The Saga of Miles Forrest

Doc said I must have thumped the prisoner mighty hard, or just happened to hit the right place for he was out for two days.  Doc checked him out and said that his skull wasn’t cracked so with the help of a couple of men we struggled through the snow to put him in the jail.  Mateo was working primarily from the office so he said he would care for him until he came to and Charlie was able to question him.
    I was ordered, by Molly, and it was cordially accepted by Mateo that I was to bring him his meals while he was in the office and the snow was heavy on the ground.  Mateo was still using a crutch to get around, though in the office he might hobble from the stove for coffee or to throw some wood in to keep the place warm.
    Charlie’s arm was healing since Doc did that little surgery on it.  Doc told Charlie he was fortunate that he came in when he did.  Another day or so and he most likely would have had to cut the arm off.  But once he had it cleaned good, cut out all the infection, and actually pulled out a small piece of cloth, it began to heal.     
    When the fellow came to, he told us that his name was Sam Smith.  Now, ain’t that a good one.  Sure are a lot of Smiths running around in the West.  I happened to be in the office with Mateo and Charlie when the prisoner, Mr. Sam Smith woke up from the little nap I had induced.
    “Did you shoot Sheriff Gold for no reason?” I asked sternly.
    Smith put his hand to the top of his head where I thumped him, the slowly replied.  “Who said I shot him?”
    “When you saw Sheriff Gold in town you were surprised, and went to Doc’s office to finish the job,” I snapped at him.
    He slowly lifted his head to look at me.  Then he turned his head slightly to see Mateo and Charlie’s face he gave a little smile before answering.  “I’m sorry the Sheriff’s arm took a bullet, but it wasn’t me.  No witnesses to say it was.”
    I was starting to get a little agitated.  “I do have two witnesses that will testify that you went into Doc’s office to shoot Sheriff Gold!”  I paused a moment to pull and twist at my moustache and to let what I said sink into his thick skull.  It must be thick if that Greener I thumped him with didn’t crack it.  “Listen, Smith, that will get you at least twenty years at Canon City.  Since the Sheriff had been shot, I figured that the Judge will not be one bit lenient.”
    Smith was working his tongue around inside his mouth, I reckon that meant he was thinking.  Maybe I rattled his skull enough for him to get some sense.
    “There’s a bounty out on Gold’s head,” he stammered.
    “Bounty!” Charlie exclaimed.  “Who?”
    Smith took a deep sigh.  Now he was the one who was agitated.  I could see that he was nervous so I piped up.  “You’re as safe here as anywhere.  Marshal Ramirez is staying in the jail.”
    “Chalk Willard, owner of the Gilded Cage and a couple of other places, put it out.  He thinks the Sheriff is harassing him.”
    “How much?” I questioned.
    Smith felt his head again.  “I need to lie down, my head’s hurting.”
    “How much?” I questioned again, with more force in my voice.
    “Two hundred dollars,” he said as he lay   back and moaned.
    We all looked at each other as we left the cell area.  Charlie and Mateo each went to a desk; I put on a coat ready to walk out.  “I need some fresh air.”
    The snow had stopped falling but it was still piled up, almost two feet.  The temperature hadn’t reached twenty degrees so it was not melting, however, the store owners had their walks cleared and there was enough traffic on the main streets to pack it down.  
    As I stepped off the boardwalk into the snowy street I looked to see Rev. Chapman coming my direction.  “Howdy, Parson.  Walk with me and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”
    He was all bundled up, a muffler wrapped around his face so I couldn’t see if he smiled or not, but he nodded and we headed on down toward the diner.  We entered and headed straight for the table where I normally sit.  Doc and Edith, his wife, were sitting there along with Molly and Marta.  My chair was vacant so I naturally went to it.
    “I told the preacher here, that I’d buy him a cup of coffee.”  When I said that there was laughter from the four of them.  
    “Miles, when was the last time you bought a cup of coffee in this place?” inquired Doc.
    I took off my heavy sheep-skin coat and fumbled in my pocket finding a quarter and slapping it on the table.  “Right now, and I’ll pay for the rest of you as well.”
    “Miles,” spoke up Edith, “that still leaves you a nickel short.”  That brought the laughter again.
    Friends, it’s always nice to sit around a table with friends.  Too often we forget to thank the Lord for the good friends that we have.  I got cups for the preacher and myself, filled them, then refilled the others.  
    There came a sound from Molly of clearing her throat, then she asked, “Miles, have you told Rev. Chapman about giving Mateo’s pie to Solly Vendor?”  That brought another round of laughter.
    “Solly Vendor?” Rev. Chapman, questioned.  “The owner of the tobacco store?”
    “Don’t worry there none, Preacher.  Miles gave up the chaw several years back,” laughed Doc Jones which again brought the guffaws from the rest of the table.
    I glared at them, “My, such good friends…”
    Then stared at the door when John Newsome walked in.  Now what in the world could he want?  I was soon to find out…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Charlie left to see Doc Jones.  I watched the rough-looking character for a few seconds then thought I ought to make my acquaintance.
    “Miles!  Are you leaving?” came the voice from the edge of the kitchen.  I turned to see Molly standing there with a pie in her hand.  “Do you think you could get this to Luciana and the boys without falling and dropping it along the way?”
    I met her halfway where she handed me the pie.  “Does Mateo get a piece or is it just for the boys and his wife?”
    She gave me that look, then answered, “Tell Luciana that he can have a piece if he’s helping around the house,” she paused then inquired, “Why don’t you leave that old shotgun here?”
    I glanced at the shotgun, then at the pie.  “I think I can manage both.”
    Hesitating at the table of the man, I decided not to stop and talk, but headed on outside.  It was still snowing, but not nearly as bad.  With that I could feel the temperature dropping.  Trudging through the snow I had several thoughts going through my mind.  Could that man be Upton Shaw?  I didn’t get a close enough look to rightly tell.  Maybe it was the man who had shot Charlie.  Most likely it was neither, but the mind can start to work on a body.
    It then shifted to the Blackstones.  Jessie was working with Darnelle at the store.  And that thought made me think of Wilson Foster.  He wasn’t a bad guy, in fact, he was the kind of man a town needed on the city council.  Maybe what led to his stroke is what was causing all his animosity.  I wondered about Keim and how he was doing.
    In all my wondering, I wasn’t paying real good attention to my footing.  The next thing I knew I was in the snow; the Greener was in my hand, but what happened to the pie?  Looking slightly in front of me I saw an indentation in the snow.  Reaching down I picked up the pie.  Half of it was still on the plate so I picked up the pieces and began to fit them back on the plate.  Fortunately it was cold enough that the pie was partially frozen.
    Quickly I looked back toward the diner.  Thank goodness Molly wasn’t standing out front, but I did see the rough-looking newcomer exit the diner.  He glanced around some then started across the street.  Was he going to Doc’s office?
    I crossed the street, then set the pie on the window ledge at Solly’s place.  I wiped the snow from the shotgun, but I didn’t have time to check the barrel.  There was a notion inside of me to go check on Doc so I headed that direction.  One thing about the snow, I had to move slowly and it was quiet.  As I came to the end of the block, I peered first over toward the diner, then peeked around the corner where Doc’s office was.
    The man was standing out front, hunched inside his coat, smoking a cigarette.  He looked around several times, then flicked the finished smoke into the snow.  Pulling his gun, he entered the office.  I had to hurry.
    “Sit yourself down,” hollered Doc from the back room.  “I’m in the process of cleaning out a wound.”  
    The man walked on into where Doc was working on Charlie’s arm.  “You can stop now, Doc.  He won’t be needing it.”
    I entered and heard him him cock his pistol.  There was only a second’s time in which I could react.  “Goodbye, Sheriff Gold.”
    His few words before firing gave me time to swing the Greener down on top of his head.  When I cracked him on the skull, he dropped immediately but not before he fired his gun.  The bullet struck the table where Charlie was sitting lodging in it.  Charlie had jumped up, and now there was blood coming from his arm.  
    Doc had been working on cutting out the infected parts, and when Charlie jumped, the scalpel slid across his arm opening it up.  “Sit down and be still!” yelled Doc.  Then he looked in my direction.  “Now see what you’ve made me do!  Get out, and drag that bum with you!”
    “Uh, I hit him pretty hard, Doc.  You might want to check him.”
    Doc wiped his face and down his chin.  “Well, just let him lay there until I’m through with Charlie.  I’ve had to do some cutting on him.”
    Before long Edith had joined us, and from across the street in ran Molly.  She looked at the man on the floor, then up at me.  “Miles, have you been to Luciana’s?  Where’s the pie?”
    There was no “are you all right?” “what happened?” none of that, only “where is the pie?”
    “Headin’ there now!” I exclaimed then rushed out, not explaining.  I’d let Doc do that.
    Upon arriving at Solly’s place, I found the pie gone.  Was it a bum?  I’d check with Solly first since his place of business was now open.
    “Well, if it isn’t the Marshal.  Come in Miles, join me in a piece of pie that some dear soul left on my window ledge.”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

We made it back late on Christmas Eve.  The weather was terrible, the snow way falling heavily, and if the wind had picked up we most likely would have found ourselves in a blizzard.  I dropped Charlie off at Doc Jones’ telling him that I’d put his horse up.  
    There had been little traffic in the streets because of the heavy snow, most folks were holed up at home in front of a cozy fire.  Charlie’s horse had wandered to the livery while we were in Rico, but the trip had worn him out.  Even Hawk was mostly worn out.  No lights were visible at the diner so I went to the livery.
    Ol’ Mose Vexler was some put out with me getting him out of his little room at the barn.  It wasn’t all that cold, upper twenties, most likely, but there was snow piled up and it took the two of us to push open the door.  If the snow kept falling it would be a job to shovel it away.
    After giving the horse over to Mose, I headed Hawk up to the cabin.  I put him in his stall, rubbed him down, making sure he was dry, and threw some grain into his trough.  I looked in for a few minutes to check on Star and Two-Bits.  They seemed to be all right and had some hay in the trough.  Moving it to the side, I added some grain; that should make them happy.
    Glancing up at the sky all I got was a face full of snow.  This was turning into quite the storm.  It was hard to trudge to the cabin, but I knew that Molly would have it warm and the coffee on waiting for me.  I was not disappointed.
    Molly was up before me the next morning.  She started a fire, and put on the coffee–she was a good woman!  “Where are you goin’?” I asked stumbling to put on my pants.
    “The diner; it’s Christmas.”
    She and Marta always opened the diner on Christmas to feed any poor soul who didn’t have a place to stay.  “No one will be out in this weather!” I exclaimed as I now tried to pull on my boots.
    She gave me a look; she didn’t have to say anything.  The diner would be open and that was that.  I was mostly dressed by now, “Let me grab a cup of coffee and I’ll go with you.”  I quickly gulped the coffee she had poured in the tin cup on the table.  “Let’s go.”
    Snow had piled up around the door, but I was able to push it so we could get out.  There to face us was at least two feet of snow and it was still coming down.  Now, however, there was a slight breeze which would result in drifting.  The snow came up past my knees and I really struggled the four blocks down to the diner.  The things I do.
    It was cold inside.  I went straight to the stove in the kitchen to get it fired up, then on into the eating area to light the stove that would serve to warm the customers, if there were any today.  Molly was back putting coffee on, and fixing the pot for the stove in the dining area.  
    I went back to fix some breakfast for us as she began making some stew.  It wouldn’t be much today, and I wondered if anyone would even show up.  Just as I threw some bacon in the skillet there was someone banging on the door.  The diner didn’t open for another hour.
    “Could you get that, Miles?”
    Leaving the bacon to sizzle, I went to the door.  Outside was Marta and Charlie.  “Charlie!  What in the world are you doin’ out of bed?” I said quite harshly.
    Marta sort of huffed as she went by me, saying something that sounded like, “Men!”
    Charlie looked pale and haggard.  He tried to give me a smile, but it was weak and forced.  “Any coffee?” he muttered.  We went over to my regular table, I poured each of us a cup of coffee while he took his seat.
    I had forgotten the bacon so I rushed toward the kitchen.  Marta was bringing out two plates of bacon with three eggs on each.  “Good thing we brought most of the eggs in,” she said, “The ones on the back porch are frozen.”
    It was easy to see that Charlie was weak and in pain.  He took his time feeding himself and I finally told him, “You should be in bed.”  To which I received a nod.
    “Need to see Doc Jones, and didn’t want to bother him early.  Figured I’d walk with Marta,” came his reply, then he added.  “I think I’ve got some infection.”
    The morning moved along slowly.  There were no customers until about ten o’clock, then some bedraggled out-of-work miners began to show up.  Marta and Molly filled plates with elk stew for them and gave them coffee wishing them a Merry Christmas.  It must have been toward noon when I noticed a man creep in.  He was bearded, with hair down on his shoulders, his hat pulled down tight.  He was wearing a sheep-skin coat and what got my attention was that he walked with a limp, sort of drug his foot.
    There was a quick glance from him before he sat down, his back to me.  It was then that I saw he wasn’t a miner for his pistol stuck out from underneath his coat, ready for use…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

I turned off at Mancos to head on up toward Telluride.  There was snow all around, but the main roads were well traveled with supply wagons and stagecoach.  It wasn’t until I headed out of Dolores that the road had only been traveled by horse or mule.  
    There was no real concern in my mind about Charlie and why he was delayed.  Why, there were a number of reasons a sheriff could be delayed, including this winter weather.  Charlie knew how to take care of himself, but that doesn’t mean accidents can’t or don’t happen.
    I decided to stay the second night in Rico instead of sleeping out in the cold.  It was my plan to get up early and get on over Lizard Head Pass.  It was about ten miles to the summit.  I had talked to some of the locals and they said a person could make it over, but it was not open for wagon traffic yet, another couple of days if the storms held off.
    The clouds began to creep in and I didn’t like the look of it.  I surely didn’t want to get caught up on the Pass when the storm hit.  Just as that thought came to my mind, the snow began to fall.  Large, fluffy flakes began falling slowly at first, but before long it was hard to see up to the next bend.  About what I figured was two-thirds of the way I saw a man staggering in my direction.  He took a couple of steps, fell, then picked himself up and leaned against a boulder next to the edge of the road.
    Upon seeing him, I gave Hawk a nudge with the heel of my boot to hurry him just a bit faster.  The snow was coming down harder now and soon would cover the trail broken by previous riders.  As I approached I could see the man was hurt, blood was on the shoulder of his coat.
    “Miles!  Miles, it that you?” exclaimed the man.  “Thank the Lord, Miles!” he began to stumble in my direction.  It was Charlie.
    Hawk must have sensed the urgency for he picked up his gait.  In seconds I was next to Charlie and I quickly dismounted.
    “Charlie!  What in the world happened?” I asked looking at his arm.
    “Ambushed,” he murmured, “about a mile on up the trail.”
    “Can you ride?”
    He nodded.  I went to the pack mule, throwing off some items that were not essential; took some to pack on Hawk, then Charlie mounted.  “Are you sure?”
    There was no answer, he just gave the mule a kick and turned him back down the trail toward Rico.  I looked up and saw nothing but snow coming down.  We needed to hurry.
    A couple hours later, Charlie was barely hanging on, but we came into the camp of Rico.  He was almost unconscious as I helped him off the mule where he then fell into my arms.  I have carried, half drug him into the small hotel.  There was a fireplace blazing so I didn’t bother taking him to a room, but laid him on the floor in front of the fire.
    “Hey there,” came the voice of the clerk.  “You can’t leave him there!”
    I glared at him.  “Get his coat off, heat some water.  I’m goin’ to care for the animals, and will be back.”  I rushed on out, mounted Hawk, grabbed the reins from the mule and took off toward the livery.  I could barely make out the outline of the building and it was all closed up.  Dismounting I began to bang on the door.  After several minutes the door opened and not waiting for an invitation I took Hawk and the mule inside.
    “Look after the mule while I unsaddle my horse.  I’d be obliged if you’d rub him dry and get him some oats, I’ve got a wounded man to look after back at the hotel.”
    The warmth of the fire must have helped revive Charlie some for his eyes were open by the time I got back.  The clerk had his coat off as well as his shirt.  He was washing the wound when I approached him.
    “He’s fortunate.  Another hour out there and he would have been done in,” the clerk informed me.  “We don’t have a doctor here in Rico, but I’ve cleaned the wound.  Here, lift him a little so I can get a bandage on him.  I had to cut him some as the bullet was just protruding from the skin.”
    From what I figured, the heavy coat must have slowed the bullet from going all the way through.  It was better than for me or the clerk having to dig around in his shoulder for it.
    We got him patched up; he still hadn’t said anything, but his eyes were open and he was breathing normally.  “Say, friend,” I addressed the clerk, “do yuh have any coffee?”
    “I’ll get some directly,” he replied, “just help me make him as comfortable as possible.”  He stood going over to a small stove by the counter.
    Soon his was back with a cup of hot coffee.  I lifted it to my lips.  “Hey!  I thought that was for me!” came the raspy voice of Charlie.  I finally had his attention.
    “I needed to check it out first.  Make sure it was too hot,” I responded lowering the cup to his lips.  He reached with his right hand, taking the cup from me.
    He took several small sips, for it was hot.  Handing me the cup, he asked, “What in the world are you doing up here?”
    “Marta was gettin’ worried, so I told her I’d go look for you.”
    “Thank the good Lord, and Marta, that you showed up when you did.”
    I gave the cup to the clerk, nodding at him.  He took the clue then headed back to refill the cup.  “Any idea who shot you, Charlie?” I questioned.
    Groaning a little, he moved to relieve the pressure on his shoulder.  “I could guess, but that’s all it would be.  I had some trouble with a group while in Telluride.  Shot one, put another man in jail…they had some friends,” he uttered, then licked his lips when the clerk returned with the freshly filled up.  “What day is it?”
    “Tuesday.”
    He took a deep swallow this time.  “If we leave tomorrow morning we can make it back by Christmas Eve.”
    “Yur crazy!  We can’t travel in this storm.”
    He gave a little smile.  “It’ll stop sometime tonight.  Plus I promised Marta I’d be back before Christmas…”