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Western Short Story
Tipper Thomas, Big Spender
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

“He walks like he’s drunk.” That’s what the folks in used to say about Paulie Thomas around Waco way, in the small town of Wiscott, until the day came when his mine in far-off Montana, run for ages by his nephew, Hubert Cawling, came up with a grand strike, a boomer of a strike, money flowing back to ingots big as his fist.

“They don’t say that anymore about me,” he said, “now they call me ‘Tipper’ right and tight to my face, the high spender, the gent across the road rolling in gold. Gold rolling out my eardrums, give-away gold, gold for free, gold to let some of you start all over again building that dream cabin for your lady on the side of the mountain, her washing flapping in the mountain breeze like a flag on parade.”

He meant every word of it, The Big Spender.

When Jiggs Hallmark’s cabin outside Wiscott went up in flames, no known cause but flames, Tipper laid out the funds for a new cabin for Jiggs and his wife and their four kids, all of them bright as daylight all the day long, but not a firefighter in the bunch. Tipper stood over the crew he brought with him from town, and a few tons, it seemed, of building supplies and food enough, apparently to all eyes, for a century. Tipper aware that all kids eat like Hell, the more, the better, the bigger, the smarter. Playing with those bright youngsters brought Tipper to his knees, wishing he had had more of his own with all those mines laying around to be found and tore out of the Earth itself until it couldn’t cough up another ingot worth the leaning over to pick up off the shovel blade.

As soon as Jiggs and crew were settled down and in the new abode, Luke Witherington’s place went up in flames and smoke that the stagecoach drivers exclaimed upon entrance into town, “We thought the whole town was alit and we’d have no place here to rest the horses or get our lunch and a beer or two for the next 20 or so miles left in them horses, them coach riders looking askance at Luke standing by the bar of the Heads Up Saloon with the world’s biggest smile on his face, and saying things, like, “It was bound to happen sooner or later the way them kids play with fire and ice the next time it comes around,” and smacking his hands together like saluting a good deed done and piled up for good, all of it his by way of Tipper with a smile to match, knowing full well how things matched up when you put your mmd to thinking the way around a problem laying right out there in the open countryside, no shooting at all in that bare mix of .

It gets like a spreading disease, Tipper thought most openly with a few friends at the Heads Up Saloon, “That them that thinks good things all the time, get the good things they dream about, or,” at which he winked, “look for it at wake-up time and all the old stuff is still in one place and ain’t none of it been moved for a thousand or so years, getting kind of stale in one spot and nothing much a person can do about it except pick up what’s left behind by someone’s damned sweet goodness of heart and a bank ain’t even been dented yet by these little jobs all waiting for fixing like you’re stacked up in a pile waiting in the doc’s office and him hustling like Hell like he’s got a disease eating at him and he ain‘t even had his own lunch yet.”

On one of his deep-down days, Tipper sat alone in the saloon at a table, wondering all about life and such, and nobody would go near him thinking they they’d look like they was crawling up to him for one of his big and notorious favors, so they left him damned=well enough alone to miserate if he did have any miserating to do, a man of his means.

Even Mora Songsheet (her honest-to-goodness name), a Cree singer at the Heads-Up Saloon, couldn’t think of a song to fit any occasion with Tipper, like he was all that far away from him on the social level. Besides, Tipper had never so much as looked at her one way or another, always feeding some newer connivance or other on his mind.

Tipper was engrossed in one of those dispositions, when one of the town deputies rushed in and yelled, “Where’s the sheriff? Where’s Sheriff Mark Moriarty?”

“I’m right here, Myles,” the sheriff replied, “not in Junction City or someplace else. Right here at the end of the bar in little old Wiscott, Colorado. What’s bugging you, Myles?”

Myles the deputy said, “One of Grey Eye’s guys, the one locked up for drunk and lewd, says the town’s being set up for a big raid and he’ll tell you all about it if you let him out of jail.”

“He been in that cell all night, Myles?” said as sarcastically as far as Mark Moriarty could take it and throw it.

“Yes, sir.”

Then the sheriff asked, “How in Hell would he get to know what’s going on while he’s in jail? Tell me, Myles.”

Tipper thrust a $100 dollar bill at the sheriff. “Find out, Sheriff. It’s worth it.”

“Well,” said Myles, “the drums told him. Haven’t you heard the drums?”

Mora Songsheet chimed in, “If you gents stop arguing for a minute, you can hear the drums coming down hill right at us, Grey Eyes’ drums, as good as any telegraph you ever heard and never once understood.” She held her head at a listening angle, listened as they all did, heard what she wanted to hear, then proudly stuck her hands with a woman’s eternal gesture on her hips like she knew everything there was to know.

Tipper slipped another $100 bill at the sheriff. “Bring him over. Mark.”

The sheriff waved his okay to his deputy, who soon produced the lewd and nearly nude brave at the saloon.

Moriarty said, “Okay, now, Blue Fox, I’ll let you stay out of jail if you tell me what the drums are saying, It’s a square deal.” He was standing with his hand on his badge right over his heart, take your pick.

Blue Fox, like he was at a village council meeting, folded his huge, bare arms and with a direct stare at the sheriff, said, “Renzi Ravioli and his Gringo Bandits, at least 40 of them, are going to hit the town in the morning and bring it down to its damned knees.

Tipper opened his wallet. All eyes flashing with understanding.

When Renzi Ravioli and his gang came to town in the morning, they were met with a thunderous fusillade of firepower not ever seen before in Wiscott.

Tipper Thomas had paid off again.


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