a note*

Everything I post here I have previously published on the many other blogs I have had. This is a place for my favourites to rest. These are the wings that taught me i could fly and that there is life waiting, far beyond the ridge.

If you care to comment, just drop me an email at grayhawk77@yahoo.com


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Red Headed Lil and The Rum River Saloon Pt 1

There was always trouble of some sort at the rum river saloon.
Hell, there couldn't help but be.
Men would drive the cattle for weeks up the Rum where they'd be sold to the West Branch Cattle Company, and from there a fresh set of cowboys would run em up the Whiskey Jack.
So the town, which meant mostly the saloon, would nearly always have a saddle worn freshly paid bunch of low downs who'd been itchin to be scratched, run smack dab into a bunch of fresh hands lookin for one last night on the town before headin out to hack up campfire smoke and trail dust.
And then, there was also Lil.

And who the hell knows where Lil came from or where she aimed to go. It all depended on how much gin she'd pumped as to what story she might tell you.
One time she's a socialite from New York who just grew tired of caviar and Momma's meddling.
Another time she's from Paris goin to visit her wealthy aunt in Salt Lake City, and it didn't seem to matter that she talked like everyone else from St. Louis. The hearer leanin on the bar was always drunker than her, and besides, the stories were good.
If pity was her mood, she became an orphan from Philadelphia on her way to the gold fields in California.
And it didn't matter none if she told three different stories to the same cowpoke in one night.
She was a tall, well formed red head with the prettiest eyes West of the Mississippi, and the cowboy would just lower his head, shake it, and say, "Well, I'll be God damned!" as if there was ever really a choice
Then, and clean as a whistle, as soon as the bewitched fool would take a drink  or look to the piano player smiling back broadly, his watch was gone.
What the hell she ever did with all those watches was anybody's guess, but the guy would wake up in a stooper, stuff his hand in his filthy pocket and mutter, "well I'll be God damned!"

Besides bein a fair pick pocket, Lil was also a skilled horse thief, a decent swindler, and a dang good card cheat. All in all she got by and everyone just sort of let her, cuz life without a watch was a dang sight better than the Rum River without Lil.
But one thing Lil wasn't, was a whore.
Somewhere deep in her thieving heart slept a seed of romance she wouldn't squander on a quick roll
with some two-bit rambler with a whiskeyed tongue and ample purse.
See, Lil didn't really give a mule's fat ass about money, the thieving was done mostly just for fun, somethin to pass the time. And hell, if a cowboy was really attached to a watch or missing trinket, Lil
would even sell it back to him if he took off his hat and asked politely. and usually for not all that much more than he paid for it the first time.
Like I said, Lil wasn't all horseshoes and greased  leather, Lil had a genuine soft spot.
She called it love when it came around and it came around pretty regular.
And it was real, this love, she'd swear to it, and for a spell, so would he.
Seems like it never did last long though and probably just as well.
There was a sayin round town, "Shackin up with Lil?" that sounded just like "Looks like rain."
A nervous grin would cause a head to shake and boots to scrape gravel. "Best sleep with one eye open pardner, and a loaded pistol under the pillow!"
And it wasn't a joke, just part of loving Lil.
Her present love happened to be Grandy, who had been a trail boss out in the Colorado territories and a good one at that. But the trail is long and there ain't much time off between runs.
One time he got the herd up from Texas two days early and somehow his sweet velvet school teacher of a wife didn't smell him coming.
Now Grandy didn't much care for finding the stable kid ass up on Grandy's wife on Grandy's bed, so Grandy up and shot him square in the ass as he was scurrying out the window.
It was a fair shoot and weren't gonna be no trouble over it, but Grandy figured it was time for movin on just the same.
Hard to live in a town when everyone knows the town mucker fucked your wife, so he drifted east and took a buying position with the West Branch Cattle Company.
Hell, he didn'ttt know bout Lil cuz he was so ornery these days that other men steared clear of his trail and besides, he was vulnerable. Some would say, easy pickens.
As for Lil, all she saw was his brown eyes and high dollar horse and it was love at first sight, deja vu style, and things went alright for a spell just as they always do.
Lil was ever present by his side as they strolled through town, smiling and holding hands, and in those days, only a couple watches went missing. (hey! A girls gotta have a hobby)
The Tuesday night poker game grew a little bit fairer without Lil but not nearly as fun and lucky for the saloon, it didn't take long for things to change.
The honeymoon had lost its luster and that top button on lil's dress went MIA as a few more watches got lost.
Grandy woke on a Tuesday night to find Lil sneakin out the window and onto the roof. At first in his half-slumber he had the urge to shoot her in the ass, but then as his head cleared and his sight adjusted, he realized this wasn't Denver and Lil wasn't the sneaky stable boy.
She swore she was just goin out for a smoke and to have a pee off the roof like she did now and again, but she seemed awful done up for such a small venture.
And it didn't help that when she climbed back in, two aces fell out of her dress.
Grandy was a powerful man built like a barrel too full of apples, and his thick expressionless face was the lid that held it all in. If he was suspicious, there was no way to tell. Lil just shrugged, slid out of her dress and climbed back into bed.
Grandy should've noticed the men in town lookin at his left eye to see if it looked more tired than the right one. (everyone knew lil slept on the left side of the bed near the window) And it's hard to say what made Lil such a rascal when it came to men, maybe she just loved loving them too much.

Red Headed Lil and The Rum River Saloon pt 2

And so it was, one night in mid-August a herd pushed to the edge of town just after midnight, and after gettin the cattle settled in, a few thirsty boys made their way to the Rum River Saloon to properly honour the trail.
One of these happened to be Chester Travis, who was as far from being a cowboy as they come, but he had come upon the herd half-way up the Rum and somehow convinced the trail boss of the need of his services. He was a good talker.
It was Thursday night and Lil was sittin in on a few hands while Grandy slept unaware down the street.
Her eyes instinctively turned up from her hand as soon as he walked through the door. He was hard not to notice; he wore a low black hat tipped low over one eye, fancy duds not fit for cowboying, and polished shooters on both hips.
And his boots! They were so polished that light shone off of them like the moon on Lake Shasta.
If Grandy's walk was heads, Chester's walk was tails. Whatever was missing in power was made up for in the glide.
Chester had became Chet on the cattle drive which suited him just fine as it was a made up name anyhow, and if Lil was the queen of shenanigans in Rum River, Chester Chet was the king of trouble everywhere else.
He was a tall fellow with a quarter- moon grin that made a man wanna hide his money and a lady wanna pray harder on Sunday-he just couldn't be overlooked.
Chet got a drink and made his way to the table as though by accident while Lil sized him up without anyone noticing.
Chet had pretty much sized up the entire table in the mirror while orderin his whiskey and had not only noticed Lil's pile but the way she was getting it as well.
Lil now had to be careful as Chet stood and watched cuz she knew he was on to her, and it annoyed the hell out of her and her leg swingin over the other showed it.
Still, she won more than she lost and a couple of drunk, broke cowboys stood and staggered toward the door calling it a night, not botherin to check for their watches.
Lil shuffled the cards slowly as if thinkin up nuclear energy.
Without lookin up she said, "You gonna stand there all night like a little boy who lost his sick dog, or ya gonna sit down, Slick?"
Chet's quarter-moon silently grew teeth and he took a chair.
As she began to deal and again without looking at him, Lil spat out, "You don't look like no cowboy to me."
Chet watched the way her fingers spritzed the cards before picking up his hand and responding..
"And you don't look much look like the law"
Lil tried not to smile but couldn't help herself.
"Fair enough, cowboy."

Red Headed Lil and The Rum River Saloon pt 3

At first they tried to out cheat each other but it was clearly a draw. Then in a simple exchanged glance and shift of the eyes, a truce was drawn which spelled doom for the others at the table, and by three am it was all over.
And there seemed little point in Lil and Chet just playing each other, so they drank, and swapped stories til the only cards not played in this game were the Queen of England and the Duke of Windsor.
It's hard to tell who believed what or anything and in a moment of pause, Lil asked Chet if he knew the time. Chet pulled out his gold pocket watch and told her 4:20.
Lil gave a look of surprise and told Chet she really needed to be going. But before she did, she sat on his lap as she passed his chair, took off his hat and gave him a kiss on the cheek as she smiled and smoothed back his his thick black hair. Chet didn't seem to mind and her perfume lingered as she made her way to the door.
Chet watched her full hips pendulum up the three wooden steps and he thought she was adding a little
kick to it for his benefit.

Chet finished his smoke and looked around the saloon at the half dozen drunks that hadn't completely run out of balance and money.
Then Chet reached into his coat to again check the time but when he pulled the watch out he discovered it wasn't his gold watch he held but another watch made of sterling silver.
Chet smiled then broke out into full laughter as the bartender watched him curiously. Putting the watch back into his coat he stood and walked over to the bartender who was leaning back on a post with his arms crossed in defiance.
"Say, you there, barkeep," Chet paused, rubbed his stubble and squinted his eyes. "that lady I've been playing cards with-"
The bartender grabbed a dirty glass and wiped it on his dirty apron before placing it on the shelf with his back to Chet
"You mean Lil?"
Chet brushed his nose with his finger and his grin faded.
"Yeah, guess I do. You know where she lives?"
The bartender turned and placed his arms spread on the bar.
"Maybe, why you asking?"
Chet sized him up then leaned in close to the bartender's scowl.
"Maybe cuz I want to know."
The bartender seemed unfazed and Chet decided he wasn't worth messing with, so eased off some.
"She left something behind, I just want to return it"
The barkeep countered. "You can leave it with me, I'll see she gets it." But he knew full well Lil never leaves anything behind except the perfume.
Chet smiled easy, "No offense, but I don't know you. I'd like to return it myself."
The bartender looked down, then grinned and nodded towards the door.
"Down the street, oh, bout a quarter mile or so, maybe less. The Miller Hotel, second floor-you can't miss it. big sign out front."
Then after a deliberate pause he added, "But I wouldn't go down there if I were you."
Chet looked to the door then back to the bartender, his look growing curious.
"Oh yeah, and why's that?"
The bartender turned away, wiped his hands on his hips then started stacking glasses.
"Just wouldn't, that's all."
Chet threw some coins on the bar.
"Yeah? Well you're not me, are ya?"
Chet turned and made his way to the swingin doors not giving the barkeep a chance to respond and disappeared into the night
.Two drunk men scurried to the door to see which way he went.
"The damn fools goin down there."
The bartender chuckled then threw up his hands and smiled over his shoulder.
"Can't say I didn't warn him."

Chet lit another smoke then made his way down the dark empty street. Chet knew the feeling of being watched, of eyes on his back but he ignored it. This is the way things went for Chet, just mosey into town for a drink and the next thing you know, somethings happening and it usually wasn't good.
The bartender had been right, it was easy to find, but Chet also remembered the warning and how
Lil had suddenly needed to get on her way.
Chet paused in the street before the sign and the steps leading up. Then he went to the opposite side of the street and lit one more smoke as he leaned against a hitching rail and studied the hotel.
Something told him he should just walk away, go back to his horse and keep moving. He didn't give a shit about the watch as he had won it in a poker game and the one she replaced it with seemed to
work fine. It was her ability to do it that held him there, the style in which she not only took his, but teased him with the silver one. He should've listened to the voice, but that was the trouble-he never did.
He was pretty sure using the door would have much to do with the barkeep's warning, and he noticed the window on the side of the hotel and the overhang below it.
Chet smiled and flicked the smoke away as he pushed himself off the rail.
Lil had made it back into bed without Grandy waking and now she lay in bed listening to him snore as she fondled the gold watch and thought of the man she had taken it from.
Chet's plan was simple, he was going to sneak through the open window, take his watch that he figured he'd find on a dresser, leave the ace of spades, and sneak back out. Just a continuation of the game Lil had begun.
Chet left his boots on the street and made the easy climb on to the roof. he really could have had no way of knowing if this was even her room except once on the overhang, he could smell her perfume.
There were several problems with Chet's plan. Lil was not asleep, the watch was in her hand, and Grandy had taken to keeping a pistol under his pillow.
Lil was no slouch and heard Chet on the roof. She thought of waking Grandy but instead quietly made her way to the window. Just before she got there, Chet's head came through the window and Lil let out a shrill screech.
When Grandy woke, he saw the two figures close together in the shadows and he grabbed his pistol
and headed for the window. Chet had withdrawn at Lil's cry and Grandy pushed Lil aside roughly and
fired blindly into the dark. Considering he saw no target, he didn't do badly hitting Chet in the leg.
But Chet wore the twin pistols and knew how to use them. He fired back before Grandy could move
from where the flash had been. There would be no further shooting.
As Lil lay, looking at the curtains blow in the soft breeze, she listened to the sounds of Chet's breathing beside her. his left eye was open and the pistol beneath his pillow was loaded.

The End