What A Character contest. Use western character in an odd way
|Word Count: 1969|
“You set Judge?”
Carl chuckled. “Todd you aren’t my Baliff here. Yes, I am ready.” Carl lowered his goggles and wrapped his long deerskin coat around him. He buckled the seatbelt of his glider, which consisted of a treated canvas and four fans mounted on a reinforced aluminum frame.
On Carl’s thumbs-up, Todd pushed the glider toward the edge of the canyon wall. Their target was the opposite rock wall about 800 yards away.
The glider dipped into the canyon then caught the up currents and headed North. With slight joystick movements and leaning right and left the contraption floated forward.
Carl judged he was 100 feet off the dirt and rock-covered floor of the canyon. One jeep stood ready near the mouth of the canyon to assist in a rescue if needed. He let his eyes float toward the landing wall. The two trucks and plane trailers were visible.
As he started testing out the handling of the controls with a few simple turns and height changes, an air horn went off. Carl leveled out and surveyed the scenery. The horn was a signal for dangerous conditions. Carl glanced right, left, and then toward the back wall, nothing. Glancing behind him he found three small dust devils at ground level. He watched as they combined into one of the largest structures he’d witnessed in all his trips to the desert.
Their planned landing spot was not going to happen. The cyclone would be between him and the far wall in seconds. His options consisted of landing on the rock-strewn floor of the canyon or angle to the left, hoping the cyclone would continue to the right. He pushed hard on the peddles forcing the fan engines to strain. Dust surrounded him. Particles stung his face.
The glider pulled out of his hands, and Carl found himself swimming through the whirling wind. The wind stopped and he fell. Blackness encompassed him.
“Mister … you alright?”
Carl felt a hand shaking his shoulder. Cracking one eye open he found a wooden overhang over his head. A man dressed in full ranch gear, squatted beside him. “Where am I?”
“You are in the hay storage area next to the stables. Did your horse throw you? Can you get up?”
Strong arms lifted him off the ground to a standing position. Carl put his hands on his pounding head. Had he been riding a horse? He fell, but not from a horse. He fell from … a glider. Yes, he was riding his glider and been blown off course by an enormous Dust Devil, but there were no buildings in the canyon he was flying over.
Behind him was a wooden seven-foot fence. Off to the right and left were raw wood clapboard walls. Gingerly he turned toward the noise at the open end of the short alleyway. Making his way to the hardpacked dirt road, with the help of his new friend, he squeezed his eyes shut several times. The ancient western town spread in all directions could have jumped out of one of his grandfather’s televised westerns. One and two-story wooden buildings lined the triple-wide hard-packed street. A wooden walkway ran along the front of the buildings on both sides of the street. Men and women riding horses and walking, wove between wagons of every size.
“What’s your name?” the helpful stranger asked.
“Carl Sampson… Judge Carl Sampson,” Carl answered not taking his eyes away from the scene.
“Judge? We weren’t expecting you for another week. Come on I’ll take ya to the Sheriff’s office.” The stranger took hold of Carl’s biceps and walked him across the street to a door with a sign next to it reading: Sheriff, Welcome to End Of The Line. The man pushed the door open and led Carl inside. “Sheriff, this man’s the Judge we’ve been waitin’ for. I found him next to the stables. I think he hit his head.”
A man, four inches taller than Carl’s six-foot, rose from behind a large wood desk and came around to shake his hand. “Your letter mentioned you weren’t coming until next Saturday. I won’t pretend I don’t relish the idea of you being here early. Jefferson over there,” the Sheriff threw a thumb toward’s a bared cell, “has waited long enough to be hanged. The Kramer family are threatening to help quicken the process.”
Carl eyed the young man, not more than 19 years old, and asked, “So what did he do?”
The Sheriff sat on the edge of his desk and glanced at the kid. “He swindled the Kramer family out of a hundred dollars and a horse.”
“For that, he’s being hanged?” The whole time Carl and the Sheriff talked, Jefferson stood relaxed with his arms draped through the bars.
“Mr. Kramer is Mayor of End of the Line. His money built this town. He wrote the laws and no one has challenged them …” the Sheriff glanced at the floor, “and lived.”
Carl decided to play along until he could figure out where he was. He supposed this could be some elaborate hoax, or he could be passed out on the floor of the canyon or any number of other scenarios. Walking over to the bars, he looked the young man up and down. “So did you swindle the man?”
Jefferson chuckled. “Nah. I made a bet with the oldest boy and he lost.”
“What did you bet?”
“I bet 100 dollars and a horse I could pin a card to the fence, located 10 feet away, use a mirror to locate the target, and shoot the center out of the card with any gun they provided. The fool accepted the bet. Five minutes later I did what I promised. They weren’t pleased and forced the Sheriff to arrest me for swindling them.”
Carl looked toward the Sheriff. “Did he do what he promised to do?”
The Sheriff frowned and nodded.
To Jefferson, he asked, “What’s your full name?”
“I’m guessing they weren’t happy with whatever trick you pulled.”
Jefferson‘s eyes dropped to the floor, over to the Sheriff, and then back to Carl. “I did exactly what I promised. I didn’t add how far away from the card I would be standing when I shot. Before I pulled the trigger I walked up to the wooden fence, put the gun against the center of the card, and pulled the trigger.”
Carl shook his head. “There is no way this is a hanging offense, release him.”
“It’s not that easy Judge. The Kramer family tend to think life is lived with their permission around here.” The Sheriff regained his seat behind the desk. “For the most part, they’re fair and don’t get into anyone else’s business. But when it concerns one of them they stick their boots so far into the problem they’re all you can see.”
Carl sat in the one chair in front of the desk. “So you’re saying if I rule the kid can be released you won’t release him.”
“Oh, I’ll release him.” The Sheriff leaned forward and crossed his arms on the desk. “I’m saying he will disappear before he gets very far.” When Carl started to say something the Sheriff continued. “And yes, I will investigate … investigate hard but I can guarantee he won’t be found and there will be no trail to follow.”
The Sheriff, relaxed back in his chair, rubbing his goatee. Carl asked, “So we need to get him out of town, preferably out of the territory, without gunplay?”
The Sheriff nodded.
They couldn’t ride out of town. One Carl didn’t possess a horse and two he knew men waited close to prevent the possibility. He needed a reason to take the kid with him. A reason the Kramers couldn’t fight. Also, where would he go? He wasn’t sure where he was at the moment? “I need a horse.”
“Not a problem. We have several confiscated from their original owners, who won’t need them anymore.”
“Joseph, did you get your won horse and payment?”
The kid nodded.
The door flew open and three large men entered the room. The Sheriff didn’t move so Carl sat still also.
“I understand the Judge has arrived?” the older man asked. “How long before we can hang the swindler?”
Carl watched the well-dressed western gentleman walk to the Sherriff’s desk and scowl at Jefferson.
“I’m taking him to the state territory seat where he will stand charged for other crimes.”
Kramer’s attention shifted to him. “Other crimes? I want him hanged here… in my town.”
“I’m sorry but the law of the territory says he can’t be punished for any one crime without clearing the books.” That sounded good. Carl turned back to the Sheriff. “I will require three days’ worth of travel provisions.” The Sheriff nodded. Turning to the red-faced Kramer he continued, “If anyone follows us they will be held criminally responsible. I am expected at my next job within the week.” Sounded like a nice bluff to him.
“Yes, I can. Now you can leave so I can prepare for my journey.”
It took another ten minutes to get the group out of the office. Carl was positive they didn’t go far. All he needed to do was figure out where he was, and where he was going. “What is the biggest town from here?”
“That would be Larado. You need to go East out of the canyon, probably two or three days ride.”
Well, at least he was still in the canyon. Carl looked at the calendar on the wall, 1878. Ok, he was 144 years off his target date. Carl liked studying history but living it was not on his list.
As the Sheriff let Jefferson out of the cell, Carl informed him how this was going to work. “I’m going to get you out of here and as far away as I can from the Kramers. When we get to another town, you are going to take your hundred dollars and travel as far away from Texas as you can. I hear Alaska is a booming part of the country.”
Jefferson nodded. “I will agree to your terms.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
An hour later they were riding unfollowed on the road. The sky was darkening and the wind was picking up. Behind him, three Dirt Devils were converging on each other. “Ride, Jefferson,” he yelled. The mini cyclones, combined and caught up with them fast. He was surrounded. There was no way of knowing if Jefferson was safe. His horse bucked him off and Carl sailed through the air. Dust stung his face. He was twisted and turned by the whirling wind.
The wind stopped and Carl dropped to the ground. Blackness surrounded him.
“Carl, … wake up man.”
Carl opened his eyes and found a crystal blue sky overhead. Todd was crouched beside him. He was back in his time. “How long was I out?”
“We searched four hours before we found you. An ambulance is on its way.”
“Where’s the glider?”
“Sorry Judge. It is a pile of metal and plastic. Not sure we can even salvage anything.”
Carl took in a couple of deep breaths. “Todd you getting a signal on your phone?”
“Sure. We’re pinging off a satellite.”
“Check for the name Jeffery Smith.”
Ten minutes later Todd found Jeffery “Soapy” Smith, a conman extraordinaire and gunslinger who ran a gang in Skagway, Alaska. According to the article, Jeffery made a lot of money off gold and scams after arriving in the town, from Texas with fifty bucks and a horse.
Carl chuckled as the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. This was going to be the strangest log entry.