“I’d like to purchase me one of those pistols, Mr. Armstrong.”

“One of these, here, son?”

“Yessir, that .41 caliber double action Colt on the right, to be exact.”

“Nice little piece, son. They call this model the Thunderer. Say John Wesley Hardin was partial to this weapon. Yep, a stone killer, that one. How old are you, son?”

“Nineteen.”

“How old?’

“Well, almost nineteen.”

“How close is almost, son?”

“Frrrryrrrs.”

“What was that, son? I don’t hear so good anymore. But I still see good as ever, and if you’re nineteen, I’m Rutherford B. Hayes. Now let’s try that again. How old are you?”

“Fourteen and a half. But I do a man’s work and carry a man’s load for my Ma and little sister and brother.”

“I don’t doubt that, son. Can see by those rough hands ya got there. Now, what would a hard-workin’ young man like you want with a gun made for…well, for killin’ other men.”

“I don’t know’s that any of your business. My money’s just as good as any other man’s and I don’t see you askin’ them so many questions. You gonna sell me that gun or not?”

“Rein in there, son. No need to get all tetchy. Just makin’ conversation’s all. I was just wondering what you wanted the piece for.”

“Huntin’.”

“Huntin’, eh?”

“Yessir.”

“You havin’ a problem with some mighty big rabbits out there by the North Fork?”

“How d’you know where I’m from?”

“Knew your daddy from back in the old days.”

“You knew my Pa?”

“I did. He did some rangerin’ with my battalion after he come back from the War. I was told I was too old to join up and they wanted some veteran Rangers to stay and protect folks from Comanche and such while most of the young men were fightin’ back East. Sorry to hear about your Daddy’s passin’.”

“He didn’t just die. He was backshot by Cal Blandings.”

“Whoa, wait a minute. I heard he’s working on your Ma’s place. You say he killed your Pa?”

“Not just what I’m sayin’. It’s what I know.”

“And how’s that”

“Says he came upon my Pa after he was shot. But he’s a shady one and I wouldn’t believe a word the bastard says.”

“I’d have to say you’re a pretty good judge of character, son.”

“Yep. Few weeks later he comes to our door asking Ma if she needed a spare hand, what with Pa’s unfortunate dee-mise. That’s what he called it, his dee-mise. Then he gives me the evil eye, lettin’ me know he’s not to be trifled with. Told me my Pa never understood that.”

“If I recall, Blandings was right fond of your Mama before your Daddy come along and turned her pretty head. Mighty fond. Didn’t take it too well, now’s I recollect.”

“Yessir. And now he’s tryin’ to spark my Ma, convince her she needs a man around to protect her and the kids. Then he tells me how I’d best be careful when I’m out loopin’ strays. Says you never know, I could end up like my Pa if I didn’t watch myself.”

“So this here gun is to provide for your family, you say.”

“Yeah. Protect ‘em. He’s got Mama pretty mixed up right now. And the other night he…he hit her.”

“He didn’t!”

“Yeah he did.”

“So you want this Hardin gun to…”

“Do whatever needs doin’.”

“Well, young man, folks aren’t allowed to carry a gun on the streets of this town. That was established back when I was a deputy. Same rules as they even have up in such pits of wickedness as Abilene and Dodge.”

“Don’t intend to be carrying it around town.”

“I’d expect not, but let me give you some advice I heard from a lawman once about strapping a piece of iron like this on your hip. Or even picking one up in the first place.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“Don’t.”

“But…”

“And if you ever do own a gun like this, you sure as hell don’t want to pull it. And if you ever have to clear leather, you better know what you’re doin’. Hell, even the lawmen in the cow towns, fellas like Earp and the Mastersons, only pull their guns to buffalo a rowdy cowboy on the gourd with the barrel. And these men are professionals who have faced down many a bad man with a gun.”

“That’s fine for those fellas, but I’ve got to…”

“Son, I want you to wait a few days to cool down just a bit. Then come back and I promise to let you have this gun if you still think you need it.”

“I need…”

“Trust me, son. You don’t want to do what I think you’re plannin’. Listen, I’m an old Ranger who’s seen what one of these can do to a man.”

“I seen men shot before.”

“I don’t mean the one’s what got shot, son.”

“Oh…”

“Just trust me. Three days is all I’m askin’. Keep your powder dry for three days and then we’ll deal.”

“All right, I’ll be back Friday.”

“Good. You won’t be sorry. I’ll even put the Colt aside for you as a show of good faith. In honor of your Daddy. See you Friday.”

“Yessir. See ya then. Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.”

“Poor kid. Hey, Jack, come here! Put this Colt away for me, will ya? Should the Leakes boy come back for it, tell him you sold it. I got someplace to go.”

“Sure, Ben. You headed over to Doc’s again?”

“Nah. That horse is well out of the barn. He said nothing he can do for me anymore. Just a matter of time. No more’n a year. Actually, I’m thinking of takin’ a ride out near the North Fork. Visit Chet Leakes’ old place.” 

“Why you puttin’ on your old Colt just for a social call, Ben?”

“Oh, just gonna chase off some rabbit. Kinda like we did in the old days. I got to be quicker than the scruffy beasts. Hear they got big ones commencin’ to be a problem out there. Thought I’d lend Maddie Leakes a hand, just for old times sake.”

“Uh huh. You want any help? I heard over at The Imperial those varmints out at Maddie’s are said to be pretty quick. Quicker than most.”

“Well Jack, there’s quick, and there’s accurate, and there’s smart. I’ve always been at least two of those three on such occasions. Besides, what’s the worse he could do to me if things get sidewise? I already got my ticket punched.”

“You forgot one other gift you have over those damn rascals, Ben.”

“Oh? I must be gettin’ old. What might that be?”

“Frijoles as big as church bells, mi amigo.”

 “Hah. Well, maybe. Ain’t seen much of them since I acquired this here bay window. We’ll just have to trust I still got the sand should the time come for me to do…what’d the Leakes boy say? Oh yeah, ‘whatever needs doin’.”

“I kinda figured this would turn this way. I already saddled ol’ Fuego for you, Ben. You check your loads and I’ll strap my new Winchester on the saddle if you want. You know, in case you gotta take down this here jackrabbit from a distance. Like I said, I heard he’s quick, but also damn wily.”

“I thank you kindly, Jack. I’m hoping to look this old boy in the eyes first. See if I can make him blink, you might say. I’d rather chase him off than put him down. But not all that much.”

“I doubt the boy or that coward knows how you faced down Hardin in Gonzales and was one of the Rangers what finally caught him in Florida.”

“Yeah, well these damn things in the wrong hands or the hands of the wrong-headed are the Devil’s own poison, aren’t they, Jack?”

“Yessir, Cap’n.”

“An’ don’t let that boy get a weapon like that Thunderer. Hope to God he never finds out how much misery ripples out like a stone thrown into still water when someone pulls a piece with the intent to use it for what it was made. Like as drown the thrower as the catcher. Almost drowned me. It is a sour baptism that boy and his mama don’t need. No one, especially a civilian, really needs drownin’ anymore.”

“Yessir. Vaya con Dios. Go with God, Cap’n. Good huntin’. I’ll be lookin’ for you before Friday.”

“Good lord willin’. Be sure to douse the lights and lock up for me, mi amigo.”

© 2018, Joe Hesch

2 thoughts on “Silencing the Thunder

  1. You write these so well! I could picture the men (and the boy) talking in my mind’s eye just like I was watching it on a screen. It’s an important lesson you’ve pointed out here, although I imagine most people would want to know that Ben took down that abusive jackrabbit and put him out of everyone’s misery.

    You know, your story made me think…we’ve grown up idolizing guns here in America because of cowboys, westerns and the Wild West, or war movies, but hardly anyone ever thinks about the reality of the consequences of being the shooter; the weight of what killing another human being does to a person. Thanks for sharing this with us and for keeping it real, Joe.

    Like

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