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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Fourth Man - Chapter 10


A Gun and Holster for Billy
 Time moves on.

My kids are growing up fast. James Riley is two and into everything. Missy is almost six and Billy is eight and wants a gun of his own.

Since for the next few generations it will be necessary for men to protect themselves even though we are supposed to be civilized, I will have to teach my boys the right and wrong about guns and their proper use.

I took Billy to the guy who makes all our tack and had him measure him for a holster. I had bought him a small version of the gun I carry so he fitted the holster to fit the gun. It was a small caliber gun but had the power to kill and was fine for what we wanted.

The first thing he wanted to learn was how to draw fast. He was obsessed on the fast draw. Perhaps it was because he saw me practicing often and the swift way I could get the gun from my holster, pointed at a target, and fired in an instant.

After two months he was getting very good with his small weapon. The next and most important step was to show him the move to cock the gun as you draw and not shoot yourself in the process.

The third step was deciding whether to pull the trigger or just hold it on the target till things settled down.

The last thing was to practice until you could hit what you were aiming at. This was an important step in his development so I spent a lot of time with him.

How to shoot, how to avoid having to shoot and understanding the consequences of shooting something or the worst scenario killing someone was lessons he had to learn.

For a while he was using four or five boxes of shells a week but as he got better he used less.

I was looking forward to the time he only needed to hone his skill a little. I had bought him a small caliber rifle and he had already become a good shot with it and he is pressing me for a large caliber one.

I let Jim teach him how to fight for he was a lot better at that than I was.

Jim could break a man’s jaw or rib with one blow and put him out for an extended length of time.

He would have liked to have got his hands on the men who shot him but they were long gone dead by the time he recovered from being shot.

Billy wasn’t the only one who required my attention. Missy was in my lap every time I sat down, and now James was doing the same thing. He was in the process of wanting me to pay attention to him more and more.

Up until recently he was a mama’s boy, but he was changing now. With Jim pretty well running everything I had time to spend with the family and we would picnic and fish when the weather was nice.

Billy now wore his gun belt everywhere he went. He said you never know when something needs shooting. He was deadly on snakes.

I was just asking.

I asked Sarah if our family was big enough and she said, “Big enough for what?”

Perhaps another Girl ??
I always hate it when she retorts in that manner for it causes me to have to come up with a logical reason for asking whatever I asked.

I said, “Well if we are going to have more then now would be a good time to do it, don’t you think?”

She said, “Well these we have are getting to be a handful don’t you think?”

I thought about what she was saying and she was right.

I was spending more and more time with them and I didn’t have much more kid’s time available to spend with some more.

I said, ‘Aw just forget it we got enough.”

She laughed and said, “Now you tell me.”

“What does that mean?” I wondered.

She went on and said, “It is too late to say forget it.”

I thought, “Oh no she’s pregnant again.”

She said, “Remember the last full moon… that was the time - - - and a full moon baby is on the way.”

She said, “James will be three by the time the baby comes and halfway to being a cowboy by then.”

As happens sometime with me a foolish thought popped into my mind; “I wonder if I hadn’t said anything would she be pregnant.”

After a moment I said to myself; “I can’t believe I thought that crazy thought. What do I want another boy or a girl like Missy.”

I heard some shots behind one of the barns. I figured it was Billy getting some practice.  When I found him he had a rat and he was proud of the game he had shot. I told him he was going to quit shooting around the ranch house because he might hit one of the chickens.

He said, “Aw dad you know I wouldn’t do that.”

I told him, “In any case you have to quit shooting near the house, and you need to go talk to your mom.

“What for did I do something wrong?”

“No you just need to talk to her.”

“Okay but I don’t see why.  Hey Mom did you need to talk to me about something?”  

“No I don’t think so - - - well maybe I should tell you about something you will find out about anyway. You are going to have a new brother or sister in about six months.  So get ready for this new one coming to live with us.”

“How did this happen or maybe I should ask why did this happen? Don’t you have enough kids?”

She said, “Well suppose it was you that we decided not to have how would that set with you?”

“Not too well I suspect. I guess it will be alright since missy is old enough to help you out with the baby. I won’t be available since I’m working with the cattle now.”

Another surprise for Billy

Military School for Billy
Sarah had been teaching the kids so far but now she wanted to send Billy off to a school she had heard about. It would be six months a year and run by some ex-military men.

I knew this wasn’t going to go over very well with Billy but he could use some formal training.

Sarah took Billy to the school and got him signed up and settled in. She was a little tearful as she left but didn’t let Billy see her cry.

I told her to make sure she didn’t say anything about he could come home if he didn’t like the place for that would weaken his resolve to make good there.

I told him the older boys will feel it is their duty to make his life miserable so expect that and avoid fighting anyone he didn’t think he could whip. I had heard that when someone wanted to fight another student they would have to go to the arena and fight in a ring with gloves. There the rules would protect them from most of the dirty fighting.

Three weeks later we got a letter from him and he said it was pretty much as I describe it. He said he is getting along okay now but getting used to the food is the hardest part of being here. He said don’t send any food for the older boys take everything boys my age receive so don’t bother.

Two weeks later he wrote again and said he had his first fight and it was quite a bit different from what Jim had taught him. He went on saying as soon as he got used to the gloves he whipped his opponent even though they were older than him.

He is doing alright with his lessons but the big news for him was they let them carry a rifle. They had to take a rifle apart, clean it and put it together again and dry fire it to see if it would fire. They told him it would be next year before they get to actually shoot the guns. The six months went by fast because we were busy on the ranch then it was time for him to return home.

As he was leaving one of the bigger boys said when he returned next year he was going to challenge Billy to a fight. He was a tough kid and he had whipped several of the kids in school.

Billy told him, “Okay he would fight him unless the boy changed his mind.”

Jim went to town and picked up supplies and waited for Billy to get in from the train. When he arrived they talked about school and the fights he had so far. He also told him about this kid who was going to beat him up when he returned.

He told Jim that fighting in the arena was a lot different from the fighting he was used to. Jim said he understands and by the time he goes back to school he would have him in shape to defend himself some better.

When they arrived to the ranch Billy ran and greeted everyone and then went to his room and changed into his ranch clothes. Then he checked his gun and strapped it on. When he came back to the great room he once again greeted everyone and rough housed with his siblings. James was a little scared but Missy gave him a good tussle.


New Sister
Then it was time to meet his new little sister. She had been born a month ago and was named Caroline Riley.

He said, “Mom does it hurt when a baby is born?”

She said, “Well it didn’t hurt your dad but it was about like getting thrown and having the horse roll over on you.  That should give you some idea what it is like.”

“Are you going to have any more?”

“No this was the last one so enjoy her for she is a sweetie.”

Back in the saddle

It was noon and everyone sat down for dinner. Billy ate in a hurry and ran out to the corral and put a saddle on his horse. His horse hadn’t been ridden since he had been gone and he bucked him off on his first attempt.

Jim came out of the barn and saw what happened and said, “Go a little slower. Let him see who you are and then once he recognizes you then get on.”

Billy did as Jim said and his horse was gentle as he usually was.  Billy said, “He never did that before.”

Jim answered, “Well he has been penned up for some time and is feeling a bit frisky so go slow. You don’t want to wind break him.”

Billy said, “Thanks Jim I will be careful with him for he is my buddy.”

Jim smiled at that and thought that he is that for Billy had been riding him since he was four.

Billy lit out for the valley where they did all their practice shooting. He let his horse graze and went to where he practiced using his gun. He went over the rules his dad taught him and then began to draw his gun without shooting. He would cock it and then release the hammer slowly as he holstered his gun. He did everything just like his dad taught him. After he was sure he had everything down so he didn’t have to think about it he started shooting.

As he was letting his gun to cool down he heard a squeaky voice from the woods behind him. It turned out to be a young girl about Billy’s age, she lit into him saying, “What’s the matter with you shooting in all directions and not caring if you killed someone.”

Billy didn’t know what to say, for no one ever came here when someone was practicing.

She lit into him again and bawled him out good.

He said, “What are you doing trespassing on my ranch I should have the sheriff arrest you and put you in jail.”

She said, “Your ranch?”

He said, ‘Yes and you don’t belong here.”

She said, ‘My grandfather died and left the Bartlett spread to my mother and father and I’m new here. In fact I think I’m lost. Some of your shots came close to me before you quit shooting.”

At school Billy had met some girls when there was a dance. The girls from the girl’s school would be brought over and they had to dance with them. If one of the instructors saw that you weren’t on the floor he made you regret it. He had got used to holding a girl while dancing but wasn’t comfortable doing it.

The girls always had something to say that wasn’t very complementary about you when she joined the other girls.

Of course the older boys said some things that the girls wouldn’t want to hear about themselves also.

This was different from that. Here he was out in the woods with a girl and he didn’t know how to handle himself.  He said, “C’mon, I’ll take you home if you tell me your name.”

She said, “Mamie, will I be safe with you? You aren’t going to start shooting again are you?”

He said, “No the practice is over for now.”

The hour of the gun

They went at a slow lope and got to her house. One of their hands took her horse and tended to him while another came out and said, “Well what do we have here. It looks like a gunman. He is packing a gun on his hip, and has it tied down like a gunman does.”

The man asked, “Do you think you can outdraw me.”

Billy didn’t say anything. He just stared at the man.

The guy said, “C’mon let me see you draw you gun, show me how fast you are.”

Billy said, “I don’t draw unless I intend to shoot something.”

The man continued saying, “Let’s draw and see who is the fastest.”

Billy said, “I told you, I don’t draw unless I intend to shoot something.”

Her folks came out and wanted to know where she had been.

She just gaily said; “Oh, I have been riding with Billy.”

Her dad asked the ranch hand what he was doing and he said I was just getting acquainted with this young gunslinger here.  He said he was faster on the draw than I am.

Mamie spoke up and said, “Billy said no such thing you have just been bothering us.”

The hand said, “I was just curious as to why a gunslinger like him would pack such a small caliber gun.”  He continued, “I still think he should show us his fast draw.

See that Twig??
Billy said, “Alright there is a twig sticking out on the tree down by the barn, can you see it?”

The man said, “Yes.”

Billy said, “Let’s draw and see who can hit that twig first.”

He went on saying, “You start to draw first, and we will see who is the fastest and the best shot.”

The guy said, “Okay,” and at the same time he reached for his gun.

Before the guy cleared leather there was the sound of a shot that went off and the twig fell to the ground.  Billy let off two more shots and two more pieces of the branch hit the ground.

Billy said, “I have three more shells in my gun. That would be one for the brain and one for each eye, if you want to try it.”

The guy let his gun slip back down in his holster and headed for the barn. When he got to the barn the other hand said, “Do you know who that kid belongs to?”

He said, “No I don’t know he is.”

“He said that is Riley’s boy and I wouldn’t want to be you when he finds out you have been harassing his boy.  If I was you before sundown I would be on a train heading East.”

He said, “I didn’t mean any harm to the boy surely he won’t get mad about that.”

He said, “Riley don’t take to fooling when I comes to his family.”

After thinking about what the ranch hand said he went to Mr. Bartlett and asked for his wages.

Bartlett said, “Here is your money and if I was you I would get out of the country before Riley heard about what you have done.”

He took his money and asked if he could borrow a horse to ride to town and Bartlett said no for you might just keep on going with it. The man lit out on foot for town.

Billy said, “Best we don’t tell Riley for he surely won’t take kindly to this. There is no need to get him upset over something that has been resolved.  I better get back to the ranch before they send someone out looking for me.

Bartlett said, “I want you to come back right soon and visit some. Maybe you and Mamie could go riding for I think she would be safe with you.”

Bartlett said to his wife, “That boy is really mature for his age. He faced down a man over twice his age and didn’t bat an eye. His folks have done a marvelous job of raising him so far and I suspect sending him to military school has taught him to discipline himself. I don’t know who taught him to shoot like that but they understood guns and how to use them. I hope we see him again.”

Rehashing the events

Billy went over the events of this last year in his mind and thought he probably did as his father would have wanted him to do. He had grown used to guys picking on him at school.

His dad and Jim had taught him not to lose his cool in moments of stress.

As he thought about their mean treatment of him and had the circumstances been different would I have shot them, and he concluded yes I would have if it hadn’t been for Jim teaching me to control my temper.

Jim had taught me to stare an adversary in the eye and that it has the power to unnerve the opponent many times without doing anything. It was good seeing the ranch house come into view for he was hungry.

He heard Chen giving orders to Mai, and Mai coming back at him. He couldn’t tell what they were saying for they were speaking Chinese but she was louder than he was so I guess she had won the discussion.

His dad wanted to know how the afternoon went and Billy said, “It was good and I met the new neighbors and they invited me to come back.”

“I hear they have a daughter about your age did you meet her?”

“Yes I met the whole family.”

“What did you think about her?”

“Well she is a little mouthy but can ride pretty good for a girl although she got lost and shouldn’t go riding alone until she gets to know this country.”

“Maybe you should you go riding with her and show her the layout of the land?”

“I guess…I might do that.”
To be Continued
 
 

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