The Saga of Miles Forrest

It was in the late afternoon when we finally were able to get the women delivered to Silverton.  Two of the ladies thanked the teamsters for the ride, but ol’ prune face walked away in a huff.  On the trip Lyle told me that they had seen two men riding up toward Molas Pass.  They waved at each other but the two men didn’t stop to converse.
    I fully expected to have to spend the night and most of the next day in Silverton, but upon arriving I saw that the train was still in the station.  Tying the horse to the hitching rail I hurried to find the conductor.  Fortunately, he wasn’t hard to find as he was standing near the engine discussing something with the engineer.
    “Steam is built up, we’re ready to roll,” I heard the engineer say as I approached.
    The conductor nodded and turned, almost bumping into me.  “Excuse me, Marshal.  We’re running late and need to get this train moving on down the tracks.”
    “How long?” I asked.
    He made a gesture I believe all conductors make, he looked at his watch.  “No more than ten minutes.”
    “Hold a seat for me; I’ll be aboard!” I exclaimed as I hurried off to get the horse back to the livery.  
    I saw a straw-haired boy helping a lady with a little stool so she could climb up on the first step of the rail car.  I wondered where the porter was, then saw him coming with, what I assume, were her bags.  He moved to the baggage car while I watched the boy wait for a tip.  Poor kid, there was none coming.
    “Hey, you!” I hollered at the kid.  “You work for the railroad or are you free-lancin’?”
    Taking a few steps toward me he shouted back, “I don’t work for the railroad.  Somethin’ I can do for you, mister?”
    “You got a name?” I asked closing the gap between us.
    “Samuel Tucker, but most folks call be “Straw” cause of my hair,” he rubbed his hand through it and smiled.  “Ma’s always onto me sayin’ it looks like a bale of straw done busted open.”
    He looked worse than that, with torn breeches and a ragged, dirty shirt.  “Does your Pa know you’re down here workin’?” I questioned.
    “Look, Mister! If you need somethin’ done, jist tell me,” he said with some attitude, then quickly adjusted and apologized.  “Sorry…Pa’s broke his leg in the mine.  He’s, he’s not in good shape.”
    I looked him over again.  “You’re too much of a man for me to call you ‘Straw.’  Alright if I call you ‘Sam’?”
    He stood a little straighter.  “See that horse over there?” I asked while pointing.  “That roan with the single stockin’.”
    He nodded.  “Here’s a dollar to take him back to the livery for me.”
    “Dollar!” he exclaimed.  “Why that’s only worth a dime!” he said, then looked at the rail car where he had helped the woman.
    “It’s worth it to me,” I replied.  “Let me ask you another thing.  What’s your Ma think of you workin’ here?”
    Shuffling his feet he answered.  “She don’t like it much, but we have to eat somehow.  I’m too young an’ small to get a job in one of the mines.”
    I heard the whistle blast from the train.  I had to hurry.  Reaching in my vest pocket for my coin pouch I pulled out a silver dollar, hesitated while looking in the pouch, then pulled out a double-eagle.  “Here’s the dollar for the horse, and I want you to get a doctor to see about your Pa,” I ordered, handing him the two coins.  “Tell Doctor Winder that Marshal Forrest sent you.  Then use the rest of the money to get some food.”
    The whistle blasted again, I had to run.  “See ya, Sam, I’ve got to make that train.”
    It was just starting to move as I grabbed hold of the side rail and jumped up on the steps.  The car was packed and the only seat was across from the lady that Sam had helped.  I tipped my hat, and sat down.
    “Mister, you are a fool!” she snapped.
    “Excuse me,” I was somewhat stunned by her blunt statement.  She was not an old woman, but maybe in her thirties, not bad looking, but very much in need of a smile.
    “He’s nothing but one of those hoodlums, a piece of riff-raff, preying on the tender consciences of his betters,” she huffed.
    “Ma’am, I noticed that he helped you.”
    “Only hoping that I’d give him a dime.  No, my good man, you’ll see.  One day he’ll be one of the town drunks, waiting for that next handout,” she harped, making me irritable.
    “Ma’am, if you’ll pardon me sayin’, but I recollect that the good Lord told us to be helpin’ the down and out.  Why, even a cup of cold water given in His name is a blessin’,” I stated.
    Her face turned red; all I got from her was a hardy, “Hmpf,” then she turned her face toward the window.
    I reckoned it was going to be a long four hours down to Durango.  After she turned away from me, I took the time to stand and look over the passengers.  There had been a couple of times I had been surprised on a train and I didn’t want any suspecting characters to go unnoticed.
    Sitting back down, she glanced momentarily at me.  She must have noticed the badge under my jacket on my vest.  “You an officer of the law?” she questioned.
    “Yes ma’am, Deputy United States Marshal Miles Forrest,” I replied smiling.
    “Hmpf, then you should know better,” she huffed and turned back toward the window.
    I pulled at my moustache, then smiled a good thought.  Molly would be surprised that I came back a day early.  Then another thought struck me.  The two men on the road, were they heading back to Durango?  If so, I’d beat them back by a good day.