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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Fourth Man - Chapter 16



James Wanted to Learn to Shoot
 

Young James grows up a bit

Sometimes we are so close to people we fail to recognize the changes there are in them and that was so with little brother James. He was a quiet little guy that never caused any trouble so much so we wondered if he was normal.

He was alone much and in the past he showed no interest in ranching but now he was becoming a young cowboy on his own. He would watch the other cowboys and then try to imitate what they were doing.

I could have saved him some time but sometimes it is best to let people do things their way. When you see them struggle it is hard to stand aside but sooner or later they find their way through the problem they are having.

Being the older brother he would come to me and ask for help after he had spent a lot of time without success.

In this case he wanted to learn to shoot like the rest of the family. This was a complete turnaround for him for up to now he showed very little interest in such things.

Normally I would turn something like this over to Jim or Les, but he was insistent that I help him out. I found my old holster and gun Les had given me when I was about the age of James and the small caliber rifle I still had.

I fitted the holster to his waist and then went into detail about the caring for a revolver. A great deal of emphasis went on controlling the gun and not shooting something you didn’t intend to.

Learning to draw without shooting yourself was something else we spent a lot of time on. He finally got the hang of pulling the hammer back as you drew the gun and the split second decision as to whether to fire the gun or not.

I wouldn’t let him have any ammunition until I felt he had full control of his weapon. The main guys on the ranch made it the practice of once every two weeks or so to go out and do some shooting.

This time James told me he wanted to be included in the gang. I said okay but he would have to stay close to me and listen to everything I said. I didn’t want him to get shot or to shoot anyone.

Shooting is one thing but when you are practicing your fast draw it changes your control of your weapon a lot.

I found my old scabbard for my rifle and attached it to his saddle and he proudly put his rifle in it. All the guys were teasing James about him trying to be a bad dude with a gun.

He didn’t take to all that teasing very well and said he would show them when we got to the range. I kept James near me at the shooting range and had to slow him down when drawing.

I said you are trying to draw faster than you can control your gun. Little by little he began to draw and shoot smoothly which made the guys shut up about his ability with a gun.

In him I could see myself when I was his age and just learning how to control my gun.

Les was watching and came over and said I had done a good job with teaching him. They went off together and I could see he was really proud of his off spring.

 From that time on Les and he were shooting together and after a while James could draw his small gun faster than Les.  Les told him he would have to learn all over when he moved up to a forty four because of the difference in the weight and size of the weapon.

James was already chomping at the bit to get his first full size gun but Les said he would have to wait until he was ready and told him that I would be the one to decided he was ready.

Until then he would have to be happy with the setup I had fixed him up with besides he had a lot of other things to learn to do like roping and breaking horses if he was going to be a cowboy.

I remembered how hard it was being ten and wanting to be twenty and a man with the respect of everyone.  I enjoyed the time we were spending together and kept telling him he was right on schedule so not to worry about growing up too soon.

He kept wanting to try his hand on breaking some of the horses but I told him he didn’t need any broken bones yet and to concentrate on riding the young calves and steers.

I would tell him when he was ready for one of the mustangs. Waiting was going to be most difficult because a person could be maimed for life, trying to ride something like greased lighting before you were ready.

Those lively young ponies would put me on the ground from time to time and James certainly wasn’t quite ready for them. When he would try to get me to let him break on of the mustangs I would tell him I had something more difficult to do.

I would not tell him what it was but it would calm him down.

I knew he would be able to talk Les into letting him ride so I made sure Les left him to me to care for.

A hard thing to do

Finally I told James I was going to let him try to do the hard thing I had been telling him about.  I made him take a bath and put on his best clothes and he and I and some of the other cowhands rode while the ladies took the buggy. We went to a dance that was being held at the main hall in town.

James had always stayed home before. I said he was going to have to tame one of the young ladies and do it out the dance floor.

He turned white for he hadn’t learned much about dancing as of yet. Missy had made him learn a few steps but he had a lot to learn yet. We went in the hall and the hands were teasing him about his prowess with the opposite sex.


James hid out behind me for a while until me and Mamie began to dance and then he went over to where some of the boys his age were hanging out. Several of his friends were as embarrassed as he to invite a girl to dance.
 


I finally picked out one of the pretty girls and led her over to James and told him this was Betsy and she wanted to teach him a few steps.

He looked as if he wanted to chastise me severely but took her hand and she led him over to a corner where there was no one dancing. She finally got him to follow her and he was dancing after a fashion.

The rest of the evening went well with a couple of skirmishes outside because of some guys had a few drinks and wanted to dance with the same girl. This always made the girl proud to have two guys fighting over her.

By the end of the night James was doing pretty good and having a good time. The young lady Betsy who spent time with him said he was doing the steps pretty good and if he came to the next dance she would help him some more.

I must say James was looking proud on the way home and was looking forward to the next dance next month.  Betsy went to the same school as James and before the dance he never paid any attention to her but now he was talking to her at every chance he had.

She wasn’t encouraging him too much until one of the other girls began to talk to him then she decided maybe she better warm up a bit.

Betsy walked to school for she lived near town where her folks had a very small farm but James rode his horse from the ranch each day. He finally convinced her to ride double with him and took her to her house. Her mother usually gave him something to drink before he headed home.

Some bad news

One afternoon James came home and just put his horse in the corral instead of unsaddling and brushing him down. Jim grabbed him and started to get after him for not taking care of his horse until he saw James was pretty well beaten up. After he talked to him for a couple of minutes Jim threw a saddle on one of the fastest horses we had and took off at a gallop.

Billy saw James and asked him what had happened. He didn’t want to talk about it, but Billy wouldn’t let him alone until he told the whole story.

It seems Betsy’s mother wasn’t home when they got there and James got up the nerve to try to kiss Betsy after a try or two she let him kiss her and then continue to do so.

The hired hand came in and hit James hard and then grabbed Betsy and began to try to kiss her himself. She struggled with him but he overpowered her.

James got back to his feet and began to kick and fight back with the hired hand but was getting the worst of it because of the larger size of the guy.

He slammed James down hard and then went after Betsy again.
 
This time when James got his breath back he pulled his knife out and began stabbing the guy in the groin area.

The guy started yelling and running toward town.

James was hurt but managed to get on his horse after making sure Betsy was alright and headed for home.

Billy said, “Well courting can be hard on a guy sometimes.”

To which James said, “Yeah but from now on I will wear my guns and it won’t be near as hard on me.”

Billy asked how Betsy was and James said, “I guess she is alright except for being shook up. I’m pretty sure she is okay for she kissed me before I left for home.”

He said, “Jim was pretty mad about what happened.”

Billy said, “I don’t envy the man that hurt you for he is in for the hardest time of his life.  You do know that Jim likes you even better than me or Missy and you know how fond he is of us.”

It took Jim a while to find the hired hand and when he did he was at the doctor’s office. He stormed into the office and was going to beat the man nearly to death until he saw what damage James had done with his knife.  He had sliced the man in the area where he didn’t want to be cut. The doctor was trying to sew the pieces back together but wasn’t sure how successful he was going to be.

Jim said to the doctor I guess I will stay over at Lily’s place if the sheriff needs to talk to me about this.

The next morning Jim went to Betsy’s place and talked to her folks and to get her side of the story.  She told the same story as James except she left out the part about the kissing.

Jim didn’t mention it or ask about it since her mother was standing there. He then went back to the doctor’s office and the doc said I sent him to the hospital in St. Louis for he was too cut up for me to help him. They may be able to save his life but I just don’t know… Jim said I’ll stop by the sheriff’s office and explain what happened and put an end to this event. The doctor said he would go by later and tell the sheriff his side of it also.

It was an extra day before James was able to go back to school and I talked him into leaving his gun in his saddle bag instead of wearing it into the school.

Even though he was very young I could see a lot of his father’s traits in him and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. His dad wouldn’t put up with any foolishness and it was obvious that James was going to be a lot like dad.

The kids could see that James had been in a fight and the word got out that James had defended himself and Betsy from a man.

No one wanted to mess with James from that point on and Betsy was proud of her man.

He continued to take Betsy home and would get a kiss out behind the barn before they went into the house.

They went to the monthly dances through the summer and fall and she would only dance with James. Other girls wanted to dance with James but he only had eyes for Betsy.

Billy told Mamie that he must have made a good choice when he picked out a girl for James to dance with back at the first dance. She said, “I have to agree with that for she is a lovely girl and is in love with him even at this young age.”

Billy said well we will see how it plays out for he is going to military school the next year.
 
To Be Continued


 

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