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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Fourth Man - Chapter 8

Horse Thieves
An unexpected happening

I decided to clean and oil my two guns. My holsters were getting a little dry and needed a bit of oil to keep them pliable.  I broke them down and replaced the trigger springs then oiled and put them back together.

I worked on the action until it was fluid and just the way I wanted them. I tried to draw and found I had lost a split second in clearing my leather. It had been a year since I had done any practicing so I loaded up with ammo and headed up to my favorite spot for shooting and resting along the river.

I practiced this for a week and I was faster on the draw than ever.  
On the last day as I was wiping my guns down I was hoping I would never have to use them again. Sometime you just don’t have a choice but I was hoping that would never be the case.

I was on my way home when off in the distance I saw some horses running at a full gallop.  As they got closer I realized some men were stealing some of my Mustangs.  
As I counted they were four thieves and a half dozen of my horses. I realized they were heading for a pass and once in there my old favorite horse couldn’t keep up with those Mustangs.

I used a short cut and let the mustangs’ run through, but cut the riders off. Closing in on them was Jim and Jones from behind and they were coming fast. I told the men to stand fast or die.

The leader said he wasn’t going to jail and started to draw his gun. He was dead a second later.

The other three raised their hands as Jim and Jones arrived. As I got closer I saw the other three were just young boys.  I told the boys to get off my mustangs they had stolen and stand against a big rock. They were on my cross bred mustangs and that was the reason they were able to cover so much ground in a short period of time.

I asked them why they were stealing my horses and they said their pa made them do it.

Jim talked to them for a long time and they convinced him the man that I shot had forced them to come along with him. Jones had caught up with the mustangs and herded them back to us and then asked do you want me to hang the horse thieves here and now?

I said, “No take them back to the ranch, feed them, and have one of the hands haul the father and them back to their spread. They can bury him there.

I told the boys, “Do this again and you are dead.”

Sometimes a second chance works… sometimes not

Six months later the oldest of the four boys came to the ranch riding an old horse and asked me for a job.

My first instincts were to send him along his way but I didn’t. He wasn’t a very good hand with cattle but I hoped he would improve.
Jim put up with him for six months but finally came to me and said, “He isn’t any better than when he first got here. We need to send him on his way.”

The boy was continually drawing his gun and pretending to shoot it. I could see he wasn’t ever going to be smooth and fluid on his draw.  The time came when Jim said he is too much of a distraction and I have to let him go.
On Friday night Jim paid him off and the boy became quite angry. He threatened everybody in ear shot.  He rode off on the old horse he came on and I thought that would be the last we heard from him.

Dealing with the unpleasant

I went for a ride to my favorite spot and sat down just thinking about some things Jim had brought to my attention when that fool boy came from nowhere and challenged me.
He said he was going to get even with me for shooting his dad. He drew his gun and pointed it at me and instinctively I drew and shot him. It was something I did without thinking, a natural reflex.

In a gun fight if you have to think you are dead. I went over and tried to stop the bleeding but it couldn’t be done.  He asked, “Am I dying, did I shoot you?”
I said, ‘Yes you got me good,” as he expired.
I rode to a shack not far away and got a blanket and a shovel. I buried him but never marked the grave.

When I arrived home Sarah asked if I had a good rest and I just said, “I have had better.”
I had to turn his old horse loose on the high pasture so he could finish out his days on good pasture. I put his bridle and a sack the boy rode on in the grave with him.
It took a little longer for me to put this behind me for it was such a waste and I hope the other boys will be able to get on with their lives without vengeance on their mind for settling of scores will only lead to their death.

To be Continued

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