The Saga of Miles Forrest

It had been a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I had thought at first that there would not be as many people this year since the weather had been fair and the mines hadn’t released unnecessary miners, but it didn’t happen that way.  Doc Jones told me that I had forgotten to take into account that Durango had grown last year.  However, there was plenty of chili and stew to go around though Joe Dixon’s turkey went fast.  He gave the diner six and Emelda found a way to get them all roasted.
       Over a sip of coffee and left-over pie, Parson Chapman muttered, “I wish I could get some of those folk into the church.  I don’t think I knew half of the people that showed up.”
       Reverend Chapman and his wife Betty along with Doc Jones and Edith were sitting at the table with me.  Sheriff Gold was there and for Thanksgiving he let the two brawlers in his jail come and join the feast.  They agreed if they helped clean up, the fine would be paid.  The rush was over, which gave Marta time to sit and visit.  Mateo along with Luciana was there so it seemed like Thanksgiving all over again.
       “New folks coming in all the time,” Mateo replied to the preacher’s comment.  “Take a walk up and down the streets and you’ll see new businesses springing up.”
       A snort came from Charlie, “How many will stay?  We know the miners are transient.  A new strike and off they go unless they work for one of the larger mines.”
       “Why would you say that?” questioned Molly.
       “Competition.  Too much competition,” Charlie joined in the conversation.  “How many millinery shops do we need?  Jenkins is a fine saddler, do we need another one in town?  There’s not that much need for saddles to have two saddle shops.”
       “Don’t forget eateries.  Molly, do you realize that since you opened up there have been five more restaurants open?”  Mateo stated, causing me to think that I’d not eaten in any of the others.
       “And vice!  Don’t forget that!” exclaimed Betty in disgust.
       There was a slight chuckle from those at the table.  “It’s not funny!” she exclaimed.  “Mateo, how many new saloons, dance halls and the like have opened in the last year?”
       “Not sure, but I think six new ones.  That makes fifteen in town, but only one new dance hall, and I won’t speak of the other vicios.”
       “There you go, parson,” added Doc.  “Plenty of new customers for your church.”
       Another small round of laughter went out, but Betty stood up with a scowl.  Pastor Chapman grasped her arm, and pulled her down.  “Betty, they know your feelings, and they agree with you.  Don’t be spiting them.”
       “Well, Parson, you did a good job with your preachin’,” I admonished.
       Now he seemed disgusted.  “Yeah, feed them and they’ll come, but will they listen?”
       I placed my hand on his shoulder then spoke, “Have you read the parables of Jesus?”  I knew he had, but said it anyways.  “That was one of His problems, getting people to listen.  After feeding the five thousand, they came expectin’ to be fed, and I don’t mean the spiritual food that you provide for us every Sunday.”
       “Well,” piped up Doc.  “I could use another doctor.  Especially with you gun-toting lawmen around.”
       Some more laughter and Betty was able to form a smile on her face.
       We were enjoying each other’s company when a stern-looking fellow came through the door and up to our table.  “I’m looking for Marshal Forrest.  I was told he might be in here.”  We all noticed that he had to brush snow off his coat when he entered.
       “I’m Forrest.”

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Let’s go home, Miles,” said Molly to me at supper.
       There were three other boarders sitting at the table with us, but Molly and I were the only couple.  They joined me in looking up from our gravy-laden pork chops.
       “Ma’am,” one man began.  He was a short-balding man and had always been very polite.  He worked in the assay office in town.  I knew he made good money so I wondered why he didn’t have a place of his own.  Reckon he preferred to save his money.  Life was easier this way for him.  “I trust that none of us hurried your decision.  We,” in nodded at the other two men, “have greatly enjoyed your company at the table.”
       Turning her attention to him, she replied, “You have done nothing wrong.  I just want to be on my way home.”
       “I can understand, especially after what happened to your husband this afternoon,” piped up a weak-eyed, frog-looking sort of a man who operated a carpenter shop.  
       The other man hadn’t joined in, he just started cutting his porkchop though watching with upturned eyes.  He was dressed well, and Ma Jones said that he owned a haberdashery shop.
       “Oh, do tell what happened to my husband,” she suggested looking over at me.  I gave a slight shrug of my shoulders and joined the haberdasher in eating.
       “You don’t know?  He shot, not only that, he killed three men down on Main Street.  They were ruffians; I’d seen them hanging around town.  They were the type to slug someone in an alley and take his gold.”
       “Do you know their names?” inquired Molly.
       “No, no, no one knows their names.  That’s one of the problems.  They were just ne’er-to-dos, men slumming the town.”
       I wiped my moustache off with the linen napkin then answered.  “Lard.”  They all looked at me.  “Lard, was the name of the big one.  That’s all the name I got.”
       “Everyone was saying that your husband was cornered.  He was lucky, three men, one behind him even, and he shot all three.  Yesiree, he was lucky,” said the frog-looking man.”
       “Hmpf,” snorted Molly.  “There was no luck about it if Miles shot them.  It’s called Providence, Mister Haskem.  The Lord was there to protect him.”  She paused, then added, “plus the fact that he is mighty good with a gun.  But that is another reason for us to go home.”
       Finally the third man had to have his say.  “You a gunman, then it’s good riddance to you!”
       Molly jerked her head toward the man, her eyes flinging daggers in his direction.  “Sir, my husband carries a gun to aid his profession.  A gunman–no, but a man who knows how to use one to protect those around him.”  She then got up and left the table.
       I pulled on the end of my moustache, then looked down at my plate.  At least I had finished the porkchop.  I stood then saw the piece of cake sitting there.  I looked at the three men and was not willing that anyone else should have it.  I picked it up, took a large bite from it, nodded at the men and left carrying the rest of the cake.
 
       We were about half-way home the next day.  I asked Molly if she didn’t want to shop in Denver, but she replied that she had done all her shopping already.  Fortunately we were able to make connections from Central City to Denver and now were traveling out of Pueblo.  The clickety-clack of the train over the rails didn’t hinder our talk.  I told her of the situation with the shooting, and we discussed other things.
       Putting her arm through mine, she uttered, “Thank you, for bringing me.  We don’t get much time together.”  Then she snuggled close.  I thought she might have dozed off, but she lifted her head and pulled away.  “We’ll get in on Wednesday, right?”  I nodded.  She gave me a smile, “That’ll give me time to help Marta and Emelda with the Thanksgiving dinner.  Joe Dixon said he would give us several turkeys, but I told him that only two would fit in the oven.  Mateo was taking Lucas along with him and his two boys to hunt.  The weather’s been mild, so there might not be as many out-of-work miners in town.  I look forward to doing this every year, don’t you?”  
       Before I could give an answer she snuggled back to me, and this time I knew she was asleep.

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

The men standing before me and the one aft were not gunmen.  They were town bullies; men too lazy to do an honest day’s work.  Now, if things didn’t change rapidly they would inherit a piece of earth measuring about six feet.  I also realized that I was in a bit of a predicament.  The two men in front of me I could handle easily enough, but with one man behind me I reckoned I’d take a piece of lead.  I just prayed that it wouldn’t hit anything vital.
       “You men sure you want to go through with this?  Nothing good will come of it.  If you kill me you’ll hang that’s certain for I’m a Deputy United States Marshal,” I said with emphasis hoping that it might cause them to back down.  
       The larger man snarled, “You ain’t that good, you can’t get all three of us.  An’ even if’n you was Hickok himself you’d be dead.”
       I reached up and pulled on my moustache.  “Maybeso, but for sure you and the fellow next to you are goin’ to die.  I might catch a bullet, but I reckon they’ll be buryin’ all three of you in the Potter’s Field come tomorrow.”
       The smaller man in front of me started blinking his eyes, and I smiled at him.  “Maybe not such a good idea it is?  You goin’ to let this mongrel send you to your death?”  He was scared, so I started to formulate a plan in my mind.  Not a very good plan, mind you, but it was all I had under the circumstances.
       “Either draw or get out of my way, I’m wantin’ a cup of coffee down at Cecil’s, in fact, you let me pass on by I’ll treat you all to a cup and a piece of pie.”
       I wasn’t ready for what happened next.  The scum of a man behind me hollered, “Gun ‘im, Lard!”  That started it.
       Throwing myself up against the wall I drew and fired at the man behind me, since he was the one who hollered.  I figured he might have already pulled his gun.  Our pistols rang out at the same time.  Thing is, he wasn’t expecting me to move the way I did and he missed, but I heard a grunt in front of me.  My first bullet hit him in the thigh, I fired too quick so I shot again, this time my bullet finding its way to smash his breastbone.  
       There was not a moment to lose.  I turned and went to my knees firing at the men in front of me.  I didn’t pay attention that the smaller of them was stooped over some.  I shot twice hitting the big man in the chest then fired my final shot into the smaller man who was holding his stomach, my bullet joining the one that was already there.  He had been shot by his partner.
       I wasn’t too worried that they would be able to lift their guns so I walked over to the two men.  The big man was on his back, eyes open wide.  The other man was on his knees, his eyes glassing over and when I approached he fell forward on his face.
       Kneeling down by the big man he was slowly shaking his head.  “I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.”
       “You have a name?” I asked.  “I hate to bury a man not knowing his name.”  
       There was no answer so I straightened up pulling cartridges from my gunbelt to reload the pistol.  “Hold it right there and put your hands in the air,” came a voice from behind me.
       I didn’t think these miscreants could have a friend in the crowd that was now gathering.  “Take your gun and hold it by the barrel and pass it back to me.”
       I did what was ordered, I figured it was the local law.  “Now turn slowly around and put out your hands,” he ordered.
       It didn’t seem fitting for me to do so.  I left them in the air then slowly lowered them.  Seeing his badge I said, “Easy marshal.”  I moved my right hand to open my jacket showing him my badge.
       “You still shot those men, badge or no badge!” he flared up at me.
       “Seemed like the thing to do as they were ’bout to do me in.”
       He looked down at the three dead men.  Then from the crowd several individuals walked up to him.  “We all saw it.  This man was in a real pickle,” said an older man.  “He did what he had to do.”
       Reluctantly he handed my gun back to me.  “Tell me what happened, then I want a full report.”
       “Marshal, I was headin’ to get some coffee.  Why don’t you come with me and I tell you all about it.
       An hour later and several cups of coffee downed, Marshal Bill Turner was satisfied.  “You don’t know their names?” he inquired.
       “I asked, and all I know was that the big man was called ‘Lard.’  Terrible thing to put on a tombstone.”
       Another half hour and I was back up at the boarding house where I found Molly sitting on the porch with Ma Jones.  “Your day go all right?” she asked me.  “I heard some shooting, and Ma assured me that it happened all the time.
       I pulled on my moustache and smiled…

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

As I followed the anxious man into the Teller House, I saw two men standing at the counter with the desk clerk.  “Mister Barnes, here read this!  It’s for you!  The President ain’t a-comin’!” he yelled, rushing toward the men at the counter with his hand stretched out holding the telegram.
       “What?  That can’t be!” exclaimed the man who I took to be Barnes.  “Let me see that.”
       I stood just inside the doorway to watch the grimace on the face of Barnes as he read the telegram.  His face told it all.  Wadding up the telegram he clenched his fist.  “I’ll sue.  I cleared out the hotel for the President and his entourage.  Also cleared several rooms for the newspaper reporters.”
       The man standing next to Barnes reached to pick the crumpled paper from his hand.  He straightened it out the best he could and began to read.  “Trouble at the Denver Station — STOP — torn up rail in the canyon — STOP — travel not safe, President returning to Washington.”
       I walked up to the men standing there.  “Guess they’re mighty cautious since the assassination of Garfield.  Don’t blame them none, there’re many who think that the President is following too closely to Garfield’s policies.”
       The men all turned to look at me.  “And who might you be?” questioned Barnes.
       “I’m Deputy United States Marshal, Miles Forrest.  I was sent here to be somewhat undercover for the arrival of the President,” I informed them.  None of them offered a hand.  I sort of got the feeling that the two hotel men were a mite uppity.  At least the clerk gave somewhat of a smile, and the telegraph man nodded at me.  I didn’t want to feel badly toward the man, but sometimes it’s good to see arrogance reduced.  Humility is a mighty good thing at times.  
       Barnes completely ignored me, turning to the clerk with a snarl.  “Henderson, go get my lawyer!  I want to see if there’s grounds to sue the President.”  He then took the telegram from his partner’s hand and strode off toward a room that I took to be his office followed by the man.  
       “You goin’ back to your office?” I asked the telegraph clerk.  “I need to contact Marshal Blasco.”
       He nodded then took off with me following.  The streets were crowded and there were many onlookers gathered at the entrance to the hotel.  Word would get around fast, there would be some grumbling, but then people would go on with their lives and work.  The town was prosperous, and while the President would bring business, they would soon go back to normal, not thinking any more about it.  The miners cared little anyway; it was mostly the city elite and politicians that were appalled that they could not hobnob with the President. 
       I’m sure Blasco knew of the situation. I just needed to hear what he wanted me to do now.  It was a nice trip.  Molly hadn’t been away from Durango for some time and it was good to get away with her for a spell.  I told the operator that I would check back later to see if there was a reply, then decided to go up Main to Cecil’s for a cup of coffee.  There was nothing for me to do now.
       Walking up the street I was across from the Silver Slipper and saw the three men I tangled with earlier standing around.  When I passed them they started following me, staying across the street.  I didn’t want any more trouble with them, so I tried to ignore them as I continued on my way.  As I neared Cecil’s one crossed the street now walking behind me.  I reached down under my jacket to remove the leather loop from off the hammer of my pistol.  
       I had a feeling this was going to get ugly…