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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #803189
An "old" gunslinger reminisces about the past.
Writers Cramp Entry

Prompt: Write a cheesy western with a bumbling gunslinger, an old horse and some snow.

          The sun was just beginning to set as Cactus Jack slid from the back of his horse and landed on the ground with a resounding thud. The horse, thankful for not having to carry its worthless cargo another step, walked slowly on. Jack laid there for a moment, wondering why he couldn’t feel the familiar rhythm of “Ole Swayback” beneath his posterior and then the realization that the horse was no longer under him slowly started to set in.

         “Aww, Geez,” he muttered, “Not again.” Lying there, staring up at the sky, he wished that things could be like they were twenty years ago. “Ole Swayback” was called “Buck” then and the two of them rode from one town to the next, tumbleweeds in the wind. They were something to behold. They were a mighty force to be reckoned with. Jack with his two shiny six guns and their gleaming white pearl handles, his spur clad boots and his white ten-gallon hat attracted attention wherever he went. No gun was faster than his and no “hombre” crossed his path without heading straight to the devil. There were even dime store novels about him. True they were mostly made up stories, and true, he was the one that mostly made them up, but there was a smidgeon of truth in them somewhere he was sure. He remembered the girls, how they swooned when he flashed them his sparkling smile. He could walk into any saloon in any town and within minutes have a perfumed damsel on each arm. "Ole Swayback" was younger then too, just two years old, big and strong. The muscles rippled beneath his skin as he marched into town.

         “Good Ole Buck,” Jack muttered as he lay there still staring at the stars. He ought to get up, he thought, and go find “Ole Swayback” before he got into trouble. Somehow, the energy just wasn’t there to do it. The ground was cold and he thought it would probably snow soon but it was still comfortable and he was too busy dreaming about the past.

         The oncoming snow reminded him about the time he rode into Dry Gulch Canyon in search of Dirty Dan MaGoo. He had known Dirty Dan for a long time and the two had crossed paths once or twice before. Cactus Jack pretty much knew Dan was nothing more than a bully so he never gave him the time of day. Then one day, Dan up and robbed the local dry goods store, taking everything he could lay his hands on, right down to the rock candy. That didn’t bother Cactus Jack too much, but when he heard that Dan pushed Pretty Polly Finnegan down on the ground when she tried to stop him, well, lets just say Jack was sweeter on Polly than he was on rock candy. So there he was, he had tracked Dirty Dan to the mouth of the canyon. He knew he had to go in after him and he knew Dan would be waiting for him. To make matters worse it started to snow so hard he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.

         He had only gone into the canyon a little ways when Dan stepped out from behind a boulder. Jack reached for his six-gun but came up empty handed. In his haste, he had left his pearl handled peacekeepers at home. Dan laughed and let his own guns slide to the ground. They never did figure out who threw the first punch but the tussle went on for what seemed like days. First one, then the other would gain the upper hand, only to have it wrestled away a moment later. Finally, exhausted and sore, Cactus Jack pinned Dirty Dan to the ground. Dirty Dan cried “Uncle” and promised to return the rock candy and apologize to Pretty Polly. Sitting there as the snow fell, regaining their strength, the two developed a friendship that lasted many years.

          He wondered where Dirty Dan was today. Their friendship had lasted longer than his being sweet on Polly. They had lost track of each other a number of years back and it saddened Cactus Jack that they hadn’t kept in touch. He heard once that Dan had been killed in a barroom brawl. He hoped that hadn’t been true but he knew if someone pushed Dan the wrong way it could have happened.

Pick Your Ending

         He lay there watching a shooting star cross the sky above him. The sun had long since set and the crystal clear night sky was open before him. He wondered what had happened to “Ole Swayback?” He should have been back by now. Slowly he picked himself up from the ground and looked around. Brushing himself off, he gave a short whistle and from out of the shadows trotted “Ole Swayback” The horse came over and nuzzled Cactus Jack. Jack took his hand and patted him on the side of the head. “Buck, you devil. You’ve got to quit dropping me. It’s starting to hurt a might.” He swore the horse was grinning at him. Together they began the long walk back to town.


         He lay there watching a shooting star cross the sky above him. The sun had long since set and the crystal clear night sky was open before him. He thought he heard a voice calling his name. He listened closely and once again he heard in the distance a voice shouting, “Jack.” Picking himself up and brushing the dirt from his clothes he answered “What?”

         “Dinner’s ready. Are you coming in?”

         “In a minute.” He looked around the yard, first at the swaying hammock that had unceremoniously dumped him on the ground and then at the spot where his boyhood best friend, his dog Buck, was buried. As he walked towards the house he thought, “If only it was twenty years ago, when I was eight.”

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