Western Short Story
Bert Cook had become somewhat of a legend to many. As a decorated Infantry Captain in the Confederate Army, military men on both sides had come to respect him. He never asked out of his men something that he would not do himself. He always treated adversaries, including prisoners, fairly and respectfully. Though he didn’t necessarily approve of slavery, Bert served the cause the best he could, he was a military man and loved his home in Tennessee. When the war ended however, there was no home to go back to.
The war being over an evil breed of marauding men who did not want to end their careers as killers and plunderers continued on in their violent, rebellious and intimidating ways. They blatantly and brutally robbed, raped and pillaged at will those who would not or could not stand up to them. These were men that had served North and South in the war and for the most part were men of unscrupulous and uncaring nature. To put an end to these ravaging raiders, some state governments and territories appointed Special Agents to track down and deal with this vile element. There was no method or guidelines set as to how the job was to be accomplished, the problem was just to be eliminated so the cry of the citizenry would be calmed. Bert Cook was one of those appointed Special Agents, a Territorial Bounty Hunter.
Bert rode into the desert town of Litchfield Station on a cool, wind-swept and dusty afternoon. He stopped and tied off his horse in front of the Marshal’s Office.
After dismounting and removing his cavalry gloves, Bert slapped the dust out of them on his thigh and tucked them under his belt before entering the door into the little adobe building. He looked around; Bert felt an uneasy quiet, even for a little desert town like this.
Inside, a young man, maybe not even out of his teens, sat at a desk with his head down on folded arms. He jumped and sat up straight when Bert came through the door.
With wide open fearful eyes and a shaky voice, he questioned, “Who…who are you?”
“Names Bert Cook. You’re not the Marshal here are ya?”
“Me? Heck no. I’m, or…er, was only the deputy.”
“Those men, they killed him.”
“What men, where? Killed who?”
“Those three settled in down at Crazy Jim’s Saloon. Marshal Milton, he was my uncle. They shot him down yesterday, like…like he was nothin’. He’s still layin’ in the street in front of the saloon where he died. Undertaker’s even too scared to go down there.”
“Still lyin’ there, huh? Now that’s plain damned pitiful. Was one of these scum a big man with a red beard, wearin’ a Confederate Officer’s jacket? Got a foul mouth to go with it?”
“Yeah, that’s him all right. Heard he’s the one who shot the Marshal.”
“Yeah, figures. Butcher,” said Bert. “These other two, tell me about them?”
“They’re wearin’ Johnny Reb outfits too. But, so are you. Yer one of’m ain’t ya?”
“HELL, NO boy, I ain’t one of’m. Now, go on, tell me about these fellas.”
“Ones, a string bean of a fellow, over six-foot, skinny. And, the other’s a small man, smaller’n me. They’re rotten cold killers, all of’m. Oh-h, I’m sorry mister; they might be friends of yers. You come to join’m I suppose.”
“Quit supposin’ and makin’ assumptions boy. That kind ain’t friends of mine and never will be. Only time I’m friends of vermin like that is when they’re lyin’ face down in the dirt.”
Bert looked around the room and then grabbed a short, double-barreled shotgun that was leaning against the desk and broke it open.
“You’re wearin’ a Johnny Reb outfit yourself?”
“Just cause we fought on the same side doesn’t mean we’re the same kind. Like you said, those men are cold-blooded killers for sure. Killed a young fella and carried off his wife whilst robbin’ the stage up around Tucson about a week ago. Found the young woman two days ago; pitiable shape she was, dead a’course, prob’ly for the better. Anyway, I tracked them here. What kind of weapons do these men have down there?”
“Heck, I don’t know. The little fellas got a rifle of some sort. An…and, they’re all totin’ big pistols. Other than that, I can’t say.”
“Where ya keep the shells for this here 10-gauge?”
“In the drawer, here,” replied the young man. His hand shook uncontrollably as he pulled open the desk drawer and laid a box of buckshot shells on the desk. “I was gonna load it and go down there, but I figgered there was no sense in me gettin’ myself killed too. I ain’t no match for one man like that, no less three of’m.”
Bert shoved the shotgun into the young man’s bosom so that he had to take it and asked, “What’s your name son?”
“Ty…Tyrone, Tyrone Myers, sir.”
“Well, load’r up, Ty…Tyrone. Let me see now, you figured the Marshal was a match for all three of those men by himself…is that it son? Hell boy, they killed your kin, and a lawman at that.” Bert paused, as Tyrone fumble with the shells. “Load that damned shotgun boy, and let’s get to business down there. That shotgun and the both of us might even the odds a bit.”
“The Marshal said, I should stay here,” Tyrone whimpered. “And…and he would take care of it by himself. I only done what I was told.”
“Yeah all right,” said Bert gruffly. “Well, you’re wearin’ a badge, and I’m tellin’ ya to load that shotgun and come on with me.”
“Y-es, yes sir.” Tyrone reached for the box of shells and knocked them onto the floor. They rolled and scattered about. “Don…don’t worry. I’ll pick’m up.”
“Hurry up,” barked Bert. “We got work ta do.”
Tyrone’s fingers shook violently as he finally dropped two loads into the barrels. He really did not want any part of this and he wished he would have ripped the tin star off his shirt and thrown it away after the Marshal got shot, but now he couldn’t oppose Bert’s commanding manner.
“Stuff the rest of those shells in yer pocket. Now, where’s this Crazy Jim’s place from here?” asked Bert as he motioned Tyrone out the door.
Tyrone stood up, stepped out into the doorway cautiously and pointed down the street with his head. “Just down the street a piece west of here.”
“Besides those three no-counts, who else might be in there?”
“Well, they ran Jim out yesterday, right before they killed the Marshal. I think Millie and her son; Millie’s Jim’s saloon girl, are still down there.”
“There’s a woman and a kid in there with them?”
“Yeah, but she’s just a barmaid, a soiled dove, sorta speak. She’s got a little kid that has no pa or nothin’.”
“You ain’t much on carin’ about people, are ya Tyrone?”
“I don’t know sir. I just meant...”
“Yeah. Yeah,” interrupted Bert, “I know what you meant. Come on, let’s get this takin’ care of.” Bert stepped out into the street. He wasn’t about to let Tyrone out of this, he expected a man to stand on his own two feet, especially when it was to avenge his kin or mete out justice when necessary. He figured Tyrone, was probably pretty proud of that tin star before all of this took place but, now he might be no help at all with little nerve when the showdown came. However, he knew that the presents of two would at least lower the perception of the odds.
With long strides Bert headed down the street. “Come on, Tyrone, keep up.”
Tyrone followed knowing he had no choice but to do what he was told.
Flies buzzed around the swollen stiff figure lying in the street that had once been an officer of the law. Bert, spat to the side and gritted his teeth in disgust, then he nodded forward. Tyrone stepped up his pace to keep up.
Bert stepped up on the boardwalk in front of the saloon and eased up to the open doorway of Crazy Jim’s place and peered inside. The red bearded man that he had referred to as Butcher was standing in front of a table clad in faded flannel underwear with his trousers down around his ankles. The other two men were joking and laughing as they held down a woman on the table. She pleaded in a weak voice as she struggled and kicked to get loose, “No, N-o, not again, not in front of my son”.
Oblivious of her pleas Butcher teased, “Hey thar little missy, yer sure ‘nough a wild one ain’t ya?”.
Bert turned briefly to Tyrone and in a low tone said, “Fire that blunder-bust into the ceiling, both barrels.” Tyrone just stared, puzzled. “NOW Boy,” he whispered through teeth. Tyrone stuck the shot-gun in the door and complied instantly with a thundering blast that brought debris raining down from above. Bert pushed through the swinging doors as he pulled his .44 Remington.
Trying to turn around and reach down for his pistol Butcher, tangle and tripped to the floor getting caught up in his trousers and gun belt.
Two loud smoking explosions, one right after the other, from Bert’s .44 sent the two men at the sides of the table to their immediate end. Bert’s pistol was now trained on Butcher who was fumbling for his holstered gun on the floor.
“Give it up, Butcher. Yer, done for this day.”
Butcher with a vicious expression, “You?” Ignoring the warning he pulled his pistol from its holster.
Bert cocked and pulled the trigger on his Remington. It jammed and miss fired. Now he realized that he should have spent the money for the conversion to a cartridge cylinder.
A wicked grin lit up Butcher’s face and his dark eyes blazed with cold spitefulness as he raised his weapon. “We-l-l Cook”, he mocked, “Kinda looks like yer the one that’s done for this day. Bye now.”
B-O-O-M…a double blast that rattled the walls of the saloon came from the ten-gauge shotgun. Butcher jerked and sank into the floor, lifeless. Bert turned to face Tyrone who was holding the smoking double barrel ten-gauge. He had reloaded the shotgun after firing into the ceiling. Bert was mighty thankful he had. “We-l-l youngster, I didn’t think you had any grit. Glad I was wrong. Thanks for comin’ through.” Tyrone looked at Bert for a brief second and smiled slightly then, he dropped the shotgun and ran outside to vomit in the street.
Bert checked his pistol and seen it was fouled with burnt gun power; a bad habit of percussion revolvers of this type, even when they were well maintained by seasoned gunmen like Bert. He holstered it for now and walked over to the table to the sobbing woman. He extended his hand and said, “Come on miss, it’s over. No need to fret anymore.”
She grabbed his hand and stood up and melted into his arms and held him uncomfortably tight. In a breathless low voice, she said, “Thank you mister, I sure didn’t want my son to witness what that horrible man was about to do again.” She buried her face into Bert’s chest and tried to get her breath back as she silently wept.
Then Bert felt a tightening around his leg just above his knee and when he looked down he saw a full head of blond hair. A shy round young face with big light brown eyes looked up into his. “Thank you, sir for saving my mommy from that mean, mean man.” The boy had come from the end of the bar where he had been crouching down in fear watching his mother’s abuse.
Bert reached down and stroked the back of the boy’s head. “Yer surely welcome youngin.”
The young woman released her grip on Bert and took a half step back. She sniffed, composed herself, leaned down and caressed her sons face tenderly. “This is my son, Raymond.”
Bert bent down on one knee to make himself eye level with Raymond and extended a hand to shake. Raymond took his hand and he said, “I’m Bert Cook. Good ta meet you, Raymond.”
Raymond’s grit was tight and he looked up at his mom, “Mommy, I like Bert Cook, I like him a lot.”
She bent down beside Bert and opened her arms to her son. He responded and she hugged him tightly. “I love you so much Raymond,” she wept softly.
“I love you too, Mommy. No need to cry, Bert Cook took care of those mean men.”
She looked up at Bert, who was now standing again. “He sure did, son. Thank you ever so much Mister Cook.”
“No need for thanks. The Deputy and me just did what needed to be done.”
Tyrone who had recovered from his episode outside and came up to them. “I guess we did take care of business, huh Mister Cook?”
“Well, Tyrone I reckon we did. And you sure enough earned the right to hang that star on yer shirt.” Tyrone smiled in response. “Don’t get too cocky son. Over confidence can kill ya just sure as anything.”
“Is there a telegraph office here about?”
“Shore,” said Tyrone, “Down the street in the train station, right across from Johnson’s Livery Stables.”
“Well then, how ‘bout you get somebody to take care of these bodies, while I take care of some business down at the train station.”
“Shore ‘nough, Mister Cook.”
“Call me Bert, Deputy.”
Tyrone was bright eyed and smiling. “All right, Bert, I’ll get it done.”
Bert turned to leave, the young woman reached and touched his arm for his attention. He turned and caught her deep brown sparkling eyes penetrating his very being. A captivating, yet uneasy feeling came over him, something that he did not recognize or had ever experienced before, it settled in the pit of his stomach. The feeling seemed to control him, something that Bert never let anything do.
“I’m Millie Kinsley, Mister Cook. Will I see you again?”
Bert’s plan was to telegraph Tucson for the three-hundred-dollar reward money, wait for it to arrive and move on to the next quest, however now, he felt himself uncomfortably compelled to linger.
“Well, ma’am I was plannin’ to move on in a couple days after I had collected the reward money for those three varmints.”
“I bet you haven’t had a real home cooked meal in a while. I’d like to have you join Raymond and me at the supper table this evening. Jim, the owner of this saloon, provides me with a little cottage out back. Seven o’clock, Apple Pie. What do you say? I mean it’s the least I can do for what you did today. Please do come.”
“You sure make it hard to say no, ma’am.”
“Then say yes and please, call me, Millie.”
“We-ll, if you will call me Bert, I’d be happy to supper with you and Raymond.”
“Wonderful Bert, seven o’clock then.”
Later at supper Bert found Millie easy to talk to. Millie told him about coming to Litchfield Station, with a young gambler she had run off with from Carson City, her home town, he was Raymond’s father. Shortly after they arrived in town she found she was pregnant and not long after that the young gambler was caught cheating at a stud poker game. He drew a knife on his angry accuser who pulled a pocket pistol and shot him twice in the stomach. He suffered three days before dying of his wounds. The Circuit Judge later ruled it self-defense and the man left town shortly after the inquiry. She was left alone with nothing, so Jim gave her a job and a place for her and the baby to stay. That had been eight years earlier and she pretty well ran Crazy Jim’s now that he involved himself in local politics and the Town Council.
Bert seldom ever talked about himself or his past but, he found he was telling Millie about the home he had in Tennessee. How after the war there was nothing left, and how he had come to be in this town on this particular day. They talked into the night, even after little Raymond, who had become very attached to Bert, had gone to bed. Bert who was forty-four years old found out that Millie was twenty-five.
When Bert was finally ready to leave for the night, Millie embraced him tenderly by sliding her arms around his neck. Bert responded and found great comfort and serenity in having this young woman in his arms. Their faces close as their eyes drew them together, Bert’s strong breathing took the young woman’s breath and they slipped into a passionate kiss. Bert had never felt this way about a woman before; though his mind was fighting it, his heart was giving in to the strong feelings he was having for Millie.
“I would like to see you again, Bert?” she whispered, her tender lips skimming his as she spoke softly. “It’s been a most pleasant evening; thank you ever so much for coming,” she said.
They separated slightly. “Well, I’m sure we’ll see one another again,” Bert said. “I had a good evening as well. Thanks for the great meal.”
“Wonderful, I look forward to it. Raymond likes you so well. You are really good for him.”
“He’s a good kid, and I like him too. Well, bye for now,” Bert said.
“Yes, bye Bert.”
Bert stayed at the local hotel that night and early the next day while he was eating breakfast at Jenny’s White Front Restaurant next door, Crazy Jim, a huge man over six foot, and three other members of the Town Council sat down to talk. After brief introductions, they very strongly urged him to take on the vacant Town’s Marshal’s job. They assured him he was the man for the job of keeping order in their town. They also strongly emphasized that the pay was twenty dollars a month, plus room and board at the hotel and, fifty cents for every arrest with a conviction.
Before meeting Millie, Bert would have never considered settling in to a town job, he preferred the wide-open spaces but, now it seemed a tempting offer. Maybe it was time to settle down a bit, he wasn’t getting any younger and the trails and men he had to deal with were getting harder. Bert hesitated giving an answer right away stating he would give it some thought. In response, The Town Council’s spokesman quickly and insistently, offered twenty-two dollars a month.
Bert pretty well doubted they would go for it, so he countered, “Make it, twenty-five a month and sixty cents an arrest conviction and you’ve got a deal.”
The Council members looked at each other and after a brief pause said, “Alright, if you will sign a two-year contract, we’ll do it.” Everyone agreed and over the big smiles and head shaking of the Town Council members, they all shook hands. Two days later Bert made Tyrone take a hundred dollars of the reward money for the three men they had killed a few days prior. He also asked Tyrone to remain on as his Deputy. Tyrone accepted and went on to become a pretty reliable lawman himself.
Six months after taking on the job of Town Marshal, Bert began to feel quite comfortable in his new life style. He enjoyed the respect many in town gave him and thought his life was set.
The job was not the only thing Bert had gotten comfortable with. Bert and Millie visited and talked almost every day, so they got married; it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Not everyone felt the same though, many of the towns folk raised eyebrows of skepticism, mostly due to their age difference, and Millie’s reputation as a woman of immoral nature. Bert spent a lot of time taking Raymond fishing, hunting and teaching the young lad how to track and live in the wilderness. Raymond and Bert were bonding and soon became almost inseparable.
Bert held tight reins on the town and stepped on not just a few of the prominent rancher’s toes by arrest and fines of their cowhands. Most arrest was disorderly conduct for fighting or public drunkenness, there were a few arrests for public lewdness for urinating in the street. About eighteen months after Bert became Marshal the Town Council, decided it was time to appoint a Mayor over the town. They decided on Council Member, Theodore J. Moser, the wealthiest cattleman in the valley, as the first Mayor of Litchfield Station.
Moser and his family were also the biggest critics of Marshal Cook’s tactics and there was no love lost between them and Bert, seeing how a large percentage of the cowboys he arrested were from their spread. Not to mention the fact that Mrs. Moser was the head founder of the Women’s Social Club and Millie was the most often subject of her gossip in the ladies sewing circle.
Moser’s youngest of five boys was Jake and he and Bert had locked horns more than once. Jake’s father always came and bailed him out. Jake was also quite a ladies’ man and had caught the interest of Millie on a number of occasions even though he was a few years younger than her.
When not out with Raymond, Bert spent most of his time in Crazy Jim’s playing poker and sipping rye whiskey. He had noticed the attraction between the two, however, up until now he had written it off as part of Millie’s job as a saloon girl. Besides, Bert wasn’t the jealous type nor easily riled. That however came to an abrupt end one early afternoon, after Bert came in from fishing with Raymond and found Millie was not home. Millie had figured Bert and Raymond would not be back until almost dark so she was spending time playfully flirting with Jake in the saloon.
When Bert entered Crazy Jim’s from the rear door and saw the two of them kidding around and laughing, his bristles came up. Then when Millie seductively kissed Jake and passionately embraced him wrapping one leg around him, Bert could only see red. “ENOUGH,” called Bert. They both turned toward him and froze in place. Bert walked up to the couple, “Get yer damned hands off my wife, you stupid kid.” The fifteen or so patrons in the saloon now had all their attention on the three of them.
Millie forced a smile, “We were just funnin’ around, Bert.”
Bert grabbed Millie’s arm and jerked her away from Jake. “Sure, you were; I saw what you were doing. Now, get your butt home and take care of yer son.”
Millie’s eyes filled with icy anger, “You don’t own me, Bert Cook.” Bert still had a hold on her arm and he powerfully shoved her toward the back door. She tried to resist which only caused her to stumbled and fall to the floor really hard. Jake started to step in and was met with a potent backhand from Bert, that sent him bouncing against the bar and then to join Millie on the floor. Bert grabbed Millie’s arm again and lifted her up to her feet, then he turned and pointed a fisted finger at Jake, “You ever touch my wife again and I’ll shoot you down like a cur dog. Boy, you do understand.” Bert wasn’t asking Jake a question, he was making a statement. In return, all he got was a cold stare from the young man after he spit blood on the floor and pushed himself upright. With that Bert, forcefully marched Millie home, she struggled unsuccessfully while cursing and kicking all the way.
Not much was heard from Bert, but you could hear Millie’s screaming and things breaking for about a half hour before, Bert finally left for the Marshal’s Office. There Bert kicked Tyrone out for the evening and grabbed an almost full bottle of rye whiskey out of the desk drawer. He uncorked it and poured three fingers in a glass, which he downed in one gulp, and then he followed it with several more. Bert and the bottle spent the night together.
After a few weeks’ things seemed to calm down and get back to a relative normal state, Millie and Bert had tentatively made up and things seemed to be on the mend. Then one evening about two month after the last incident Bert had been drinking all afternoon and was playing poker with four other locals when he heard Millie laughing and giggling a few tables away. He hadn’t realized that Jake had come into Crazy Jim’s twenty minutes or so earlier, if he had he would have kept an eye on him or just kicked him out.
Bert could not see where Millie was from where he was sitting, so he just kind of ignored the giggling at first, after all she was supposed to entertain and encourage the cowboys to drink up.
The laughing and commotion kept getting louder and more excited, Bert needed to know what was going on. He raised himself up from his chair and looked over the shoulder of the player sitting across from him. What Bert saw sent him into a blind rage, he kicked his chair out from behind him, sending it flying against the wall and breaking it into pieces. He started for Millie and Jake with white hot blazing eyes. Millie was sitting on Jake’s lap laughing and teasing with him, his hand was up her dress between her thighs. When the two saw Bert coming, their laughter stopped abruptly and Millie stood up. When Bert was about two steps away she shouted, “NO.” He shoved her aside and stood over Jake setting in the chair.
With narrowed, cold and mean eyes he said, “You don’t learn, do ya sonny? I told you what would happen the next time you touched my wife.”
Jake leaned back in his chair, a big grin filled his face; drunk, he was oblivious of the seriousness of the situation. Jake snickered and said, “What, Bert? We was jess funnin’, no need ta be so cross.”
Millie’s eyes were almost crossed in horror, “NO, BERT…DON’T.”
Bert pulled his .44 and aimed at the young man’s chest point blank. No misfire this time, Bert had changed his Remington to a cartridge conversion. BOOM― Jake spilled over backwards in his chair, lifeless. Millie, tears streaming down her face started pounding on Bert’s shoulder with her fist screaming, “How could you…how could you do this?”
Then Tyrone, who was on door check duty, pushed through the saloon doors with the 10-gauged leveled. After a few steps, inside, he stopped, he saw that everyone was looking Bert’s way. His face flushed, “What in hell happened here?”
A trio of answers came all saying the same thing, ‘Bert shot and killed Jake in cold blood.’
Tyrone looked at Bert with a bewildered expression, “Bert?”
Millie melted to the floor sobbing uncontrollably. Bert looked down at her, “Tell Raymond, I’m sorry we won’t be goin’ fishin’ no more. And…and tell him I love him. I love you too, Millie.” With that Bert jammed the Remington back in place, turned and headed for the door.
As Bert approached, Tyrone’s was expecting a logical explanation, “Bert, do I arrest you?”
“Stand down for now, Deputy. If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the cabin at Rawlins Mill stream. There’s a full moon tonight, if I see anybody before mornin’ they’ll end up like Jake.” Bert paused briefly, his expression softened and he looked deep into Tyrone’s eyes. Bert had become a mentor and like a father to Tyrone. “You know I mean what I say; don’t ya Deputy?”
“Yes, I do, Bert.”
“Yer a good man, Tyrone. Tomorrow you do your duty as an officer of the law. Be seein’ ya, Deputy.” Bert yanked the tin star off his vest and tossed it on a nearby a table, then he walked out of the saloon into the night.
A group of cowboys started clamoring about getting a rope. Tyrone knew he had to squelch this quick or he was going to have an uncontrollable lynch party on his hands. “Listen here ya all, you heard what Bert said.”
“Yeah, well Deputy,” said one cowboy, “He’ll be long gone by mornin’, so we need to get after him tonight.” The crowd murmured in agreement.
“Ya all might think a lot of things about Bert Cook but, one thing I know for sure, he’s a man of his word. He’ll be where he says he’ll be in the mornin’. Ain’t no sense anybody goin’ out there tonight and getting’ all shot up. Besides, ain’t no one gonna do any lynchin’ in this town. I’ll arrest any damned fool who tries. This will all be done according to the law. We can all use the night to get our thinkin’ straight and deal with this in the mornin’.”
A cowboy spoke up and said, “Yeah the Deputy’s right, besides, Jake’s brothers are gonna want to be in on this.”
“All right then,” said Tyrone, “let’s break this up for tonight and meet here in the mornin’ around six. We’ll go out and get this deal taken care of. Ya all go and get some rest, tomorrow is gonna be a long day. The crowd agreed for the most part and they started talking among themselves and leaving Crazy Jim’s.
Bert arrived at the cabin around midnight. As he dismounted he pulled his rifle out of the scabbard and grabbed the saddlebags and took them inside. He went back out and stripped his horse of the saddle and all the rest of the gear and turned the horse loose knowing it would wonder back into town. Then he took everything inside the cabin.
Bert pulled his extra pistol out of his saddle bag, it was a new Smith & Wesson Model No.3 he had ordered a few months back, he had thought about retiring his Remington but just could not do it. He checked the action and then loaded it with fresh cartridges and then he did the same with the Remington .44 on his hip. He grabbed the rifle, checked and loaded it also, then set it next to the window. Bert started a fire in the little stove in the cabin and put together a pot of coffee. He found a tin cup and blew the dust out of it before pouring it half full of rye whiskey. After the coffee was hot he added some more rye to the cup and topped it off with coffee. Then he sliced some bacon he had brought and filled a skillet with a half dozen pieces.
Bert chewed on the bacon after it was ready and sipped on the coffee, whiskey mix. He sat silently in thought until it started getting day light.
About an hour after day break a posse of twelve to fifteen men, lead by Deputy Tyrone Myers, came from town riding the road that ran along a mountain stream down beside the old Rawlins’ Mill. Just beyond the mill, about a quarter of a mile or so, sat an abandon cabin that anyone could use when they were up that way hunting, fishing or whatever the need was. When they came within about a hundred yards of the cabin a window pane broke out from within the cabin and a rifle shot buzzed over the groups head. Everyone but Tyrone scurried off the road to seek cover, dismount and draw their weapons. The cowboys and the Moser brothers started firing at the cabin from behind the rocks and trees where they had ducked for cover.
Sitting erect in the saddle Tyrone commanded, “Hold yer fired.” Everyone complied and looked to him for further instructions. This wasn’t the same young man that Bert had pushed into action back when he first arrived in town. He had matured and learned to take on responsibilities under Bert’s tutoring.
Tyrone dismounted, pulled a Colt from his belt and checked the load. Then he put it back in his belt. “BERT. Hold up, I’m coming in.” He turned his head toward the men hiding in the bushes, “Ya all hold yer fire and wait here till I get back.” Tyrone started for the cabin.
Most expected Bert would shoot Tyrone when he got close to the cabin, but they just did not understand Bert Cook, the way he did.
Tyrone stopped and stood at the door. “Well, come ahead Ty, you’ve got this far.” Tyrone stepped inside. Bert was sitting in a chair watching out the window.
A sorrowful, but determined look was on Tyrone’s face. “Not a good day for me Bert.”
“Well, sorry about that Deputy. You just do yer job and it’ll come out right.”
“You know, what I have to do.”
“Shore, I know. Don’t hold it agin ya at all.”
“Well…Do we smoke ya out? Or, will ya come along peaceful. I’ll see to it you’ll get a fair trial.”
Bert smiled, “I know ya will, but, we both know how that’ll come out. And, I been thinkin’ on that most of the mornin’. Here’s what I’m gonna do my young friend; you go on back out there with those fine town folks and I’ll be coming out shortly. I just got one more little bit of thinkin’ alone, I need ta do before I come.”
Tyrone nodded, “All right. Yer comin’ out…But yer not gonna do nothin’ stupid are ya?”
“Tyrone, I’m a man who has always done what has to be done, and I ain’t about to change now.”
Tyrone said, “Alright Bert. Ten minutes gonna do?”
“Ten minutes will be fine. Ten minutes and I’ll be headin’ yer way,” said Bert.
“Okay Bert,” replied Tyrone as he turned and opened the door. Hurtful eyes welled up, but were held back. “And Bert, be best if ya leave yer shootin’ ir’ns in here.” Tyrone started the walk back to where everyone was waiting.
“What’s it gonna be, Deputy?” said one of Jake’s brothers.
“He asked for ten minutes and we’re gonna give him that. He’ll be out shortly.” Tyrone pulled out his pocket watch and noted the time.
Almost to the second by Tyrone’s watch, Bert yelled and swung open the door. “Al’m a comin’ out boys, and I intend to take some of ya with me.” With that Bert ran from the doorway full force toward their location with both pistols blazing. Nobody but Tyrone, who stood in the wide open, realized Bert was shooting off to the side and over their heads. Every man’s gun, but Tyrone’s spoke loud until Bert, lay in the dirt motionless.
“Well, Mr. Pedicort that’s the real story.”
“That is not quite the way everyone else around here tells the story of Bert Cook, Sheriff. What I have heard numerous times is that he was a bully, an abusive wife beater and a cold-blooded killer,” said Pedicort.
“You can think and write what you want, I mean, it is your magazine. What I’m telling you is the truth and what really happened in old Litchfield Station and with Bert Cook.”
Pedicort looked perplexed, “What makes you such an expert? Am I supposed to believe you just because you are County Sheriff? Why should I believe you over most of the people who live in the valley?”
“Well, M-ister Pedicort, for one thing, I was Sheriff Ty Myers Deputy, for over thirteen years. Second, I might just actually know the real story because Millie Kinsley-Cook was my mother.”
Pedicort’s eyes narrowed, not quite believing what he had just heard, he curiously asked, “But your last name is Chaney, not Kinsley?”
“That’s right, my name is Ray Chaney. I was named by my mother at birth after my father, Raymond Phillip Chaney.”
Pedicort’s eyes widened, “Well, that makes all the difference in the world. I suppose, you can prove, Millie was your mother?”
Sheriff Chaney, leaned back in his chair, “Sure, I can, but I’m not going to. That’s your job if you want to write about Bert Cook and tell the real story. The way I see it, it’s not just Bert’s reputation that is at stake here, so is the reputation of your magazine. So, asked yourself Mr. Pedicort, do you want to go down to the Court House and do the research or do you want to go on people’s assumptions and predigest?”
“You know Sheriff Chaney,” Pedicort assured, “you are right. I want the historic truth. I am going to do the research. Thanks.” Pedicort reached across the desk and shook Sheriff Chaney’s hand and then left the office.
Six months later ‘The Historic West’ magazine published:
“The Legend of Bert Cook”
as related to me by Sheriff Raymond Chaney
―Stanford J. Pedicort―