice, for his guns, for his open spirit proclaiming justice for all, from judges who called for damnation at any cost, and those so damned by the all the honest judges in the land,

It was in Berkley, Kansas, a busy little town, its main road through the center of town, where the Jayhawk Saloon, the bank and all the stores were located, was crowded with a Saturday mob, that a group of five bank robbers decided on a noon hit at the bank, probably figuring to make their escapes through a mob of women and children.

The Kid, with his inoperative presence, was just about to ride into town when he heard the first gunshots and the folks scattering all over the place, ladies and children most prominent in the mix and flurry.

He wanted to curse in the worst way, but held back the vilest curses of full damnation, studied the range of building all connected in two rows, one on each side of the road. He leaped off his horse, grabbed his rifle for balance manipulation and long-range damage.

Folks in the barber shop, the general store and the suddenly quiet Jayhawk Saloon heard the rushing noise over their heads, knowing some hombre was trying to gain some advantage of the situation. They didn’t know which side would get the upper hand, until one man in the saloon screamed out for quiet and attention, his husky voice having its own deep call for attention,

“I bet it’s The Kid from Koda Downs. I heard from Herb Chessley just yesterday that he was coming for a visit, the way that boy moves above us. seeking the best point of defense, can only be him. Hold onto your seats! This is gonna be a good show!” His voice lowered its demand. “Can you imagine The Kid from Koda Downs paying us such a visit? Anybody wanna bet it isn’t him up there, over our heads? I got a sawbuck says it’s him!”

Gun shots sounded from the bank two doors from the saloon. The foot scraping continued overhead, the crowd of people were trying to find cover for their children and themselves, Mothers cried out the names of their children somewhere in the mass of people crushing against buildings, slipping into open doors, trying to be invisible, unhittable from a single stray shot, and praying that there wouldn’t be many. Younger children screamed hysterically for parents.

Pandemonium was loose in Berkeley, Kansas.

But The Kid from Koda Downs had the upper hand now, and the upper reach. He slid quietly atop the flat roof of the bank, his spurs dropped off earlier on the short roof-top adventure, and crouched flat in one corner, waiting for the robbers to exit madly from the banks, to scare the populace halfway to death.

One youngster lay crying in the road dust, and a woman tried to tear herself loose from two men who were holding her back. The Kid put four slugs from his rifle into a box formation around the youngster, to let her and others know he had his eye on him.

Nobody else moved. Nobody cried out. The boy lay still in the dust, thinking an angel was present protecting him.

Another shot rang out from the bank. The Kid didn’t want to do it, but he shot dead one of the horses tied to the bank rail. The fallen horse almost broke the others loose, and two men broke from the bank. The Kid shot both of them in the legs and they sprawled, guns flying loose from holsters onto the dry, dusty road. They made no effort to get to their horses, fully aware that the big hit was over and done with, even though there were two robbers still in the bank.

A stream of bullets came up through the bank roof, which made The Kid change his position before he slammed several shots down into the front part of the bank. One man cried out, seriously wounded, the second man flung his pistols out the door to land softly in the road dust.

The mother of the boy in the street rushed to him and hugged him closely, both of them crying, the boy pointing to the roof. There was no figure visible on the bank roof or any roof nearby. The Kid had slipped off the bank roof, onto the top of the general store, and then to the barber shop where he dropped ten feet to the ground, mounted his horse, and rode slowly and unseen out of town, The Kid from Koda Downs still on the move.

A few hours later, when he sauntered idly into the Jayhawk Saloon, his spurs a bit noisy, nobody paid much attention to him. Nobody that day had seen up- close the knock-out shooter on the roof; only the boy in the street had studied what he saw of his face, and he was years away from walking into the saloon full of his own stories.

That’s where this story came from, all that way from Berkley, Kansas, where the Jayhawk Saloon and the bank have painted circles around plastered-over bullet holes in their ceilings, some folks saying, “Those are calling cards of The Kid from Koda Downs.”