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Western Short Story
The Wolf in Man's Clothing
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

In every saloon he’d ever been in, ever had a drink at the bar or at a table with a new acquaintance, which was always and then some, he called himself “Wolf.” The name stuck all which ways of interpretation. He was proud of the fashionable sobriquet, fitting his character, he so declared openly at each saloon, at each stop, and never missing one of them on his journey wherever.

Those journeys covered places as far away as Montana to the north, Kentucky to the east, Louisiana to the south, and wherever in Texas, bigger than a last breath itself, like a gasp for one more something, like a fling with a woman or a romance with a forgotten sweetheart gone sour somewhere along the line, truth be known as the final outcome of cares and desires on the loose.

“Love,” he managed to say in literal appreciation, “makes the world go ‘round; it really does, for umpteen periods, umpteen centuries, us being proof of the pudding.” He could have carried on in that frame of mind, it locked into place by his own election, his own standing on civil matters as well as philosophical matters, bodies and minds often in collusion.

He had a simple name, Bud Smith, of the Colorado Smiths, but liked it when folks called him “Wolf.” He loved the connection, the connotation, working in his favor. most of the Smiths being gun shooters, and most of them on the side of the good guys, meaning real good guys, like deputies, sheriffs, marshals, Special Peace Officers of the Colorado Territory come the State of Colorado in 1876, the 38th State of the nation. Thus, they were iron-handed, iron-fisted, iron-willed when it came to getting the jobs done the right way as soon as possible, like catching up with the notorious bandit, Terrible Tod Thereon, just ahead of him on a trail in the hills, with other peace officers also on the trail of a good-sized reward.

When Terrible Tod Thereon left Nevada under a hail of bullets and yahoos from every corner, he headed for the heart of Colorado because he liked the name of one place called Cripple Creek, his mind seeing a bunch of old cowpokes stuck in place with bad legs trying their last bit to hold folks upright. He assumed each of them had great troubles at hand and foot, and whenever the knees joined in on their own petition or partition.

Thereon liked Cripple Creek at first look, a kind of slow moving town on the edge of nowhere, just about suiting his tastes and hungers, with enough unattached women walking the roads or working the roads in any way possible, especially eyeing newcomers in a hurry, new markets on the move, even their horses often tired from long-haul breakaways like the one Thereon had just completed; his pure black steed coming with a limping hoof of his own, ready for an immediate overhaul.

The first good looking lady he saw, raised her hand right to him right off the bat and said, “I know the best place to take your horse to get him squared away and I’ll take you there and introduce you to the best man in town if you’ll buy me dinner later on.”

She gave him a smile that was worth the ride from Nevada, and said, “My name’s Myrna Mason of the Colorado Masons, all now out of town on business. I stay with a friend so I won’t have to spend the nights alone,” which Thereon thought was not one of her serious worries.

He agreed to the whole proposal and the hidden lines, which he was sure were in the agreement in one manner or another. In short, she was a knockout beauty with a quick mind and a quick tongue, and he had a new friend in very short order.

Yet, there came Bud Smith along the trail, getting away from the gang of reward- seekers as quickly as he could, always working his mind about “Things Thereon” as he called them, garnered, gathered and studied as they came to him from friends or acquaintances of Thereon or came about such knowledge by accident, by asking stupid questions, like “Have you ever seen or heard about or ever talked to the notorious outlaw and bank robber and horrible kidnapper of little kids,” the last bit he’d quickly admit was a hooker-type lie to draw folks into longer but useless and long-winded conversations that were apparently in store for a lawman in a pursuit mode, with “kidnapper” scratching for chief attention all folks, including dumb-struck dummies, also hating the word.

It was, again, Smith’s luck to be hailed by a woman on the town road, eyeing the badge on his chest, who said, “If you’re looking for a horseman with a horse needing hoof-work, I can take you to the best man in town for that job and to where I took the horseman on the run, if he’s the one you’re after, and if you’ll take me to dinner tomorrow night.” She was lucid, well-spoken, sure of every word and every single insinuation at hand.

The smile, he was sure, was part of her pitch; most likely had been employed to lure the wanted Thereon on two levels.

Smith was nabbed right then, hook, line and sinker, the girl’s smile aiding the situation, her eyes flashing with interest and want or need for an evening at hand. sooner or later.

Myrna Mason arranged everything, which included keeping secret a piece of land, a great piece of land mere miles away which she owned right to the roots. She had no cabin, no barn no cows, no fences, just a wide-open space needing just a man that could make things happen to such a piece of land, if given the opportunity.

She, too, was in the search mode when she met “Wolf” Smith and Terrible Tod Thereon, both eligible, both warm and exciting, a choice to be made on her part, each apparently fitting her need to the last ounce.

She had to finagle things, do some personal exploring, find likes and dislikes in her two new friends that might separate them, both highly eligible. It would be her dream chance to get done what she often dreamed about.

Myrna Mason set about to get that selection, the possible differences, into broad view, enough to make her choice, if she could.

She took each one for buggy ride out over the territory, including her parcel of land, remembering what they had to say about her own land, each in their turn.

One of them said, in awe of the views coming his way, “I can’t remember ever seeing a place as beautiful as this, as beautiful as you are, like you were born for this land, and should spend your whole life here.” The sugar flowed freely upon her, finding secret places to hang out for the time being., a smooth talker with smooth-talking words on the fly.

She was nearly crushed by his effusion and comparisons, enough to twist any girl’s head from stem to stern without cracking a bone.

The other gent, looking all about most thoroughly, said, “My, what I couldn’t do with land like this, how its beauty blends into dreams of 10,000 head of cattle in its herds, drives to market starting off here, making the long haul, coming back to do it all over again. A dream of a place.”

Her decision was made for her by the one response touching her closest, to work the land with cattle aplenty, to have the to and fro of cattle drives, the endless energy needed to start up such a place from scratch, and, to keep it going, keep it alive, stretch the dream of a young girl gifted with a grand piece of land and a dream to go with it.

The Wolf in the man did the trick for her.

Now, 144 years later, the ranch erected on that site belonging to a young lady with a dream, still thrives as the TWP Ranch, TWP, The Wolf’s Place.


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