Echoes From the Campfire

My mind was stewing over Conrad as I sat drinking coffee.  He was too young to be someone I knew from Texas.  Cheyenne maybe…
    “Marshal, yuh better come quick!” hollered Slim Wilkins bursting through the door of the diner.
    I had finished my supper and was drinking coffee waiting around for Molly and Marta to finish with the last of the customers and clean up.  Emelda had already gone home for the night; if anyone came in now wanting to eat they would have to eat what was left warming on the stove.  
    Holding my cup in my hand, I looked up at Slim.  “Why?  What’s goin’ on?”
    “Nick Parsons, just shot down a stranger over in the Dug Out and yur new deputy is goin’ ta git himself kilt!”
    “Simmer down, Slim.  Mateo can handle the situation,” I said, then thought to myself.  “He better.”
    Slim looked flustered when he came in now he was flabbergasted when I didn’t jump up.  “Aren’t yuh gonna go?” he said, the wrinkles in his forehead seem to fold over one another.
    “Tell you what, Slim.  As soon as I finish my coffee, I’ll head on down to the jail to meet him.”

    There had seemed to be some sort of altercation in the Dug Out Saloon.  It was at the end of the main road out of town, not one of the more popular or better dives in the town.  It seemed that this stranger had been steadily drinking and happened to bump into Parsons.  Parsons was a pretty good worker; he’d worked some in the mines, hired out to the ranches during roundups, worked the fields during harvest, but never really settled into something steady.
    There was a mean streak in him though.  If he had a few drinks in his system, it was likely to come out.  Usually nothing comes of it, but this time he had shot a man.  Mateo had been doing his rounds and was across the street when he heard the shot.  Running to the Dug Out he slowed as he came to the door, glanced inside before entering and saw Parsons with a gun in his hand and the stranger laying on the floor.
    “Mister Parsons, put the gun down,” ordered Mateo after he entered the saloon.  “You’re under arrest.”
    Parsons dropped his arm, but continued to hold the gun.  He slowly turned his head toward Mateo’s voice.
    “You!” commanded Mateo pointing out a man, “go get Doc Jones.”  Then to another sitting at a table closest to the fallen man.  “You! Check to see if he’s alive.”
    Mateo’s attention never wavered from Parsons as he gave the instruction.  “I said to put the gun down!” he said forcefully.
    Parson’s slowly moved a step toward the bar partially facing Mateo.  “No Mex deputy tells me what to do.”
    “Now you can drop your gun, or I can shoot you.  Your choice,” responded Mateo.
    “Nick, why don’t you just drop your gun and go along with the marshal,” suggested Kenner the bartender.
    “Last warning, I won’t speak again, and you can be lying next to the man you shot.”
    That brought a laugh and a grunt from Parsons.  “You’re not that fast.”
    “Try me,” answered Mateo.
    Maybe some of the whiskey was wearing off and he was sobering up.  He looked at the man laying on the floor, Blood now coming out from under him.  Through the door burst Doc Jones who immediately went to the man on the floor without a glance at Parsons or Mateo.
    Doc looked up, rubbed his whiskered face.  “Some of you guys get him over to my office, immediately!  There’s no time to lose if this man lives.”
    Parsons had uncocked his gun and now let it drop to the floor.  He looked at Mateo then nodded.

    I timed it just right for I met them coming down the boardwalk to the jail.  Nick was hanging his head.  “What’s the charge?” I asked.
    “Right now drunk and disorderly, plus attempted murder,” he paused then added, “possibly murder.”
    When Mateo said that, Nick Parsons jerked his head up, then let it slump again.  “Nick, why?”
    Mateo looked directly at me, his face solemn and firm.  “It’s the liquor.  It changes a man…”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

We were sitting at the diner, enjoying coffee and pie.  Judge Klaser had fined each of the cowboys, Bill Farmer and Dakota Norris by name, twenty dollars for fighting and disorderly conduct.  Their boss, Cecil Thompson, was fined fifty dollars for inciting the fight and resisting arrest.  The Judge also gave them a stern warning that this will not be tolerated in Durango.
     Mateo was just picking at his pie.  “I will tell Luciana that you toy with your food,” warned Marta. 
     The diner was empty, it being around 10:30, however, the lunch group would start coming in shortly.  Marta had been sitting with us, along with her husband Sheriff Gold, Molly, and Doc.  She got up to go to the kitchen.  Her aunt, Emelda our regular cook, was not feeling well so Marta was doing the main cooking duties today.  When the rush started Edith Jones would be coming to help wait the tables.
     “So what’s wrong, Mateo?” I asked.
     “I worry that I did not handle the situation so well,” he replied softly.
     That sort of stunned me.  I thought he took care of those two cowboys quite well.  “How’s that?  I thought you handled yourself admirably.”
     “Admirably?  What does that mean?” Mateo inquired.
     “With honor,” piped in Doc Jones.  “It means you did a good job.”
     “But,” he began to reply looking first at Doc then over at Charlie and me.  “But I let them fool me.  I was fortunate.”
     I pulled on the left side of my moustache then wiped my hand down over my mouth and chin.  “Yes, you were fortunate.  But, Mateo, no matter how alert we are we can’t see everythin’.  You had no idea that you were goin’ to be pushed.”
     “You think we’ll have any more problems with them?” he asked.
     “New rancher in the area.  He might just be feelin’ out how we handle things in Durango, or he might have some personal issues.  Either way, he knows we’ll not put up with any shenanigans.”
     “Shenanigan, what does that mean?” inquired Mateo.  “You use strange words.”
     Again Doc to the rescue, “It means misbehavior, deception to do harm.”
     “Well, we’ll see if he wants to continue the argument.  Look who just came through the doorway,” said Charlie nodding in the direction of the entrance.
     In walked Cecil Thompson, the two cowboys, and a fourth man that I hadn’t seen before.  He was dressed similar to the cowboys, but that’s where it ended.  He wasn’t the normal working cowhand, and his gun was holstered low on his hips.  “Gunman?” I wondered.  But I hadn’t heard of any big outfits buying up land, nor of any men with their names on wanted posters in the area.
     The two cowboys went on to sit at a table while Thompson and the other man stood for a moment looking toward our table.  Thompson went on to join his hands while the stare from the stranger lingered on for a few more seconds. 
     When the man joined the others, Molly rose to go get their order.  The cowboys smiled at her, they were just doing what their boss told them, but there was a stare from Thompson and a lewd look from the stranger that brought a tinge of concern to my mind.
     “Do you think it is trouble?” asked Mateo.
     “No, not here,” they’ve come in to eat.  The city wouldn’t feed them breakfast since the hearing was early.  I found myself pulling on my moustache again while contemplating.  “I would like to know who that stranger is.”
     “I’ll find out,” proclaimed Charlie who proceeded to get up.  As he approached their table he reached for a chair and sat down between the stranger and Thompson.
     I was just able to make out the introduction.  “Howdy, I’m Sheriff Gold,” he said reaching out his hand to Thompson.  “Always like to meet new residents in the county.  I heard you have a ranch over toward Hesperus; that’s in my jurisdiction.”
     Thompson hesitated, then shook Charlie’s hand.  “Been here near two months.  I needed to get rid of a few cows, but found the stock manager trying to fill his own pockets with the prices he was charging.”
     “That so?” questioned Charlie.  “Why I’ve always known Pete Simmons to be an honest man.  I’m sure he’s not charging more than what are reasonable rates.  This is a mining region you know.”
     Then he turned his attention to the stranger.  “And you, do you work for Mr. Thompson?”  The man didn’t reply.  “Do you have a name?” asked Charlie.
     “Conrad…”
 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Lucas was waiting for us when we arrived back at the house.  Molly and I had taken time off to ride up the river a short ways.  Two-Bits needed a ride as did Star.  I really don’t work the horses since the train is around.  It’s faster, but I do miss my time in the saddle riding through God’s great cathedral.
     Molly, she never gets away from that diner.  So, today after the morning rush, we took off.  She told Marta that she would be gone through lunch, but would be back in time for supper.  Edith Jones said that she would help out.
     The ride had been nice.  The river was running fast and finishing with the spring run-off.  We rode for a couple of hours to a place where there are several boulders that reach out into the water forming a deep pool.  It made me wish I had brought along a fishing pole.  The sun was shining bright and we laid out on a flat rock, just watching the river roll by. 
     “Are you sorry?” asked Molly out of nowhere.
     I turned to look at her.  “Sorry for what?”
     “Oh, I don’t know.  Being stuck in one place.  Not taking that job in New Orleans.  Not starting your horse ranch,” she responded.
     I moved up to put my head on her lap.  “Nah, no regrets.  I learned many years ago to try my best to follow God’s plan.  He said my steps would be ordered by Him.  So, no, I’m not sorry about where I am and what I’m doin’,” I paused to look at the clouds moving slowly in the sky.  “I do get some weary with this new job.  Mateo is a real help, but he is inexperienced.  It will only last until January.”
     I must have dozed on her lap as I felt her shaking me.  “Miles, Miles, wake up.  We have to be getting back.  I promised Marta I’d be there for supper.”
     Pulling her down to me, I gave her a kiss.  “Thanks for takin’ the time off to ride up here.  We don’t get alone very often,” I said pulling myself up and donning my hat.
     Coming to the corral I knew we had plenty of time.  Lucas, my that boy has grown.  He came up taking the reins for Two-Bit as Molly dismounted.  “Senor Marshal, I theenk you had better hurry to town.  There may be trouble.”
     “Lucas!  What is it?” questioned Molly.
     He pulled off his straw hat to scratch at his head.  “Trouble, I theenk.”
     Molly came to me to hug my leg.  “Miles, you better go see.  I’ll be alright.”
     Swinging Star away from him, I nudged him into a trot heading for town.  I could see quickly that there was some commotion down by the stockyards.  They were built not long ago so ranchers in the area could ship cattle to market.  Bert Winfield used them some; Silas Postman came in once a year.  As I rode up I could see an argument going on between Mr. Simmons, the person who took care of the shipping.  His job was to make sure there was feed for the animals while they were in the pens.  I didn’t recognize the person he was arguing with.  Mateo was standing close by listening.
     I was on the far side of the pens when I saw Mateo motion to the man to leave.  The man turned, started to take a step away, then abruptly turned pushing Mateo off the platform.  Even though I was on the far sides of the pens, I could make out what the man said, “No bean-pusher is ordering me around!”
     There was scuffling going on, but I couldn’t make out what was happening.  The man who pushed Mateo was moving down the platform.  I gave Star a kick to head him off.  I reached the end of the platform before he did jumping from the saddle.  Grabbing him by the collar I slapped him a couple of times.  He tried to fight but I had momentum behind me and I knocked him down, dragging him back down the platform. 
     Mateo was grappling with two men on the ground.  I continued to hold the man’s collar, twisting it tighter each time a punch was thrown by the men below. 
     Pete Simmons came up beside me.  “Aren’t you going to help him, Miles?”
     I glanced at Pete, “If he needs it.  I haven’t seen him in action yet.”
     Mateo must have heard me for he looked up.  I pulled at my moustache, not loosening the grip on the man’s collar.  He was red in the face when Pete tapped me on the shoulder.  “Marshal, you might want to release your hold.”
     As I did I pulled him up to let him watch Mateo finish the fight.  “If you don’t want thumped alongside the head, you’ll be still, calm, and collected,” I warned.
     One man was down, and Mateo had the other in a headlock.  He looked up at me and I nodded.  As he released his combatant the man fell forward and Mateo brought up his knee to meet his chin.  He fell like a piece of wood.
     “Grab your hat and get up here,” I barked.
     Mateo was soon up on the platform with me, dusting himself off.  He jammed his hat on his head and muttered, “Enjoy the show?  I might sell tickets next time.”
     The man I had been holding, the one who pushed Mateo off the platform, jerked loose from me.  “I don’t know who you think you are!” he near screamed.  “But I’ll have the law down on you.”
     I nodded at Mateo, who opened his vest where the man could see his star.  He spit.  I cuffed him alongside the ear.  “I was goin’ to say this was just a misunderstandin’, but mister, you’re goin’ to jail!”
     “Pete, who is this guy?”
     “Cecil Thompson, he just moved into a ranch to the west of town, out toward Hesperus.”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

 I took Mateo first to see Charlie.  “This is Sheriff Charlie Gold,” I said in introduction.  “He’s a fine man to have on your side.”
     Charlie stretched out his hand.  Mateo grasped it firmly, “You are married to Marta,” he stated.  “She is a cousin of mine.  I’ll be glad to work beside you.”
     “Right now we are sharin’ the sheriff’s office.  There are five cells back there, so we have to be careful of overload,” I informed him pointing toward the cells.  “I’m goin’ to walk him around town, sorta introduce him to the proprietors and folk.”
     They shook again, Charlie uttered, “I’m glad to be working with you.  If you have any questions–ask.”
     Walking out we headed up toward Foster’s.  Bert Winfield happened to be walking out as we neared the doorway.  “Bert, what are you doin’ in town?” I questioned.  “It’s not Saturday.”
     “Wife’s ailin’ some.  I came to see Doc Jones then stopped to buy Myrtle some tea.  Haven’t seen you in a spell, Miles.  I heard you had some trouble recently,” he replied with a little laugh.  “But that don’t seem to be anything new to you.”
     “It was a bad situation,” I stated then introduced him to Mateo.  “They made me marshal until the fall elections and even said I could have a deputy.  Bert, this here’s Mateo Ramirez, deputy marshal.”
     Bert glanced at him, then nodded stretching out his hand at the same time.  “Glad to meet you, son.  Be careful and good luck to you.”
     “Do you want Molly to come out to check on Myrtle?”  I asked.
     “Thanks, but no.  Doc Jones said he would ride out tomorrow,” came his response then headed toward his horse that was tied to the rail.
     When we entered I didn’t see Wilson, but his niece Darnelle was accepting a purchase from the widow Baxter.  I didn’t know her well.  I saw her most Sundays when I made it to church.  She played an accordion until recently; she said her hands were getting all crippled.  Mateo and I tipped out hats to Mrs. Baxter when she went by.
     “Hello, Miss Foster,” I announced, “I see you’re doin’ all the work.”
     “Oh, are we being formal now, Marshal Forrest?” laughed Darnelle. 
     “I want to introduce you to our new deputy marshal, Mateo Ramirez.”
     She smiled, causing her face to glow and reached out her hand.  “Glad to meet you,” then she turned solemn, but that didn’t stop her face from glowing.  “I’ll be praying for you.”
     As we were chatting Wilson came out from the backroom.  “What do you want, Forrest?” he asked gruffly.
     I don’t know what happened in our relationship.  He was always friendly in times past.  Maybe he just had his feathers ruffled too many times being on the wrong side.  He has that problem of taking a firm stance on a subject.
     “Uncle!  Is that any way to speak to Miles?  After all he’s done for you, for our family?” Darnelle scolded. 
     I could see him clench his jaws, but then relaxed.  “I’m sorry Miles.  Darnelle’s right; I’ve just been out of sorts the past few months.”
     “This is Mateo Ramirez,” bubbled Darnelle.  “He’s going to be Miles’ deputy.”
     Mateo reached out his hand.  “Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Foster.”
     There was some hesitation, but then he grasped Mateo’s hand in greeting.  “Son, I was, well, still am some reluctant to have a deputy marshal.  That being said, I wish you the best.”
     I clasped my hand down on Wilson’ shoulder.  “Why don’t you a drop by the diner, bring your wife, Elizabeth, along with Darnelle for supper.  I’ll pay.”
     That brought a smile to his face.  “I’ll do that.”  He reached out to shake Mateo’s hand as we were leaving.
     Stepping outside and into the street, Mateo asked, “What’s with him?”
     “I’m not quite sure,” I replied.  “He’s a good man, a moral man who loves his family and helps others.  It’s just seems that lately he’s been in a stew over somethin’.  Now let’s go see John Newsome.  He’s a wonder.”
     For some reason I always felt uncomfortable walking in Newsome’s Ladies’ Wear.  I noticed that Mateo hesitated outside.  I had to grab his arm to sorta nudge him in.  Newsome was working at a table holding some frilly things in his hands.
     “Uh, excuse me, Mr. Newsome,” I blathered.  “I want to introduce you to the city’s new deputy marshal.”
     He dropped the garment as if he had been burned, then looked at us.  “Well, good,” then looked at us gathering his composure.  “I’m glad you got someone to take care of that Mex element.”
     The thought flitted through my mind that I ought to thump him, but it passed rather quickly.  “Mister Newsome, this is Mateo Ramirez, deputy marshal of Durango,” I said emphasizing Durango.
     He sputtered some, I could see the red rising up from under his collar.  “Yes, of course.”
     “Glad to meet you, Mr. Newsome,” interjected Mateo reaching out his hand.
     Newsome glared, dropped his hand back to the ladies’ garments, but didn’t respond with a handshake.  “Yes, I suppose it was.  Now…” I could see him struggle to say the word, “gentlemen I have to get back to work.”
     We turned and walked out.  As we moved down the boardwalk to the next establishment, Mateo offered, “Well, you’re right, he’s a wonder.”