• Davidson the Tracker

    Davidson the Tracker

    By: D.E.Hague

    Most residents in the town of Millsboro were still asleep as the sun broke the horizon. Down the center of main street walked a lone slender man. The man’s name was Davidson. With long strides, he was heading towards the Woodchuck Stables and Saloon. Slung over his left shoulder was his saddle bags and in his right hand was his rifle. An, 1874 .50 caliber breach loading Sharps rifle. The rifle had a tarnished brass William Malcolm Scope mounted on top. Holstered on his right hip was a Le Mat revolver. The Le Mat was chambered in .42 caliber center fire with a secondary .20 gauge short shotgun barrel under the primary.  

    Davidson stopped several feet in front of the saloon’s steps. Reaching into a pant pocket he took out a half smoked cigarette and a match. Striking the match on the heel of his left boot he lit the cigarette. The cigarette hung from his lips as his eyes scanned over the Woodchuck. The roof tops, the windows and then down to the doors and the surrounding street. After one long drag on his cigarette Davidson put it out on his boot. He placed what remained of the cigarette back into his pocket. Un-holstering his Le Mat revolver Davidson set the hammer to half cock then adjusted the firing pin to fire the shotgun barrel first. He then re-holstered his revolver.

    Davidson resumed his walk. He headed past the doors of the saloon and around the right corner of the building. Coming up to a gate, he opened its rusty latch and walked around to the back of the building. Rounding a corner to his left, the stables came into view. The stables, while operational, were in a general state of disrepair. Standing in front of the main barn he saw Zane. F. Straub. Standing next to Zane was a young potbellied man. Both Zane and the man had their horses saddled and their pistols holstered. The saddles bags on the men’s horses were fat with supplies.

    Davidson waved towards Zane.  

    “Perfect, the boy got my message to you,” said Zane.

    “Yup,” Davidson replied.

    Davidson took a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped his forehead.

    “My friend you are looking skinny, back to the whiskey dinners?” Zane asked Davidson.

    “Bourbon,” Davidson answered.

    “I was very pleased when I found out you were in town,” Zane said to Davidson.

    “You need a buddy?” Davidson asked with a smile.

    “I do not want to seem rude, but may we skip over any additional banter?” Zane asked Davidson.

    Davidson gave a slight nod of his head.

    Zane looked at the potbellied man then back at Davidson. “Myself and my partner Huck, we have a job proposal for you.”

    Huck stared at Davidson and crossed his arms.

    “Alright,” Said Davidson.

    “Ha,” Huck shook his head and spit into the dirt.  

    “Feel it best to advise you I have Kit saddling up your horse,” Zane said to Davidson.

    “Covering my stable?” Davidson asked with a smirk.

     “Well now, you be so lucky,” Said Huck. 

    “We only have a lick of time to spare, then we need to be on the trail.” Zane shot a quick look at Huck then at Davidson. “Take the job and we are heading out from here.”

    Davidson nodded at Huck. “Who’s he?”

    “Me?” Huck asked pointing at himself. “Well I am a dangerous man, that is who I am,” Huck said puffing out his chest.

    “Dangerous,” Davidson grinned.

    Zane and Davidson looked at each other and laughed.

    “Now Dave my friend, Huck may still reek with the blind confidence of youth,” Zane said slapping Huck on the back. “But he has cut his teeth in this line of work.”

    Huck smiled at Davidson with his yellow teeth as he patted the butt of his revolver.

    “The job?” Davidson asked Zane.

    “Well now, hold on…,” Huck tried to cut into the conversation. However, Zane held up his hands in protest.

    “You will get your turn Huck,” Zane slowly lowered his hands. “We need your help tracking the Dickson Brothers and Jasper Collins,” Zane said to Davidson.

    “What they into?” asked Davidson.

    “The trio were camped just outside of town last night. Have a young boy with them. Story is the boy knows the location of a secret gold claim. Or perhaps a treasure stash. Either way, gold.”

    “Hmm, interesting,” Davidson said to himself.

    “He didn’t stutter,” Huck said with a snort.

    Davidson glared at Huck then looked back at Zane.

    “How did you learn this?” Davidson asked Zane.

    “The younger brother, Darryl. Came into town for supplies. He loves to tell a good story,” Zane answered.

    “Just told you the whole scheme?” asked Davidson.

    “Oh no, he told Smiley Wilson, who told Douglas, who I overheard telling Debbie the whore.”

    “Zig zags,” said Davidson.

    “Rare moment our lives move in straight lines,” replied Zane.

    “Peculiar,” said Davidson.

    “How is that?” Zane asked.

    “Remember that spit fire Minnie?”

    “Minnie? From down in Florida?” Zane scratched his head. “Why yes. I watched her deck a fellow one time. Poor man teared up and everything.”

    “Five years back, last saw her,” Davidson rubbed his chin. “Swear she had a similar scheme.”

    “Well now, Zane, we ain’t got time for this geek,” said Huck pointing at Davidson. “We got to catch up before the trail gets cold.”

    “You a tracker?” Davidson asked Huck with a smile.

    “Well more of a gun fighter,” Said Huck as he waved his hands his front of his face, before dropping his right down to butt of his pistol. “Rumor is you’re the tracker,” Huck quickly drew his revolver. “But well now,” Huck spun the iron around on his trigger finger. “There are a lot of rumors about you these days.” Finished Huck as he re-holstered his gun.

    Clip, clop, clip, clop

    The three men were interrupted by Kit as he brought over Davidson’s horse. The horse was an Appaloosa, with large brown and white spots.

    “Fed and watered. Had time to trim her hoofs also,” Kit said to Davidson.

    Davidson took the reins with his left hand.

    “Settle up shortly,” Davidson said to Kit as he rubbed the nose of his Appaloosa.

    “Yes, sir,” said Kit as he hurried away.

     “Well now, back to these rumors,” Huck said to Davidson.

    “Whats the short of it?” Davidson asked Zane ignoring Huck.

    “We track them to the gold, kill them and take everything for ourselves.” answered Zane.

    “They got bounties?”

    “The brothers do, Jasper always manages to snake his way out of charges,” answered Zane.

    “And if it’s all shit?” asked Davidson.

    “We will have their horses to sell off. And anything else they may have on their person,” answered Zane.

    “Well now, there will be gold,” said Huck making the shape of a coin with his fingers. “Douglas described an odd coin to the whore.”

    Davidson looked at Huck. “A coin none of us have seen,” said Davidson.

    “You with us?” Zane asked Davidson.

    “Three ways?” asked Davidson.

    “Of course,” answered Zane.

    “That’s if you don’t freeze up,” said Huck.

    “I piss in your boots?” Davidson asked Huck.

    Huck’s eye’s narrowed as he squared up to Davidson.

    “Well now, you don’t know who your talking to.” Huck said to Davidson as he stepped towards him.

    “Know enough to see you’re a lunk,” said Davidson.

    Zane rushed between the two men. 

    “Please calm down gentlemen,” Zane said pushing the men apart. “David, Huck here has a few reservations about bringing you on,” Zane said to Davidson.

    “You bet your tanned hide I got a few,” said Huck.

    “Let’s hear it,” Davidson said to Huck.

    Huck took off his brown Cattlemen hat and ran his fingers through his hair. He looked at Zane then back at Davidson.

    “Well now, heard over cards you quit your last job on account of turning yellow,” Huck started. “Heard you were working for the K&L railroad.”

    “Rumors travel fast,” Davidson said with a smile.  

    “Told your job was shooting Lakota. Said day one you were all set up, aimed in. Little crowd gathered to see the long range shooting skills of the great Davidson,” Huck chuckled. “And well now you couldn’t pull the trigger.”

    Zane looked at Davidson and saw he still had the same smile on his face.

    Huck chuckled again before finishing. “Well, seems you went and got soft for them Red Skins. Was told you stood up and waved them off. Scared them Lakota away,” Huck pointed at Davidson. “Well now, if you can’t kill a savage how you gonna kill Jasper and the Dickson brothers?”

    “It true you’ve cut your teeth?” Davidson asked in reply.

    “Yup, just starting out. But got me two notches in my gun belt,” Huck answered.

    “I was there for the event; boy can certainly pull a trigger,” said Zane.

    “That stagecoach full of missionaries?” Davidson asked Zane.

    “Perhaps,” Zane answered.

    “Dangerous work, blindly shooting into a coach,” Davidson said with a slight laugh.

    “Well now, more killing then you have done as of recent,” Huck replied to Davidson.

    Davidson’s smile faded. “I say Huck, for a man in a hurry you sure have time for a pecker measuring contest.”

    “Well, I say you ain’t got the grit no more.” replied Huck.

    “This necessary?” Davidson asked Zane?

    “My friend, we have done much work together. Why I sent you that note. But it best we do clear the air,” answered Zane.

    Davidson moved to the right side of his horse and sheathed his long rifle in its leather holder. “Alright then Huck,” Said Davidson as he tightened the sheaths buckle.

    “First time I killed a man was September 19th 1862, Battle of Shepherds Town.” Davidson started.

    “Well, I didn’t ask for a history lesson,” laughed Huck.

    “Mind your words,” Davidson spat as he scolded Huck. “You called me out so here it is.”

    Davidson grabbed his saddle horn.

    “Our regiment was at Botelers ford on the Potomac. Colonel Berdan was there with his sharpshooters. Two of his boys had just missed 300 yard shots at a rebel picket. Myself being a confident youth told the Colonel I could make that shot. Colonel Berdan promised me a spot in his regiment if I did.”

    Davidson stuck his right boot into his saddles stirrup and swung his left leg up and over the saddle.

    “Took my Springfield, cocked back the hammer, looked down the sights and found me a grey coat.”

    Davidson adjusted his position in the saddle as if he was preparing to shoot.

    “And before any fella could josh me I pressed that trigger. Never had even aimed at a man before that day,”


    Davidson clapped his hands together.

    “Hit the rebel. Would come to find out in the stomach,” said Davidson.

    Davidson looked at Huck’s pot belly. “Gut was about the size of yours.”

    Huck’s eye’s darted over to Zane then down towards the ground.

    “Well…well. Killing a man up close I’d say is much different,” Huck said to Davidson without looking at him.

    “That rebel wasn’t dead yet,” Davidson shook his head. “Panicked and jumped the fence. He ran down towards the river. His boys shouted for him to turn back, but he just kept running. One hand holding his belly the other keeping his hat on his head. Plopped on the fair bank of the crossing.”

    Davidson rested his right arm over his left.

    “Colonel ordered everyone to hold their fire. Said I had to finish the job. While I reloaded my rifle that wounded man start wailing, rolling around in the mud. Cried for his Daddy, his momma, his dog. And at that moment, I saw how myself and this man at one time were both young and innocent. Saw this winding road that lead to our meeting. Me reloading my rifle and him crying in the mud. Had no personal quarrel with that man.”

    Zane and Huck stood motionless.

    “Then I shot him in his head. Looked like when someone drops a melon,” said Davidson.

    Davidson stared at Huck whose forehead had become covered in sweat.

    “Lost count of how many children, men…women I have killed. Don’t talk much about it. But I find it best to mention the children first when I do. Know why?” Davidson asked Huck.

    Huck did not answer. He just stood there. Eyes wide.

    “Others like me will warm you up, mention the men first. Of course us gun hands would shoot a man. Most also in these parts can fathom a moment where a woman would get killed. But mention kids. Well that’s a blunt verbal hammer.”

     “That…well, that. I mean. Well, still need to know you got it?” Huck stammered.

    “Need to know?” Davidson repeated to himself.

     Zane looked up at the sky and shook his head.

    Huck looked at Zane then back at Davidson.

    “I don’t like you,” Davidson said to Huck as his right hand moved down to the butt of his Le Mat.


    Huck staggered back as he stared at the smoking .20-gauge barrel of the Le Mat revolver. His hands grabbed at his stomach as blood ran down his waist.

    “Fall now,” Davidson commanded Huck as he re-holstered his Le Mat.

    Huck let out a huff as he fell to his butt.

    “Well…now…you…you…shot me?” said Huck.

    “Satisfied?” Davidson asked Zane.

    “My note said I do not care much for Huck,” Zane rubbed his temples. “I did not request for to you kill the man.”

    “Wasn’t hitting the trail with him and wasn’t leaving him behind either.”

    Kit came running from the barn. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Huck.

    “Sorry about this,” Davidson said to Kit. “Keep his horse and all that as compensation.”

    Kit just stood there, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.

    “Now it is three versus two.” Zane said to Davidson.

    “It wont be.” Davidson replied.

    “How do you reason that?” asked Zane.

    “Jasper is a back stabber, ask Benny,” answered Davidson

    “You are presuming he will shoot the Dickson brothers?”

    Davidson nodded his head yes.

    “I do pray that you are correct,” Zane said as he walked over to his horse. “I have some very heavy debts floating above my head.”

    “Cards?” Davidson asked.

    “Yes sir, I am in great need of this score panning out.” Zane answered as he looked over at Kit. “Hey Kit, people will be moving about soon. Might want to start cleaning this all up.”

    “Feed him to some pigs,” Davidson said to Kit as he looked down at Huck.

    Huck had fallen to his right side. Slow breaths gurgled out of his mouth.

    “Dave, I do not think Kit is up to finish what you have started,” Zane said to Davidson as he mounted his horse.

    “Sorry,” Davidson said to Kit with a tip of his hat.

    Davidson got down from his horse.  He walked over to wear Huck lay. Looking around he spotted a shovel standing straight up a pile of manure.

    “So, I must ask a question,” Zane said to Davidson.


    “Why was it you did not shoot those Lakota?”

    “Not cause I’m a hero,” Davidson answered as he grabbed the shovel by the handle.

    Davidson walked over to wear Huck lay. He stood over Huck and raised the shovel. The shovel’s spade caste of brief shadow over Huck’s face.

    “Like a melon,” said Davidson as he stared into Huck’s fading eyes.

  • Camp Fire Stories

    Camp Fire Stories

    By: D.E. Hague

    It was night and a quarter moon glowed in the sky. Three men sat around a camp fire in a pine forest. Two of the men were the Dickson brothers. Darryl Dickson and Dennis Dickson.  Jasper Collins was the third. Each man sat on a log and was sipping whiskey from a copper cup. The camp was sparse. The fire, the three men, three horses and a donkey.  There was also a rolled bundle of blankets in front of Jasper. The bundle was synched tight with three separate bindings of rope. Two short legs stuck out from one end of the bundle.

    “Ok, I get not all have heard of the Red Ghost but not even the Camel Corp?” Darryl asked Jasper. Darryl had his bowie knife out. He was using it to cut off a plug of black chewing tobacco.

    “Oh my,” Jasper spoke with a slow southern drawl. “As I have said. I am down from Louisiana. Our fine state possesses gators, crafty women, and duels. We do not have any wild camels, nor have I heard of anyone riding such a beast.”

    Darryl leaned towards Dennis and slapped him on the shoulder. “Dennis, you know about the Red Ghost.”

    “Cause you’er always rambl’n on about ghouls and what not,” answered Dennis.

    “Well, I find it interesting. Neat to think there is more to this world than the dirt at our feet,” said Darryl.

    “See, warned ya Jasper. Darryl sees himself ta be a think’n man,” said Dennis.

    Jasper smiled as he adjusted his seat on the log.

    “Indeed, you were not lying Dennis,” chuckled Jasper.

    Darryl kicked dirt at Dennis. “Well, all you ever talk about is whores and cards.”  

    “Ladies do make ya nervous brother,” laughed Dennis.

    Dropping his bowie knife and tobacco plug, Darryl jumped to his feet and cocked his right hand back into a fist.

    “Stop show’n off for our friend. Ya ain’t no bull dozer brother,” said Dennis

    “You keep digging, I’ll wipe you.” said Darryl.

     Ya ain’t lick me yet,” laughed Dennis.

    Darryl spit tobacco juice into the dirt. He relaxed his fists and sat back down.

    “Mr. Bill. S. Quire was very accurate about you two gentlemen. Wild,” laughed Jasper.

    Jasper slid his butt down to the dirt and leaned his back against his log. Placing his legs up on the large bundle of blankets he tipped back his hat.

    “He breath’n?” asked Dennis nodding towards the bundle.

    Jasper shook his head. “Oh yes, indeed. Showed some compassion and left him an opening. Breathing in this fine pine scented air.”

    “He is a troublesome thin,” said Darryl.

    “Boy don’t get some smarts, gonna be a long ride strapped ta that donkey,” said Dennis.

    “Seeing that we have a long trail…” Jasper was interrupted as the bundle of blankets moved in protest.

    The two brothers laughed as Jasper kicked the bundle.

    “Still now,” Jasper said to the bundle.

    “As I was saying, there is a great deal of riding ahead of us. If Darryl has a few yarns to spin, I wouldn’t mind hearing them,” said Jasper.

    Dennis rolled his eyes as Darryl slapped his knee and smiled.

    Dennis tipped back the rest of his whiskey. “Well ya dam opened up the flood gates,” said Dennis as he reached for the whiskey jug.

    “So the Red Ghost?” Darryl asked Jasper.

    Jasper swigged his whiskey then motioned with his cup for Darryl to proceed.

    Darryl spit out another wad of tobacco and then started.

    “See, before the war the Yankee’s bought a bunch of camels for the army. Called it the camel corp.” Darryl paused as he picked up his bowie knife and plug of tobacco. “Wanted to see if them camels were better for exploring the west then horses and asses.”

    “Where did they purchase the camels from?” asked Jasper.

    “Some Prince from across the ocean,” answered Darryl.

    “Still say horses are best,” Dennis cut in.

    “Well they aint,” Darryl shot back.

    “Ain’t no lady gonna be smitten with a clown on top a camel.”

    “See, whores and cards,” said Darryl looking at Jasper then Dennis. “Brother, you are lucky you have me to keep you alive.”

    Dennis choked on his whiskey. “Keep me alive, ya barely can put you’er boots on without me.”

    “Put my boots on?” Tobacco flew from Darryl’s mouth. “You are the one that got stuck in Rattler Canyon.”

    Dennis dropped his whiskey cup and stood. “Stuck? I found the money ya lost.”

    Darryl stabbed his bowie knife into the dirt then jumped to his feet, “By god you did.”

    “Gentlemen, gentlemen. Calm down, you are up setting my foot rest,” said Jasper has he nudged the heel of his boot into the bundle of blankets.

    Darryl and Dennis kept their eye’s locked on each other as Darryl sat back down.

    “Please go on,” Jasper said to Darryl.

    Darryl raised his hands high into the air then clapped them together. “So the U.S. Army had all these camels. Set up an expedition, went out into the desert. A race against another team with horses and mules.” Darryl paused. “I think it was mules also. But that doesn’t matter. So it is all set up. Gonna prove how great camels are. And well, of course the camel’s win.

    “Was it close?” asked Jasper.

    “Not even. Camels hauled more tonnage faster than the horse team.”

    Jasper’s brow curled as he sipped his whiskey. “So, why are we not all riding camel’s?” Jasper asked.

    “Write that Prince, maybe he sell ya one,” laughed Dennis.

    Jasper shook his head at Dennis. “So what happened?” Jasper asked Darryl

    “The war.” Darryl spit out tobacco. “The war came about right after, just like everything else what was important the day before got done forgot the next.”

    “What did they do with the camels?” Asked Jasper.

    “Sold a few of them. But most they just let go,” answered Darryl.

    “I never seen no camels. And I have been all the way ta California,” said Dennis.

    “Ain’t gonna see no camels inside brothels,” Darryl shot back.

    “Have any been spotted?” asked Jasper.

    “Oh yeah, out around the dust bowl by mount Kilpatrick and I heard around Angel Hole gap.” Darryl patted his belly. “Heard some been shot an eaten.”

    “People eat them?” asked Jasper.

    “Oh yeah, a miner in Texas told me he would make a stew. Think it was a pinch of salt and…”

    “Darryl,” Dennis cut in. “That drunk miner was pull’n you’er leg.”

    “Dennis, I swear you are always interrupting.”

    “Get ta the one part so ya can stop this yapp’n and get some sleep,” said Dennis as he reached behind himself and grabbed his bed roll.

    Darryl chugged down the rest of his whiskey and motioned for Dennis to pass him the jug. Dennis tossed the whiskey jug to Darryl.

    “Thank you brother,” said Darryl as he refilled his copper cup.

    “See, story is there was one very troublesome camel in the whole bunch an evil one.” Darryl stopped and sipped his whiskey. “Had dark red hair, like red clay. Was bigger, meaner even smarter than the rest. None could get it under control.”

    Darryl paused and wiped tobacco spit from his chin

     “It was left at Fort Johansson with a skeleton crew of soliders.” Darryl shook his head. “Well boredom and soldiers never ends well. And after a few to many days of that beast raising hell one of them privates decided he was gonna teach it to behave.”

    “Darryl, may I jump in with a question?” Jasper pointed his copper cup at Darryl. “I don’t mean to sound doubtful about your tale. But…” Jasper paused “But how is it again that you came upon this information?”

    Darryl smiled. “Few years back held up a stage couch. Had a scared shitless blue belly inside. A deserter.”

    “Penniless soldier, bout everyone in that coach was a pauper,” Dennis added.   

    “Them coach horses got us a few dollars,” said Darryl.

    Dennis tipped his cup towards Darryl in agreement.

    “Blue Belly told us how it took all four of the soldiers to lure that camel into a chute.  And then about two hours to get a saddle on it. That beast was awfully bitter about the whole affair,” said Darryl.

    Darryl picked up his bowie knife and plug of tobacco. He sheathed his knife and wrapped up his tobacco and jammed it down into his pocket. Placing his brown Derby on his head he stood. Grabbing imaginary reins, he mimicked saddling the hump of a camel.

    “Now, the solider who mounted this creature fancied himself bit of a rodeo rider. Even had on a pair of red leather boots. And he had his buddies tie himself and them boots to that animal so he couldn’t go get bucked off.”

    Darryl shook his head and waved his hat in the air. “Despite that young man’s confidence it was a short affair. Let that red devil out into the carol and it started bucking like the most ornery colt ever seen.”

    Darryl began talking faster as tobacco spit dripped down his chin. “Now that boy being tied down and all quickly turned into a negative,” Darryl threw his hat into the air. “After the third hard buck he realized it would be better to get thrown clear then remain on top. And, and …the solider…” Darryl’s words were cut short as he started to choke on his tobacco.

    “The… the…sold…” Darrly barked up a black wad of tobacco.

    “Settle down brother,” said Dennis.

    Darryl rubbed his chest and nodded at his brother he was ok.

    “Sorry about that fella’s” Darryl spit again into the dirt. “I just love a good story.”

    “Indeed,” said Jasper.

    Darryl picked up his derby hat and placed it back on his head. His eye’s grew wide as he restarted.

    “So, the solider is getting bucked five ways to a hard Sunday. Panics, reaches both his hands down to the straps. Then snap.” Darryl twisted his neck high and to the left. “About the sixth hard buck snapped that young soldiers neck.”

    Darryl pretended to go limp from atop a saddle.

    “He was dead. Strapped down. His body just wiping around as that red devil kept up its bucking, trying to throw that body off of its self.”

    Darryl straightened his back and held both his hands out as if they were pistols.

    “The other soldiers drew their wheel guns and started shooting at the flank of that animal. Said the bullets just bounced off his thick hide.”

    “Probably too drunk ta aim straight,” Dennis butted in.

    Darryl looked at his brother and smiled. “Brother, on that I feel your theory is correct.”

    “So, what became of the beast?” asked Jasper.

    “He reared up on his hind legs and broke down the fence. Sprinted for the main gate. Cleared that in a single jump.”

    “And the solider?” asked Jasper.

    “Was still strapped atop that camel. Flopping around like a headless chicken. Off they went, just a trail of dust behind them.”

    “Now Jasper, brace you’er self. The first part of the story I will label plausible. This next, all fable,” said Dennis.

    “Plausible?” Darryl looked at Dennis. “Look at you using a big word.”

    Dennis looked at his brother and cocked back his left fist. “I swears it. Before this trek is over we will come to blows.”

    “Surprised we made it this far,” replied Darryl with a smile.

    “Brother, whenever ya feel like test’en the waters…”

    “Dennis, I am certain that time will come,” said jasper cutting in. “But I would much appreciate letting your brother finish his tale.”

    Dennis held up his hands in surrender.

    “Desipte my brothers opinions, there have been several strange and deadly encounters with the Red Ghost,” said Darryl “Tales of this devil charging into camps. It’s hoofs shaking the ground. Flames shooting out of it’s nostrils.”

    “Flames out of this animal’s nostrils?” asked Jasper.

    “What I tell ya?” smirked Dennis.

    “I admit farfetched but I am merely just passing on what I heard,” replied Darryl. “But I have heard at least two first hand accounts. Bob Bricker and Thomas McCool. Thomas’s wife got trampled to death by it.”

    “Thomas’s temper is what killed his wife,” said Dennis

    Ignoring Dennis, Darryl continued, “Bob’s and Thomas’s stories about the same. Heard the rumbling hoofs, the screech of a demon then the beast would come crashing into the camp. Stomping on anything it could find. Tents, horses, people. Anything. Bullets wouldn’t stop it. Not even slow it down. And you know what else Jasper. Can you guess what else there was?”

    “I do have a suspicion,” replied Jasper.

    “That dead solider was still strapped on top the beast. Bob said it was a half-eaten corpse. Thomas said it was mostly legs bones sticking out of old red leather boots.”

    “Both these gentlemen described the same pair of red leather boots?” asked Jasper.

    Darryl shook his head in confirmation.

    “Where was the last place you ever heard of this Ghost being spotted?”

    “Thomas was camped about fifty miles from Doolie’s trading post.”

    “And where exactly is Doolie’s trading post in relation to the claim we are searching for? This Peacock claim?”

    “Oh boy brother, seems ya have spooked this fine gentle-man,” laughed Dennis

    “Well, Jasper only your foot rest there knows exactly where this claim lies. But it would seem we are heading in a similar direct in relation to Doolie’s,” said Darryl.

    Jasper looked down at his foot rest then back at the brothers.

    “Austin, can you still hear me boy?” Jasper said to the bundle of blankets.

    A muffled curse rose up from the bundle.

    “I will assume that was a yes.” Jasper dug his right boot heel into the top of the bundle. “Now listen you will remain in your bindings tonight. However, in the morning if your temperament is improved we may let you out.”

    A muffled string of curses rose from the bundle.

    Jasper quickly found a short stick lying next to him and whacked the bundle three times with it.

    Darryl and Dennis laughed.

    “Looks like we are strap’n em ta the ass,” Dennis said with a smile.

    The three men prepared to sleep. Each of them spread out their bed rolls and laid their gun belts to the right of themselves. With boots on the men finished their whiskey and laid down to sleep. The two brothers were fast asleep and snoring while Jasper laid awake for some time.

    As Jasper lay awake he took out a gold coin from his right pant pocket. The gold coin was just a bit larger than a silver dollar. He held it up to the diming fire light and traced his fingers across its strange inscription. Placing the coin back into his pocket his shut his eyes and searched for sleep.

  • Working title: Camp Fire Stories

  • New year, new stories.

  • Slowly, the next story grows.

  • The Winner

    The Winner

    By: D.E Hague

    Part One: The Bar

    It was mid-day and Walt was sitting at the bar inside of the Red Stag Saloon. Gus, the owner, was on the other side of the bar. Gus was pouring a glass of Gin.

    “What you mean, they don’t want me sitting no more?” Walt asked Gus.

    “We…well Walt like I said,” sighed Gus as he slid the drink over to Walt. “Th…they just said they don’t want ya to.”

    “Gus, don’t have me airin’n my lungs out in here.” Walt smacked his hand on the bar top. “What’s the reason?”

    Gus scratched the back of his head as he looked down at the bar.

    “W..Walt it’s that you don’t really…” Gus tugged on his suspenders. “Le…let anyone be done until your done.”

    “What? Is Johnny calling me a bully again?”

    “No…now, he didn’t say that Walt.”

    “Gus, it is poker. They can get up and scamper home whenever they like.”

    “I…I tell them that. Bu…but guys are in…timidated by you.”

    Walt leaned back and held his hands up in surrender. “I am who I am.”

    “I…I tell them that.”

    “The boys know me.” Walt held his drink up to his lips then pulled it away. “I do something I’m all in. What made me the best lawman, the best bounty hunter, the best coachman, not just in these parts but anywhere.”

    “Wa…was.. only after you retired, ba…bank in Castle county got robbed?”

    Walt took a big swig of his drink.

    “Hell yes Gus. First of many times I was begged to come back.”

    “Pa…past six months most I ever seen ya in one place,” said Gus.

    “I know. Have been getting itchy about that. I’m use to someone needing a gun hand.”

    “We…well Walt ain’t much trouble in these parts anymore.”

    “True, about killed them all I suppose.” Walt held up his right hand and formed it into the shape of a pistol. Using his left hand, he cocked back his right thumb then raised his pistol hand as if it had been fired. “Never did miss a shot.”


    “That is fact.

    “Li…like even far off?”

    “Long range is a different beast. But close-in dust ups, never.”

    “H..how’d you know?”

     “Always count my shots.”

    “Co…count em?”

    “I’m so fast, most times the bullet holes still be smoking.”

    “Y..you a bit older now Walt,” Gus said with a chuckle.

    Walt smiled. “May have been some time Gus. But I still got a steady hand. Promise you that.”

    “Le…let me talk to the boys for you about the game tonight.”

    “That mean a lot to me Gus, but I ain’t changing how I play.”

    “N…no shit Walt,” Gus replied with a smile.

    Gus went back to cleaning glasses and Walt to sipping his gin. When his glass was empty, Walt tapped the bar with his right pointer finger. Gus poured him another drink. As Walt sat and drank he watched the entrance to the saloon; a set of batwing doors. He kept his right hand, his gun hand, palm down and relaxed on top of the bar. As he shifted in his seat, he subconsciously tracked the weight of his 1851 Colt Navy converted revolver. The revolver was chambered in .38 short Colt.

    Cling, cling, cling

    There was the sound of spurred boots approaching.

    The double doors of the saloon sprung open. A slender young man with bright silver spurred boots entered. The man had a black Derby hat on top of his head and wore a freshly tailored suit. A holstered Remington revolver hung from the right side of his shiny belt.

    Cling, cling, cling.

    The young man walked to the far end of the bar and sat at a high top table.

    “Wha…what ya have’n?”  Gus asked the young man.

    The young man smirked at Gus’s stutter before answering.

    “A ginger beer if you don’t mind.”  

    “On…one ginger beer on its way.”

    “Actually, wait one second there,” said the young man to Gus.

    Gus turned around and nodded at the young man. 

    “May I ask what types of ginger beer you have?” asked the young man as his gazed shifted over to Walt.

    Gus cocked an eye brow and looked the young man over. “It…its ginger.”

    “No, I know that. I mean do you have different makes,” said the young man looking back at Gus. “I prefer Dunkles Ginger Beer. Do you have Dunkles?”

    “I…I told you. Got…ginger beer.”

    “Alright ginger beer it is. Rather happy I am only passing through these parts.” Replied the young man.

    Walt turned his attention away from the young man and back to the entrance. Walt’s eyes shifted from the doors to the windows. The windows faced Market Street. Walt’s eyes narrowed.

    “Hey Gus,” said Walt as he quickly looked at Gus then back out the window. “Gus come over here.”

     “On…one second Walt.” answered Gus.

    “Jimmy?” Walt asked himself.

    Walt grabbed his tan Stetson hat from the seat to his left and leapt off his bar stool. “Gus is that Jimmy McClain?”

    “Wa…Walt let me just get this gi…ginger…di…did you say Jimmy McClain?” asked Gus as he spun on his heels and saw Walt’s empty bar stool.

    Gus caught a glimpse of Walt as he walked at a fast stride out of the saloons doors; Walt’s right hand reaching down towards his Colt.

    The Winner

    Part Two: The Street

    Walt stood in the middle of Market Street and was staring at the body of Jimmy McClain. The body lay twenty paces away from where Walt stood. Jimmy’s boot prints traced an uneven path to where he had fallen backwards over a water trough. A smoking revolver laid on top of Jimmy’s still chest. Walt was still pointing his empty revolver at the body. Slowly the towns folk emerged from their hasty hiding spots. In silence, a crowd gathered around Walt and the body of Jimmy McClain.

     “He…he’s dead Walt,” said Gus who was standing several yards behind Walt.

    Walt spit into the dirt as he holstered his Colt.   

    “Gus, it took too long.”

    “It…it was just an eye blink. Walt?”

    Walt tapped the wooden butt of his Colt with the palm of his right hand and slowly mouthed the numbers one through six.

    “You…you say’n sumth’n Walt?” asked Gus.

    “What?” asked Walt.

    “You…you ok?”

    “Where’s my hat?” replied Walt turning to face Gus.

    “Wa…Walt…you’re bleeding,” Gus said, pointing at Walt’s stomach.

    Walt looked down at his stomach. Fresh blood was running out from a small hole in his white button shirt. He placed his right hand over the hole as he looked down at the ground around him.

    “Hey Gus,” said Walt with a smile.

    “Ye…yeah Walt?”

    “I’m hurting a bit, mind picking up my Stetson?” asked Walt, as he motioned with his head.

    Gus walked over and picked up Walt’s hat. He dusted it off and handed it to Walt.

    “Y…you like me fetch the Doc?” Gus asked Walt.

    Walt looked down at his blood covered hand then up at Gus.

    “No, no thank you, think I’m missing that card game.”

    “Want…me to do anyth’n? You…you need sumth’n?”

    Walt put on his hat and reached his left hand into his pant pocket. He pulled out two one dollar bills.

    “Here,” said Walt as he held the money out towards Gus. “This should cover my tab, a bottle of whiskey and a cigar if you don’t mind fetching them.”

    “Sure…sure thing Walt,” answered Gus as he took the bills and carefully folded them.

    As Gus went to turn away Walt reached out with his left hand grabbing Gus by the shoulder.

    “If it isn’t too much trouble, you mined hurrying?”

    “Of…of course Walt,” answered Gus as he turned and started jogging towards his saloon.

    The crowd standing around Jimmy’s body parted way as Walt walked towards it. Walt looked down at the wounds in Jimmy’s body. He shook his head as he counted the bullet holes. Two in the center of Jimmy’s chest, the third in the left side of his ribs. Walt searched for the other three but could not find them.

    Cling, cling, cling

    Walt heard the jingle of spurs behind him.

    “Geewiz, you are Walt. T. Taylor. Aren’t you?” asked a male voice from behind Walt.

    “Who’s asking?” sighed Walt as he turned and faced the voice.

    About a foot away from Walt stood the young slender man from the saloon.

    “I’m Owen Davis,” said Owen holding out his right hand for Walt to shake.

    Walt looked at Owen’s hand then down at his own blood covered right hand.

    “Forgive me if I don’t shake.”

    Yeah, hell.” Owen slowly lowered his hand. “Sorry, I just never met anyone famous like you before.” Owen tipped his hat back. “Well I did meet a bounty hunter in…”

    Walt held up his left hand silencing Owen as he saw Gus running back from his saloon. Gus had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a large stogie cigar in the other.

    “Excuse me,” Walt said to Owen as he stepped around him and walked towards Gus.

    “You just shot that man. Did not let him square off or anything,” Owen said to Walt as he stepped back in front of him.

     “You saying something?” Walt asked as his eyes focused on Owens grinning face.

    “Well, no I mean.” Owen stepped out of Walt’s way. “He was just walking across the street and all.”

    “Kid, this fight started fifteen years ago in Merida Mexico.” Walt looked away from Owen. “Just took a bit to finish.”

    “Yeah, yeah that’s right. They call it the Shootout at Crooked river,” said Owen.

    “What?” asked Walt as he stepped past Owen.

    “Read about it.” answered Owen.

    “Read about it?” asked Walt.

    “In the dime novels back home, whole reason I came out here.”

    “You read some dime novel, now you’re out here going heels?”

    “Well, I’m going to be famous just like yourself.”

    “Good luck kid,” chuckled Walt as he walked away.

    Owen stood there and watched as Gus handed Walt the bottle of whiskey and the cigar.

    “I’m going to go up to the hill Gus,” said Walt.

    “Gonna…gonna miss you Walt.”

     Walt looked towards the south end of town. His eye’s peered past the newly built roof tops and towards a high round hill just outside of town. The crest of the hill was dotted with grave stones.

     “You know Gus, it’s not that I regret any of it.”

    “Ain’t noth…nothe’n to regret. Were…were always the winner,” replied Gus.

    “Yeah, just a few minutes ago always winning still mattered.”

    “What you mean?” Asked Gus.

    Walt held out his bloody hand and stared down at his trigger finger. “Having to be the best and all that, suddenly seems silly.”

    Walt pulled the cork of the whiskey bottle out with his teeth and spit it into the air.

     “Goo…goodbye Walt.”

    “Goodbye Gus.”

    Walt slowly walked down Market Street towards the hill dotted with grave stones. Gus, giving Walt one last wave goodbye, walked back to his saloon. As the crowd dispersed, no one noticed as Owen trailed behind Walt from a distance.

    The Winner

    Part Three: The Hill

    Walt was on the hill outside of town that was dotted with grave stones. He was sitting on his butt with his legs stretched out in front of him; his back resting against a grave stone. An unlit cigar and a half drunk bottle of whiskey lay to his left side. He still kept his right hand tight against his bullet wound. A tombstone with a simple inscription stood in front of him.

    Rose Turner 1832-1867

    “Well, Rose. Perhaps your up there waiting for me,” Walt said to Rose’s tombstone.

    “And if your waiting for someone else,” Walt punched the dirt twice with his left hand, “I understand.”

    Walt looked upwards at the white rolling clouds then back down at Rose’s tombstone.

    “You know Rose, you’re the nearest thing I ever had to well…I’d say a wife but I never let it get that far.”

    Walt picked up the bottle of whiskey and read the label.

    Mabel’s Kiss Rye Whiskey

     Walt took a small sip from the bottle then gave it a kiss.

     “Looks like it is just me and you Mabel.”

     As the whiskey reached into Walt’s head, his eyes became fixed on Rose’s tombstone.

    “Might as well be honest,” started Walt. “Wasn’t until I heard you were to be married that I felt some way about riding off. By then I had been gone so long. Off exploring, soldiering, fighting, killing, just wasn’t any way for me to come back.”

    A thin smile crossed Walt’s face.

    “Hell it was what? Not even three weeks we were together. Maybe us was just some dream I made up? Made up to help me stay warm at night.”

    Walt started to chuckle.

    “Took me finally getting shot to see it all.”

    Walt looked down at his wound and pulled away his right hand. The flow of blood had slackened but was still constant.

    “Rose. It is all coming back. Remember when Minnie introduced…”

    Cling, cling, cling

    Walt cut his words short as he heard the sound of spurred boots approaching.

     “There you are Walt,” said a young male voice; Owen’s voice.

    “Kid?” asked Walt.

    “Yes sir,” answered Owen.

    Walt first saw the top of Owen’s derby hat as it broke the crest of a small rise on the hill.  

    “You got ahead of me by a bit there Walt,” said Owen as he came into full view.

    “Kid, I am done talking.”

    Owen came up to the opposite side of Rose’s tombstone.

    “Walt, I came all the way from New York City just to meet you.” Owen tipped his hat back. “Well you and a few others.”

    Walt sat up a bit straighter. “What you getting at?”

    “Well, to repeat myself. I plan on being famous, a famous gunman.”

    “You fancy yourself a killer.”

    “Yes Walt, I do fancy myself a killer.”

    “That so?”

    Owen’s lips curled into a sharp smile.

    “You ever meet a large smelly bounty hunter that goes by the name Coon Skin Chuck?” Owen tapped the top of his hat. “Wore a ratty old raccoon skin cap all the time.”

    “What about old Chuck?”

    “I met up with Chuck in Tensaw City,” said Owen as he raised his left leg and placed his boot on top of Rose’s tombstone.  “Had some words.”

    “You got the jump on old Chuck?” asked Walt.

    Owen lowered his foot and reached into his left pant pocket. He pulled out a tattered raccoon tail. The hair on the tail was matted down with dried blood.

    “I was the winner,” said Owen as he tossed the raccoon tail at Walt’s feet.

    “You bushwacked him,” Said Walt, his eyes narrowing.

    “Bushwacked? I am not going to become famous shooting from the shadows.” Owen reached out his hands as if he was conducting an orchestra. “I need an audience.” 

    Walt reached his left hand up over his head and grabbed the top of the tombstone he was leaning against. Grunting he pulled himself to his feet and squared up to Owen.

    “Nah, you’re a bushwacker.”

    “Well, you call it what you want Walt.”

    “So your gonna finish me off?”

    “Shortly,” answered Owen as he nodded his head.

    “How you fixing not to get hanged?”

    “Hanged?” Owen laughed. “You just shot a man in cold blood, I am simply trying to be a good citizen and bring a murderer to justice.”

    Walt looked down at the butt of his Colt revolver.

    “I may be dying kid, but I bet I am still faster.”

    “You can be as fast as you want with that empty gun,” Owen said as he slowly lowered his right hand down towards his Remington Revolver. 

    “Yeah, you noticed that.” Walt looked down at his boots and shook his head. “Seemed kind of fitting at the time.” He looked back up at Owen. “Like my gun fighting days are over so why reload it.”

    “Well Walt, it seems you had one more fight.”

    “Hey kid. Before you get to killing me and all can I ask you a question?”

    “Sure Walt,” said Owen as he drew his revolver from his holster with his right hand.

    “Them dime novels, they say what pistols I use?”

    “They talked about that empty Colt on your hip,” Owen answered as he half cocked his revolver’s hammer and opened the cylinder gate. This allowed the revolver’s cylinder to rotate freely.

    “Yup, on my hip is my Colt. My empty colt.”

    Owen slowly rotated his revolver’s cylinder with his left hand.

    Click, click , click. 

    “Yes Walt, your converted 1851.”

    “That’s it?” asked Walt.

    “That is it Walt,” answered Owen.

    Walt balled his hands into fists and placed them against his hip bones.

    “Pistols,” said Walt.

    “Excuse me?” asked Owen as he closed the cylinder gate and de cocked his revolver’s hammer.

    “I asked what pistols them rags talked about.”

    Owen’s faced tensed and his eyes grew wide. His right hand became tight around the grip of his Remington revolver.

    “Shit,” said Owen.

    Owen watched Walt slide his left hand to the small of his back. Walt side stepped to his right as he drew and cocked a small .41 caliber Rimfire Derringer two shot pistol.

    Boom, boom

    Walt fired the two rounds from his derringer into Owen’s chest.

    A long hot breath crept from Owen’s mouth. Owen stared at his right hand as his grip on the butt of his revolver weakened.

    “It’s over boy,” Walt said to Owen.


    Owen’s revolver fell from his hand.

    Walt tucked his derringer into his left pant pocket as he watched Owen slump to the ground.

    “So your it?” Walt asked Owen.

    Owen lay on the ground gasping for air.

    Walt picked up his bottle of whiskey and walked over to Owen.

    “This is what’s gonna replace me,” Walt said to himself as he watched Owen’s final breath.

    Walt looked down at his bullet wound then towards the town.

    “I ain’t gonna die here next to you,” said Walt as he poured some whiskey over his wound.

    Walt tucked the bottle of whiskey under his left arm. He un-holstered his empty Colt revolver and opened the cylinder gate.

    “Hell, we can have that poker game at the Doc’s,” Walt said with a grin.

    Walt started reloading his pistol.

    “Some other time Rose,” said Walt as he staggered back towards town.

  • Next story will be up by the weekend.

  • Got back the hard copy from my editor. Back to work.

  • Rainy day in West Virginia