A Fun Jaunt With Cowboys
“There’s gold in them hills, that’s why.” Ernie tapped the table, the dealer dropping a four on his seventeen. “Yes, Sir!”
The dealer moved on to the seat to the right. Jim took the hit on a nine and landed on nineteen. Teddy sat on his seventeen, Winston on his sixteen, and Jeremiah took two hits before busting. The dealer looked to the last chair.
Al looked at the dealer’s face up card, a six, and back at his hand. He and rubbed his jaw.
“I know how to add, damn it.” A light stubble scratched his palm, a reminder of the week behind him.
“Give me one.”
“Very good, Sir.” The dealer deftly slid a card from the top of the deck and flipped it slowly to the side of Al’s cards. A seven.
“Well, hot damn. Would you look at that.” Al turned his attention back to Ernie on the far side of the table. “Yeah, they been sayin’ that for eight years now. I ain’t seen a lick of it.”
The dealer flipped his card showing a nine.
“That’s cause they bring it back to where it’s worth something.” Ernie starred with bated breath as the dealer hit on his fifteen. A six.
“What a shame, Gentlemen.” The dealer collected bets and cards, leaving Ernie’s money alone. The rest of the table sighed.
“Well, that’s it for me boys. Been fun.” Jim scooped up the remnants of his money and bid adieu.
Ernie drummed his hands on the table and laughed airily. He looked to the bar and noticed two women sitting near the door. One sipped a drink and glanced at him, giving a demure smile. Ernie returned the expression. He threw a hand up. “Hey, bartender. Another whisky here. Make it quick.” He gestured to the other men’s stacks of money. “You want me to get you another round? Lookin’ a little light there, fellas.”
Winston and Jeremiah looked at their slowly fading funds. Al shook his head. There was only a handful of drinkers in the saloon. The usual draw for a Sunday night. On Mondays, the train from New York landed at the station and dropped off the few gold diggers that still believed in the rush for a week of stretching their legs and showering. They would rummage through the town, stirring up trouble, invincible to the consequences as they would be gone on next Monday’s train. The stream had died down in the last year but now came the stragglers, the ones that couldn’t afford to make the trip until it was too late. The town was trying to recuperate from the onslaught of visitors that wore out the locals and for some reason, the tributary of new miners with dollar signs in their eyes would just not die.
The dealer flipped out another round of cards and the bartender set a glass on the table in front of Ernie.
“You know, maybe when I get back, I’ll buy this town. Rename it. Build it up a little. It sure is boring around here.”
“The hell you will.” Al took the last sip of his drink.
“You just wait and see there, buddy. You’ll be callin’ me mayor in no time.”
“That’s it. I’ve had it with you damn dream chasers.” Al slapped the table. “We’re here earnin’ an honest living on the ranch, workin’ day in and out. For eight years you lot come in here talkin’ of quick riches. Ya run us out of supplies, drag up our prices, and get rowdy on drunk nights of dreamin’ and high tail it out of here on the Monday train.”
Ernie stood up, throwing his chair backwards. Winston and Jeremiah dropped a hand to their pistols.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. I think your jealous of us.” Ernie pointed a finger at Al and spit his words. “I’m gonna be coming back through here with the finest suit in the country and y’all will still be trapped in this rail-stop side-show of a town with nothin’ to look forward to tonight but cow shit.”
Al grabbed a handful of coins from the table. “You want yer gold? Here.” He threw coins at Ernie’s face. Winston jumped up from his seat, grabbed Jim’s empty chair and smashed it against Ernie’s chest, knocking him to the floor. Jeremiah grabbed a stool from a nearby table and set it down over Ernie with two legs over his shoulders and two under his armpits. He put a foot on the stool and weighed it down.
Ernie tried to wriggle free but his arms couldn’t clear the horizontal leg braces. “You son of a bitch.”
Al strolled over and squatted down over Ernie’s head. He checked his watch. “Next train west leaves tomorrow morning. I suggest you be on it.” He stood. “And skip this stop on the way back.”
Ernie shifted his head to look around the bar, desperate for help. “Someone gonna take this sack of shit off me?”
The few other patrons stared at him blankly and resumed their conversations.
Ernie let out a long grunt. “Fine, this town is deader than a well done steak anyway. I’ll move on.”
Al nodded to Jeremiah who took his foot off the stool. Winston leaned down and pulled Ernie to his feet. Al stepped aside and gestured to the door. Ernie looked back and forth between the three men, dusting himself off.
“Better get a move on there.”
Ernie walked to the door, trying to hold his head high though his eyes shot back and forth. A pair of women at the bar giggled as he walked by. As got to the entrance, he spun around.
“One more thing, boys.” With the speed of a rabbit, Ernie reached for his pistol. His hand froze around the grip as a shot rang out. Al gave his revolver a spin on his finger and shoved it back in the holster. Ernie’s eyes went to his chest where a small red stain blossomed.
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