June 7, 2008
By Steven Thompson, Montesano, WA

The street entering the small town of Helena was thick with the kicked up dust of horses and the rolling northern hills were distorted by the heat of the sun. There was a tension in this town as the same in many of the southern Texas towns. The heat of summer and the tiredness of labor always got to people and put them on edge. In the distance there was a weary rider approaching the outskirts of the town. With only view of a cactus or a distant buzzard the people of Helena were instantly aware of the stranger. As he got closer they noticed that he was a man who was familiar with a gun for he wore a .45 colt low on his left hip with the butt forward. A man who has used a gun knows that a gun is hard to draw from that position but with practice can be very dangerous to the opposed. The stranger looked tired, and he was, but he tried to keep his composure as he drew up beside an old man who was sweeping the boardwalk outside of what looked like his own diner.

“Can you serve or do you just sweep the walk,“ said the stranger.

“With that attitude, I’m just here to sweep the walk”, the man said angrily,” and the place is closed, so you can just ride along”.

The stranger looked at the man with a smirk on his face and said,” I don’t think you understand, I need some food and something to drink now,” and made an indication to the gun on his hip. The man had no choice but to get some grub because trouble with a rowdy gunman is the last thing that his restaurant or the town needed.

“Okay, I just fried some potatoes and bacon and the pot of coffee is on the perk so come in and have a seat, I’ll prepare you bite to eat.”

“I’m glad you see it my way”.

As the stranger seated himself a short stalky Irishman came in and walked straight back to the kitchen without even noticing that he was sitting there.

“Evans, I don’t think you have any idea how much that horse you sold me set me back”, said the Irishman.

“I don’t care how much that horse set you back, I’m not going to give you you’re money back because you rode your horse too hard”. The old man was on his way back to the table with the food and the short Irishman was on his heels with anger growing on his face.

“You’re gonna pay what you owe to me!” and as quick as that the short man slapped the plate of food out of the old mans hands and the potatoes covered the man seated at the table while the boiling hot coffee scalded his arm. The stranger stood up and instantly the Irishman new that he had a fight on his hands.

The stranger said, “You’re dead,” and tossed the short man into the street. The Irishman stood up suddenly and brushed himself off trying to keep the crowd from belittling him.

“You better know how to use a gun,” the stranger barked.

“I do”, said the Irishman and at that he drew his gun and before the crowd realized that the two barks of a gun didn’t come from the Irishman the pistol dropped to the ground. Just as quickly as it started, it was over and a man lie dead in the street with two bullet holes in his left shirt pocket that could be covered with a silver dollar. There was a roar of voices throughout the crowd by those who were all amazed at what they had seen.

The old man that tried to serve the stranger his food pulled another man back into the diner. ”I know who that man is now”, said the man who was still in shock of the speed of the stranger and his gun.

“Who”, demanded the other man who at this time wanted to know who Evans was talking about.

“I know who that man is, it’s Shaft. I know it is it has to be, I mean I don’t think there is a man around but who could draw a gun like that”.

The man was out of breath because of his excitement, but when he calmed down he started to talk again, “I’ve heard all of the stories , you know like how he got the name Shaft. It’s told that he was mining for gold over in California in this mine shaft and doing well and about ten miners who thought they were worth their hides tried to dry gulch him to take his gold but Old Shaft was so slick that he realized what was going to take place and when he was about to be cracked he unloaded twelve rounds out of his guns and hit twelve and somehow got position to reload again and take seven more because he figured they would just start shooting because of the commotion. So that day he killed nineteen people in a mine shaft so they called him shaft for short”. The other man was amazed that a legend could actually be in their town.

From that day forward everyone always tried to please who they thought was the all might Shaft that everyone heard about. One day a kid walked up to the stranger and asked,

“are all of the stories true mister, are they”.

“What stories”? The man was bewildered and then the boy continued without getting a response.

”The older people say that you are Shaft and that you killed twenty people in a mine shaft, they say that I should stay away and do what you say”. The man put the pieces together and figured on what was going on.

“Why yes, most of the stories are true”, and the stranger who’s real name is Phil Morley sent the youngster along thinking that he was the great Shaft. Phil got used to the attention and liked having the power to get whatever he wanted. He went along for about a week before everyone was irritated, the saloonkeeper was tired of loosing three bit’s a day for whiskey and the owner of the diner was tire of giving out free meals. There was nothing anyone could do in the town though because they all thought that he was invincible.

A day later a light humid rain started to fall which relieved people quite a bit and a man rode into town with dark hair and hard blue eyes. He wore a black flat brimmed hat and a light jacket to match, his shoes were shiny but for a little dust from riding, he also wore a .38 navy pistol on each hip. He was weary from a long ride but looked nice and clean but for being unshaven. His hard eyes looked as though they were on the scout for someone. As he was riding down the street he was coming up on the liar Phil Morley. This new man looked him over real good and considered his gun positioning and his look of confidence, then spoke out as he swung off his horse.

“I am looking for Shaft and I heard he was here would you happen to be him”? Phil looked up,

“What is it to you”.

“I take that as a yes”, said the new man,” I think you are using a false name because that name belongs to me”. Phil’s face turned a sick white color and he felt himself start shaking for he knew there was a fight to come. As the people started to crowd around Phil started to consider his gun skills with the thought that these people thought he was as good as Shaft so maybe he is. He was gaining some confidence and said,

“Then prove it”, and at that time he drew his gun and as he brought it up he felt a thud and a tug on the left part of his shirt and saw two great bright flames barking out at him. His gun fell right back into it’s holster as he collapsed, and as he had killed the Irishman in the street earlier that week he was lying there the same way.

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