Duck comes to town, there goes the town.
|We all know the legend of Tombstone, but do you know, forty miles east was another town with a worse reputation? I didn’t think so; very few have heard of Red Baron. The town, named after a cattle baron named Red Scooter, was just a hide-a-way for hooligans. Red himself had rustled his cattle and swindled honest businesses until he owned the town, businesses and homes, which he rented out to scalawags and rapscallions.
The town was so bad, the sign read: Welcome to Red Baron where prices are high, quality is low, and selection is none. The town had typical businesses, but in Red Baron, Red owned them and either rented them out or hired some low-life drifter, some cad, to run them. There was no selection except what Red provided from his own company. The same was true for construction, nothing but clap-board and canvas, buildings packed close together, and narrow, muddy streets.
You would think anyone other than a wretch would avoid such a town, wouldn’t you? But, that wasn’t the case because back then, the only road that went anyplace went through the middle of Red Baron. Also, the only water in forty miles was a spring flowing in the middle of town that made the streets so muddy. Red had monopolized the spring, you could only get water with a two dollar purchase or higher.
This spring was a gold mine for Red, so he hired the worst reprobates he could find to guard the spring, paying two-bits a day and all the water they could drink. He had a brick wall built around the spring with a heavy steel door that was locked until you presented your coupon showing you had spent two dollars in one of Red’s stores. There were no exceptions – ever!
Duck Smith rode into town on his mule, Randolph. Duck was a chuck-wagon cook wanted all over the territories for serving foul foods and swill that left many a cowboy sick and even killed a few. Duck was a real wretch, mean and despicable in every way; Randolph was worse.
Being on the trail for many a day, Duck was thirsty and stopped for water, of course he got none, he didn’t have a coupon. He was heavily armed and thought about shooting everyone, but the heavy fortress around the spring could get him or Randolph killed, so he didn’t. Instead he rode over to the Gulp-n-Choke café to get some food.
The place was a dump and smelled of rotten food, he was used to this, it felt rather homey. He sat down and ordered a French Dip. The fat, hairy waiter with no teeth took his order then returned with a plate of soupy beans and a greasy, grisly burger. “This is what we got, it’s a buck and a half.”
Duck hadn’t eaten for days, so he didn’t complain, besides it looked like his own cooking. He paid and dug in. The only seasoning used in Red Baron was ghost peppers, not much else would grow there. Duck’s mouth was on fire. “Bring water!”
“We don’t sell drink, mister. The saloon’s next door.”
Duck choked down the food, threw the plate at some fellow sitting by the door and left. He went to the saloon and ordered a glass of water. “We don’t serve water, mister.”
“What you got?” Duck said.
“We got whiskey and we got beer.”
“Beer!” Duck hacked the words from his burning mouth. “Fast.”
The bartender set a mug of beer down and charged him a nickel. Duck chugged the beer down in one huge gulp, then spat most of it onto the bar. “What the hell kind of beer is this?” He asked as he threw the empty mug at some fellow who just walked in, likely the same fellow who got hit with the plate.
“It’s ghost pepper beer.” The bartender was wiping the bar with his filthy apron. “Why, don’t ya like it?” He finished with a laugh.
“Whiskey you bar rat, fore I rip out yer eyes!”
The bartender knew a vile, evil, and despicable drake when he saw one so he did as he was told and set a double shot of whiskey down and charged him a dime. Duck took the glass, downed it in one swig, then coughed and choked, “What kinda rot-gut is this?” he choked out hoarsely.
“It’s made with snake heads, gun powder, and Red’s secret gredient.”
“Let me guess,” Duck said in a raspy tone, “ghost peppers.”
“Uh-yup, three per jug!”
Duck was on fire, he was desperate for water and still didn’t have a coupon. He threw his glass at the same fellow, then went around back with Randolph. He stuffed a half full whiskey keg with ammunition from his saddle bags, then rolled it to the back of the spring barricade. From down the street he pulled his six shooter and shot the keg. When it went off, burning debris rained down everywhere and soon the entire town was on fire.
The fire department responded quickly but couldn’t battle the blaze. The wall around the spring still stood and, of course, they didn’t have a coupon. No exceptions, remember? The bank and over twenty-two buildings burned, the town was gone except for the barricaded spring and an outhouse.
The blast knocked Duck out until the next day. When he came to his guts were churning and burning. Knowing he couldn’t hold it, he ran for the outhouse. After an hour of screaming as ghost peppers exited his caboose, Duck went numb. Finally comfortable, he sighed. Pulling his tobacco and papers from his jeans, he rolled a smoke. He dug in his shirt pocket, took out a match and struck it against the wall. The explosion leveled the outhouse, leveled the spring barricade, and killed everything for a mile.
That’s the legend of Red Baron. Oh, it’s also where the term “duck” came from.