Western Short Story
Tracy Kurt Elbert, Bumbler by Birth
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

TeeKay Elbert started off on the wrong pair of feet right at the beginning, missing his due date by a month, catching his mom and dad on the trail, Shoshones and cattle thieves all around the territory, interaction wide open, with real guns and real bullets. The worldly debut was auspicious if not a marker for the years coming down the trails toward him.

There came an immediate notification to others around him that he was short of good sense and good judgement, as well as good execution at the easiest of tasks, therefore a delight to pranksters, bullies, name-callers, other mean slobs lording over the incapable, the impractical dummies, as they said, hanging around for no good reason. “He’ll be useless his whole damned life, and a burden to whoever stands by him,” was said and believed by all such maligners of the weak.

What none of the teasers and bullies knew, hidden from all as if on a mission by TeeKay’s elderly grandfather, Isaac Elbert, bearded, worn, wearing down each day, a figure of the old West, were instructions concerning command of a special rifle. It was a Springfield Ought .56, to which TeeKay, by slow but steady application and further nudges and demands of the old gent, found the single capability to come to his bumbling person, and a deadly shot if there ever was one, enough to keep him sane and dedicated to survival whenever demanded.

The upshot was TeeKay became a dead shot with the Springfield; all he needed was a simple target. Empty tins, dangling branches, scurrying snakes and such ground creatures, were easily accounted for, but none stood tall as a man bent on a lone mission. Such, as fate has its ways, came with a boast by a local big-mouth, Brud Burden, that he’d get TeeKay’s place of residence, a mean old cabin on a small spread, as his personal new home. His wants were tantamount to acceptance, take-over; wishes made, wants supplied.

“It’ll be easy,” he told compatriots; “I’ll just scare the Hell out of him, he’ll bolt for the wide grass, and I’ll have me a new home for my bones at day’s end.”

Those compatriots took him at his word, counting on a new hangout for the lot of them.

Yet even the smallest history has a start someplace along the stretch of days, or there’s no Day Two.

As it was, without any great surprise from a youngster, with a shiny Springfield Ought .56 in his hands, the face-off was limited by the nurtured guts and confidence of TeeKay and the limited size of guts down inside the big-mouth, slowly and surely moving away from the target zone, wise decision no one else might have any need to know being his hope.

All of which, of course, was big-mouth’s hopeful secret, lasting less time than a coyote chase. It seemed that everybody in creation, being that part of Nevada, had heard about the stand-off. As one old Nevadan said, “I think we have seen the beginning of a legend rather than the end of one. Brud Burden did not hang around much longer than a forgotten joke after a card game. Kaput! Out of sight, out of mind.

The years passed, the shootings scarce but ennobling, and when a huge cattle drive was completed and the cattle train, loaded to the gills on every flat car, moved eastward from TeeKay’s hometown of Bugler’s Hill, to a huge market, the air was suddenly bound to be full of ideas and festivities, a jamboree, a rodeo, a bull-riding contest and like attachments, broke out upon the land. The crowds came from all over the hungry West, the card sharks, the ropers and riders, the ladies by droves of course, the cheats and the wait-to-be-cheated came, the full-time hustlers of the innocent, the innocent themselves, all came, those crowds came, the seekers, the do-ers, the good and the bad in a mix of merriment, challenge, take-or-be-taken, soon reigned on the land itself.

There came arguments, disagreements, skirmishes by the dozens to be truthful, the town fathers realized there had to be a temperate soul put in charge of the safety of the town, those visitors, the sweet, the sour, the in-betweens. Even this meeting, called in a hurry, had its own arguments as efforts were being made to arrange safety and protection as a rule of law and order.

It was a good thing that TeeKay’s grandfather, elderly Isaac Elbert, was not in that meeting of town fathers when one of them banged the gavel on the bar top and screamed aloud, “I appoint the dummy, Tracy Kurt Elbert, Bumbler by Birth, to be the temporary sheriff of Bugler’s Hill. He would serve as our major voice of conduct, and if he were to be ill-considered by this massive crowd, we’d not be hurt in the end by any real problem that he could or might take care take care of with his steady aim on that rifle of his. He’s the perfect Patsy for us.”

Came a moment of silence as image and imagery floated in a mix of air with debate on the appointment a surety.

It made him more explosive.

He banged the gavel again and again until he had the mob of them under his wing and sway, and he yelled aloud, “Someone go get TeeKay so we can swear him in. Better now than too late to get it done.”

TeeKay soon stood before them as the loud one said, “Tracy Kurt Elbert, we the tow fathers, after due consideration, appoint you as Sheriff of Bugler’s Hill through to the completion of all festivities. Do you accept this appointment?”

He held aloft a shiny, starry badge as a signal of the new office.

A keen silence reigned in the saloon, as TeeKay said,” I do,” his eyes lit up with a sort of instant glory and acclaim took hold of him.

The saloon crowd went crazy.

TeeKay, the badge prominently displayed on his chest, walked out to observe, with a new view, what his town looked like.

The first man he met outside was a former childhood bully and teaser, who yelled out to the passing crowd, “Look who the Hell is our brand-new gaudy sheriff, TeeKay the Bumbler. What the Hell is going to happen next around Bugler’s Hill? Are we really in for it?”

His hearty, ages-old laughter, gathered for a moment a sudden sense of bewilderment, until a round from TeeKay’s shiny Winchester roared beside his head in the loudest retort he had ever received from any of his bully’s words.

It was conclusive, that single round. He was stunned and locked up in irons before he could take a deep breath, TeeKay grabbing two men and saying, “You are now deputies and will lock this man in the jail until the judge settles the issue, I think.”

Doubt galore grabbed the pair, but the quick appointment worked its wonders as they marched off to jail with the newest prisoner in Bugler’s Hill as directed by the new sheriff of Bugler’s Hill.

The story of that encounter passed through the town and all the crowds gathered in various venues, until it came to the old man of the West, elderly Isaac Elbert, who simply nodded in appreciation of his small but insistent part in the heady drama.

Twenty years later, Isaac Elbert down the trail for a dozen years, Tracy Kurt Elbert, Bumbler by Birth, was still the sheriff of Bugler’s Hill.