Western Short Story
“Grandpa, tell us a story about the good old days. Grandma will send us to bed in just a little while.”
“Yeah, tom on Dranpa, tell us a tory about dood o days.”
“Please Grandfather we want to hear a story. May I sit on your lap?”
“Yeah me too Dranpa.”
“All right kids. I reckon I can recollect a story that I haven’t told you yet. Now Randy, you sit here on the arm of the chair and lean back on my shoulder.”
“Oh tay, Dranpa. Help me up, peas.
“There... There you go little one.”
“Now, Beth you sit on my knee and lean on the other shoulder. Tim, you can sit there on the floor and lean against my leg. How’s that everyone?”
“Sure Grandpa. But, hurry and get started before Grandma comes and sends us to bed.”
“All right children, here we go-
You see there was this young fella, who was a farmer from Kansas, traveling through South Texas, just this side of New Mexico. He had sold his parent’s farm, which he had inherited, and was headed out, to California. There, he planned to buy some land, build a home, plant a vineyard and then find himself a sweet young lady and get married. Trouble was, just outside of a little town called Resolution; a trio of rowdy cowhands, who hated farmers or sodbusters as they called them, caught up with him. The three beat the poor fellow severely, ran off his team of horses and rifled through his belongings. Then they left him for dead with his wagon alongside the road.
He was near death, moaning something terrible when, Mr. Pullman, the bank president, came by on his way into town. When he saw the farm wagon and the pitiful stranger lying at the side of the road he guided his carriage to the opposite side and went on, paying the hurt man no mind at all. You see, the town of Resolution was a small cattle ranching community and no one around there cared a hoot for sod busting squatters.
Well, not long after Mr. Pullman passed by, another so-called, fine upstanding citizen of Resolution came by on his way into town to do some business. This was Parker James, a well-to-do rancher and business leader in and around Resolution. Everyone respected his authority and knew him as P.J.
“Like my pajamas Dranpa.”
“Well sort of, but that was what people called him.”
When P.J. saw the wagon and farming equipment scattered around, he knew immediately that it belonged to a settler. So, he also ignored the pitiable figure lying beside the road and steered his buckboard wide around the scene.
Now, the next person to come along was a lean young trail drover by the name of Johnny Lee Samaritan. He had saved up some money and was also headed for California. His plan, however, was to do some prospecting, hoping to strike it rich.
When Johnny Lee, as he was known, came upon this unfortunate sight, he jumped from his horse and ran to the man’s aid. He stripped his neckerchief from around his neck and wet it with water from his canteen and cleaned the man’s wounds as best he could. Then he put the fellow under the wagon, out of the sun and followed the tracks left by the team of horses. He found them not far away drinking at a small pond. After hitching up the team and tying his horse at the rear of the wagon, Johnny Lee headed toward town. About three-quarters of a mile outside of Resolution, Johnny Lee pulled up at a Way Station and carried the injured farmer in his arms inside.
A round Mexican woman was cooking at a brick hearth and a heavy, unshaven innkeeper met him as soon as he came in the door. “What’s this?” said the innkeeper.
“This man’s hurt bad and needs help. You got a bed where I can put him down?” Johnny Lee said.
“We-ll, yeah, but, who’s this fella and why’d ya bring him here?”
“I don’t know who he is. All I know is I found him on the road by his wagon, near dead. Now, where’s that bed?”
“In there,” the innkeeper said pointing toward a door in the back. “But, I usually get two bits a day for the room.”
“I’ll pay you whatever’s necessary,” Johnny Lee said. Then he impatiently brushed by the innkeeper and headed toward the room. After making the man as comfortable as possible Johnny Lee, came back in to ask the innkeeper about finding a doctor to tend for the injured man.
“There’s a Doc in Resolution, I think,” the innkeeper said. “Don’t have much faith in ‘em myself though; heard he’s just a drunk.”
“No matter, that man needs attention. You watch over him ‘til I get back, and see to it he gets water or whatever he needs. Don’t worry I’ll cover any cost involved.” Johnny Lee put his hand to the Colton his hip. “And mister, don’t let him die while I’m gone; I’d take it real personal if I came back here with the doctor and he was dead. You get my drift, innkeeper?”
“Shore, I’ll see to it he’s cared for. You just hurry with that doctor then.”
“All right then, I’m heading for town. You feed and water his team while I’m gone too.”
The innkeeper frowned; he didn’t like doing much of anything, so he just shook his head.
In Resolution Johnny Lee found the Doctors Office, but no one was there. Remembering what the innkeeper had said about the Doctor being a drunk he headed for the only saloon in town.
Johnny Lee looked up at the weather worn, washed out storefront sign over the entrance of the saloon, it read: BIG DAN'S WHITE FRONT SALOON. He pushed through the doors and looked around through squinted eyes trying to adjust to the dimly lit room. There was a rotund giant of a man with a full beard behind the bar, Big Dan no doubt. Three cowboys leaned at the bar talking; they took instant notice of the stranger and became silent when he came in. A middle-aged fellow in a wrinkled black suite was sitting at a table by himself. A bottle of cheap whiskey and a half-full glass sat in front of him. Johnny Lee took this to be the Doctor and went over to where he sat.
“You the Doctor in these here parts?” said Johnny Lee.
“That is what has kept me around here and in whiskey for the last eight years,” the man said.
“I got a man badly beaten out at the Way Station. He needs the attention of a Doctor right away.”
“I will go to my office and get my medical bag,” said the Doctor. Then he threw down his whiskey and said, “You go down to the livery and have my carriage readied.”
“Sure, thing Doc,” said Johnny Lee.
As the Doctor and Johnny Lee were leaving the roughest looking of the three cowboys stepped in front of their path and put a restraining hand on Johnny Lee’s chest. “This fella you found on the road a plow-chaser, sonny?”
“I suppose he might be,” Johnny Lee said.
“We’re cattle men around here, sonny. An’ we don’t take kindly to sod-busters, or strangers neither for that matter.”
“Well, I’ll tell you mister, I’ve herded a few cows myself and I’ll help any man that’s hurt and needs attention. And, I don’t take kindly to being called sonny, or to pushy cowpunchers putting their hands on me. I ain’t looking for no trouble, but there’s sure enough gonna be some if you don’t take your hand off of me right now.”
Deadly silence filled the saloon and cold, dark hateful eyes stared right into Johnny Lee’s. Then Parker James’ voice from the doorway broke the eerie quiet. “Let it go for now Frank.” There was no response, just the evil stare into Johnny Lee’s eyes. Johnny Lee stood his ground without a blink or a flinch. “Let it go for now, Frank!” said Parker James.
The Doctor pushed his way between the two men, thus breaking the concentration and said, “You two can kill one another some other time, I got an injured man to attend to.”
Frank’s manner abated and he said to the Doctor, “You best not be attending to no plow-chasers if you know what’s good for ya.”
“I have never let you tell me who I can tend to, and I am not going to start today, Frank,” said the Doctor without even so much as turning around.
“Well, I suppose this fellow will be all right in a few days,” said the Doctor after checking the man over and treating his injuries. “It’s a darn good thing you came along when you did, though. If he would have been left out there to the elements any longer there is a good chance, he would have died in just a few hours.”
“All right Doc., thanks. How much do I owe you for coming out here?” said Johnny Lee.
“I tell you young man, seeing you stand up to Frank Coker is enough payment for me. I never liked that man from the first time I laid eyes on him. He is a bad one that is for sure.”
“Listen Doc, I got to give you something for your troubles.”
“All right, if you insist,” the Doctor said. “Then get ol’ Solace there to pour me about three-fingers of that, good whiskey, he keeps hid away for himself.”
Johnny Lee convinced the innkeeper to set up the bottle and two glasses of his good whiskey, but only after offering him a premium price. Then the three, Johnny Lee, the innkeeper and the Doctor sat sipping the whiskey while the Mexican woman, the innkeeper’s wife, fixed them some tortilla’s and beans. Since it was late in the evening the Doctor spent the night, as did Johnny Lee. Johnny Lee paid for everything, since the innkeeper was unwilling to let anything go free gratis.
Next morning the Doctor and Johnny Lee went in to check on the patient. He was making a good recovery and sat up in bed. He told them his name was Roderick Travelier, and that he had been on his way to California from Kansas when three men attacked him. From his description, it was obvious the men were, Frank Coker and the other two cowboys who were at Big Dan’s White Front Saloon the day before. Roderick pause in the middle of a sentence, wrinkled his brow, and said, “Did anyone find a small tin box with a brass lock on it?”
“Yes, I found the box,” said Johnny Lee. “But, there was no lock on it, or anything in it.
“Oh-h no-o,” Roderick said. “That was my life savings, all I had. There was three-thousand dollars in that box.”
“Don’t worry Roderick,” said Johnny Lee, “We’ll see what we can do about getting your money back. I’ll contact the County Sheriff and get him to help.” The Doctor gave Roderick some medicine to calm him down and he and Johnny Lee went out of the room to let him rest.
Johnny Lee and the Doctor sat drinking coffee talking over the matter. “I don’t know whether it will do any good to contact the County Sheriff or not,” said the Doctor. “I think ol’ P.J.’s probably got him on his payroll too.”
“We-ll, I’m gonna look...” Johnny Lee was interrupted by the sound of riders coming up outside. He looked through the window; it was Parker James, in his buckboard, Frank Coker and the two other cowboys on horseback. Johnny Lee got up and hurried to his gear and pulled out his Winchester, checked the load and headed for the front door.
Solace, the innkeeper stopped Johnny Lee at the door. “I don’t want no trouble with that bunch out there,” he said, “P.J. owns this territory and I don’t want no trouble with him. That Frank Coker is a man killer for shore, I tell ya.”
Johnny Lee ignored the warning and pushed by the innkeeper and walked out on the porch.
The four held up in the middle of the Way Station’s lot. Everyone stayed where they were except for Frank Coker. He dismounted and walked to the end of the reins of his horse and dropped them. He then stopped and stood his ground, stone-faced and evil looking about five steps ahead of his horse.
“I see that squatter’s wagon is still here,” said Parker James. “All of you are gonna have to move on, right now, or there’s gonna be some serious trouble.”
Keeping his eyes trained on Frank Coker, Johnny Lee said, “We’ll be movin’ on as soon as Mr. Travelier is able, and I get back his three-thousand dollars your men stole from him.”
Adjusting himself in the buckboard seat, Parker James said, “What’s he talking about... three-thousand dollars?”
With guilty eyes the two mounted cowboys looked toward Frank Coker and shrugged their shoulders sheepishly. Without a blink or taking his cold heartless eyes off of Johnny Lee, Frank Coker said, “Who knows what this pups talkin’ about, P.J. I’d say he’s probably been out in the sun too long. Besides, there ain’t no sod bustin’ plow-chaser got that kind of money no-ways. And, if he did have it, maybe you’re the one took it.”
With a distinct metallic action, Johnny Lee levered his Winchester into readiness. “Look here you boys,” Johnny Lee said, “I know you all got that money and I aim to get it back. And, I aim to get it back right now.”
“If you fellas got that money,” said Parker James, “Give it up. I ain’t payin’ ya to rob people, just to keep them settlers movin’ on.”
“We ain’t got no damned money,” said Frank Coker. “Ya know sonny,” Frank said with hell in his eyes, “I’ve had enough of yer lip.” Frank’s hand dropped to the .44 at his side. Before he cleared leather, Johnny Lee answered with the Winchester. A bullet pierced through Frank Coker’s forearm, just four or five inches above his wrist, and the .44 went flying from his hand into the dust. Frank
dropped to one knee clutching his arm tightly, gnashing his teeth and wincing in pain.
In an instant Johnny Lee levered another cartridge into place and covered the other men with his Winchester, pausing briefly on each one. Parker James said, “You men- if you got that fella’s money give it to him. I don’t need that kind of trouble.”
One of the mounted cowboys spoke up. “It’s in Coker’s saddle bags in his poke. We ain’t spent nary a cent of it yet.”
Johnny Lee trained his rifle on the cowboy and said, “Bring it to me.” Frank looked up at the cowboy and snarled under his breath.
The cowboy pulled the money wrapped in a canvass bag, out of the saddlebag and timidly brought it to Johnny Lee. “Honest mister, it weren’t my idea to take the money.”
“Right, but you still beat the poor man half to death,” said Johnny Lee. “And, I’m sure you wouldn’t have hesitated helping ol’ Frank there spend this money neither. Now, get on back there with the others.”
“Ye...yes sir,” said the cowboy.
“DOC,” Johnny Lee said. “Come out and see to this man’s arm.”
While he was wrapping Frank, Coker’s arm the Doctor said, “Not that it bothers me much Frank, you’re gonna heal all right. But, the way that bullet tore through your arm, it won’t be any use to you as a gun hand anymore.” Frank just gritted his teeth in reply.
“Well Frank,” said Parker James, “If you’re no use to me as a gun hand, I reckon you can collect your severance pay and be movin’ on.”
“I been loyal to you doin’ yer biddin’ for three years and now ya throwin’ me out like I was an old dog?”
“Loyal my eye Frank, you ain’t loyal to anybody but yourself. Like I said before, I didn’t hire you to rob people. I hired you to keep squatters off the open range. So, now just move on, I’ll give you a fair severance, but I don’t need a man like you on my payroll anymore.”
Parker James said to Johnny Lee, “I don’t suppose you’d accept a job if I was to offer. I could use a gutsy young fella like you? I’d pay you good.”
“I wouldn’t even consider working for the likes of you, for no amount of money.” said Johnny Lee.
“Well, in that case, I’ll give you two days from right now to get yourself and that squatter out of this territory. And, if you don’t, I’ll have fifty men out here to see to it you move on. I won’t be responsible for their unkindness, neither. We don’t like squatters or strangers upsetting the balance in these parts.”
“Better listen to him, Johnny,” said the Doctor.
“These ranchers around here can be pretty
“I’ll tell you something, mister,” said Johnny Lee. “We’ll probably be moving out in the morning. But, if anything was to happen, I’m coming to you. And, I won’t be responsible for my unkindness, either. You get my drift?”
“Threaten all you want young man, I could have had you and that squatter shot by now if I had wanted to. Now, be gone with you or face the consequences. And, Doc if I was you, I’d find somewhere else to practice medicine; The Cattlemen's Association won't take kindly to you patchin’ up and takin’ sides with squatters.” Parker James slapped the leads of his horses which jerked the buckboard into motion. “Let’s go boys. Two days from now, that’s all you got,” he said as he and the two cowhands rode away. The Doctor helped Frank Coker on his horse and Frank slowly turned and rode toward town without a word.
“Well, you know Johnny,” said the Doctor, “I was getting pretty tired of the prejudice and meanness around here anyway. I’m just not sure which way to go from here though.”
“I was thinking about traveling along with Roderick out to California since we were both headed that way anyhow. That is if he doesn’t mind. As far as I’m concerned you can join us if you have a mind.”
“Sure, I’d like that. I’ll slip into town tonight and collect my belongings and close up shop.”
The next morning Johnny Lee and the Doctor packed Roderick Travelier’s wagon and readied it for the journey to California. Roderick was happy to have Johnny Lee and the Doctor along. After many hours of conversation on the trail, Roderick convinced Johnny Lee to invest his money into a vineyard and forget about prospecting since the gold mining business in California had been mostly taken over by big time investors. The two of them formed a very successful partnership and prospered. And, the Doctor sat up practice in the very same area, gave up drinking for the most part, and became a very prominent citizen of the community.
As for Frank Coker, he was shot to death five months later in a saloon fight and Parker James died bankrupt four years later because of bad oil investments.
“Randy. Come little one, wake up, and run off to bed. Grandma will tuck you in.”
“It’s time for you two to get to bed also. Grandpa’s kept you up late enough with his tall tales.”
“All right Grandma. But Grandpa, did you know those men you told us about? They did start a vineyard like you and Mr. Thomas, and Doc Hutchinson is a good friend of yours.”
“You just never know Tim what good will come if you’re a Good Samaritan and help strangers and those in need.”
“Wise up Timmy. Won’t you ever have a mature mind? Of course, Grandpa knows those men. It’s a story about him, Mr. Thomas and Doctor Hutchinson.”
“Ah-h, shut up Mary Beth. You don’t know and you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
“Smarter than any boy like you.”
“Enough bickering children, to bed you.”
“O-kay Grandma. I’m sorry Mary Beth. Good night Grandpa.”
“I’m sorry too. Yes, good night Grandpa.”
“Good night children.”
“But, is Grandpa’s story really about him and the others, Grandma?”
“You know Tim, Grandpa’s got a lot of stories and who knows how much of them are true and how much is made up. I think a lot of the time he’s just trying to teach you something in his own way. Now don’t forget to brush your teeth, I’m going in and help Randy say his prayer. I’ll be in to say good night to you two shortly.”