2’ND & 3’RD Excerpts from “WESTERN LEGEND”
Told in “false document,” the story details a chance encounter among a motley group of aging historical legends in the Autumn of 1899, their afternoon spent entertaining adventurous children with tales of the Wilder days of the West — and an astonishing sequence of events that play out over the next 24 hrs.
The story so far: a young Irish immigrant has been terrorized by a full company of horse rustlers. Selected text (one of the longer passages I will be posting here) is taken from the end of the Second Chapter, and the beginning of the Third.
TWO – SUNDAY MORNING, MAIN STREET, U.S.A.
Armstrong digested the information, and his eyes narrowed, “Where’s town Marshall, again?”
“Over in Madisonville. I sent word. Says he won’t be back for a few days; he’s got his hands full with that dispute they’re having over there. An’ my Under-Sheriff run off to Spain; fight that damn war; still hasn’t come back yet. Everybody’s gone ‘cept my one Deputy. Got him out posting notice now.”
Armstrong referenced the street, “What about your neighbors? Should’a been a posse on your porch, by this time?”
The Sheriff shook his head in disagreement, “Not a veteran among ‘em. Just not that kind of town this season. I mean…they’re hard people, but…” he trailed off, still shaking his head.
“You say these men chased this farmer — what’s his name again?”
“Young Irish fella; name’o’Henderson, Tommy Henderson. Yea, John they chased the hell outta him. My Deputy went out there and did some investigating. He found horse and foot tracks running in a two-mile circle — just…” the Sheriff circled his index finger in the air over and over.
“Damn.” Armstrong whispered.
“Tracks led back to barb-wire at Tommy’s property-line cut wide open. That boy caught them men takin’ his horses, is what happened.”
Armstrong took a deep breath, “Rustlers — shit! Just exactly what I was afraid of.”
The Sheriff was looking at him now with keen interest.
“Here back, couple months ago,” Armstrong elaborated, “Horse thieves outside Abilene killed some children and elderly folk. Run ‘em down like animals, right outside town. Local Doc said they ran ‘em to death.”
The Sheriff was left speechless; the cigar drifting weightless in his mouth. “Hadn’t heard about that…I had not heard about that…”
Both men understood the possible nature of this unexpected issue.
“Good thing I cabled when I did,” Armstrong muttered quietly.
“I wanna thank you for your help,” The Sheriff nodded, “You don’t have to stick around, ‘ya know. I’m aware you’re just passing through and eager to get back to your ranch.”
“Naaahhhh…” Armstrong intercepted him with a broad smile, “I’m not really in any big damn hurry to get anywhere. And Willacy County ain’t goin’ nowhere. I can hang around for a day or two more, just to see how the situation progresses. Least I can do for an old friend.”
“I appreciate that John, I really do.” The Sheriff nodded.
Just then, two more middle-aged, church-going women passed, eyeing the pistol openly displayed at Armstrong’s waist.
“We’ll pray for you next week, Mr.” One said.
“And you as well, Sheriff,” Commented the other.
The Sheriff quickly returned his attention to Armstrong, and laughed, “And they appreciate it, too — they just don’t know it yet.”
Armstrong laughed, “Don’t you worry, Alton. We’ll rectify your situation. Hell, you got those church-women prayin’ for ‘ya. Who knows, maybe somethin’ miraculous’ll happen.”
“Right,” the Sheriff snorted.
The former Texas Ranger’s laugh deepened, then echoed across the street.
THREE – ENTER, LEGEND
Just outside of town, a tranquility of forest life was being completely violated. Black smoke puffed gray then white in advancing plumbs, and dispersed high among the tops of towering trees. Everything shuddered just a little, with a brute force approaching on time and on schedule. Bushes and branches rustled then wavered, birds took flight, squirrels scampered around bark — all mere seconds before the Houston East and West Railway emerged from the trees with a leviathan roar.
In the cab, the crew gained sight of a marker, blew the whistle, and braked the chugging passenger locomotive easy. Straight away, the full length curved track running parallel with a heavily traveled horse trail. And there…is where he was first spotted. A lone rider galloped astride a speckled grey and white appaloosa; a thick contrail swirling in his wake.
The 39-year-old man, sometimes alias Tom or James Hicks, or even James Curtis, was covered head to toe in a fine silt of red and khaki dirt, and outfitted tightly in wool-lined deerskin coat, enlisted man’s foot trousers, boots, cotton twill shirt, and wool/felt campaign hat; ribbon and insignia removed. With his head bowed, the rider was completely unfettered by the presence of the train. In fact, he was asleep at the reins and snoring almost loud enough to be heard over the locomotive’s heavy chugging, screeching brakes, and even its ear-piercing whistle. One hand was a tightly clenched fist; the reins wrapped within and around it. The other rested lightly upon the stalk of an 1897 .30 caliber Winchester Center Fire top ejecting receiver rifle, with a button magazine. The rifle, in sheath, was slung firm through the saddle, in such a way, and at such an angle, as to give its user full access to the weapon at will. And the rifle had a companion, too; unseen and well hidden upon his horse. That was his older friend. That was the rifle he kept out of sight; the one that made his real name, his business name — infamous.