10th Excerpt: “WESTERN LEGEND” – A Tom Horn / Stevie Ray Vaughan Combo
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At this juncture of the story, Tom Horn — a legendary assassin of cattle-thieves — has found himself ambushed by several Rustlers in a deep Ravine, at night and during a thunderstorm. This chapter of the book was inspired by a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan, entitled “Texas Flood.” A YouTube link has been provided below.
The following passage has been taken mid-chapter, from …
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE – SURROUNDED
A strong wind gust blew through the ravine and lightning danced brilliant, and at longer interval. Suddenly, everyone was moving … except Tom. In a matter of seconds, he made a tactical evaluation of his surroundings, during which he documented the following: four rustlers above, shuffling back and forth on each rim of the ravine — two more than he initially perceived — all with rifles, and all preparing to fire. He now knew that made four above, one behind, and one ahead — no, wait — he also spotted another man rappelling down one wall of the ravine, using various draping tree roots. So, they’re now seven.
That suited Tom just fine.
The seventh man hit the muddy bottom in a forward roll, and Tom lost sight of him. Shifting, Tom’s view caught the second of the initial two men blur behind the embedded tree stump. He was making a mental note of that when he was distracted by the sound of the lone rustler, coming up on his six.
Just then, the four men above found a firm purchase and station at the ravine’s edge, and began firing in earnest. Their shots intermittently struck water and mud all around, but never touched more than a loose fold in Tom’s shirt or trousers. At this, Tom’s boots came out of the stirrups, his free hand pulled a pistol from his person, and he slid sideways underneath his horse firing his rifle ahead with his strong arm and his pistol behind with his weaker.
Horn had purposely allowed the lone man behind to get closer. As his boots softly touched ground, he shot that man in the leg, with ease. The man screamed and Horn felt the vibration of first the rustler’s pistol and then his entire body, drop to the muddy bottom.
The lightning stopped. The cattle detective had trained his vision to acclimate quickly. He watched the moving shadows, and listened. His rifle-shot down the ravine ahead had been fired at the seventh man. His Winchester had blown the lower half of the man’s left leg clean away at the knee. After that, the rustler never made a sound. He just sort of tipped over and permanently passed out.
Realizing his horse was thoroughly spooked, Tom decided the odds were even enough to make a literal stand. He crawled out, petted the animal’s belly, shooed it away.
The horse ran out of the fight, but remained within sight of its master, who stood tall.
Lightning spider-webbed the sky directly overhead and overlapping rifleshots arrived with rolling thunder. In response, and in short order, Tom fired his rifle twice at each rim of the ravine, and the sound of two of the men, both in distress, was instantly followed by the sound of two bodies falling to the ravine bottom.
“Dispatched,” Tom said, simply.