My grave will have to wait

Joe Claussen looked at the panoramic scene before him. The gentle breeze brushing along the top of the green fir trees, the eagles flying overhead, and the rushing stream splashing against the rocks in the valley below. As he gazed at the sun getting its last glimpse, before the snow capped mountains covered it for the night, his partner called for him down the clearing.
“Joe, hey Joe, what are you looking at?” asked John Harken, dismounting his painted horse, if Joe had not known John for years he would be a little taken aback by his appearance. John stood at about six feet tall with a slight limp in his right leg. His face was the real intimidating factor, he had a scar on his left cheek he got in a knife fight, and he had a scruff of a beard, which went with long mangy black hair that smelled of the wrong end of a dairy cow. “Joe!, you there? Joe”
“Yeah, just taking in the nice view,” Joe said. “This is the peaceful place I would love to spend the rest of my days, I wouldn’t mind being buried beneath these amber skies either.”
“Oh, now you never struck me as the sentimental type,” He replied. Joe could sense the satire in his voice. “Besides you always said there ain’t no grave that can hold your body down”
“Oh you’re a funny guy you know that John, anyways, you find anything when you went out scouting?” Joe asked, hoping to change the subject to the job they were on.
“Just an old campsite, if it’s them then we shouldn’t be too far behind,” Harken replied, seeming encouraged. Joe and John were bounty hunters, and were on the hot track of three horse thieves who had held up a bank back East, and had tracked them all the way to the Montana Territory.
“John, you know there is a five hundred dollar reward, the gold belongs to the bank back east.” Having known John for several years, Joe knew if there was anything he loved more than money, was more money. Joe liked to think the best of John, but knew his greedy soul would get him into trouble, sooner or later.
“Joe, who says that bank is going to miss a bar or two or ten”, John replied. “Now, shall we go?”
“Right, give me a minute to get my gear,” Joe walked over to his bag, and picked up his rifle. Joe liked his rifle, he had it for years, a Winchester .45, with an engraving on the barrel, “There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.” Joe never went anywhere without his rifle, he lived his life by that rifle. He got on his horse, and caught up to John a few feet down the stream.
John and Joe galloped up to a bluff overlooking a little spring where three men were setting up camp. Joe noticed the mule carrying about a black strong box, which fit the description that the bank manager gave. Then Joe came up with an idea.
“ Okay, John, I’ll cover you from this ridge, you go down and see if you can know for certain, if those are the horse thieves we are after.”
“Right, hey Joe if things don’t go the way we want you be sure not to miss” John said back
“Don’t worry just be sure to have your six at the ready” Joe replied, Joe looked back at the scene below them, all he could see were three men sitting around a fire, one was smoking a cigar, the gang leader by the looks of him, the other two were unloading gear, and cleaning a six shooter.
“Howdy camp! Might I be able to come in?” John barked toward the setting in front of him.
“Mister, I reckon we don’t have the resources to oblige for a fourth party here” the man with the cigar said.
“Well shoot, friend I only asking if I could rest my horse, we’ve been riding this trail ever since the settlement back at Detric’s County”
“Mills!, get this man here some jerky, then you best be off mister, I don’t want any one snooping around here.” The man replied
The man unloading the gear brought over a small burlap sack and put it on the saddle bag on Hasrken’s horse.
“Much thanks mister, what does that mule have there, you seem to traveling kind of heavy for prospectors” John asked.
“Our fortunes, hehaha” the man cleaning the pistol said, the man with the cigar looked angry toward the man with the gun; he then turned back to John.
“I thought I said leave! Come on now get!” as he said this he pulled out his revolver, and pulled back the hammer. “If you don’t scram now I’ll put a hole right in your middle”
Then from the ridge Joe fired three shots from his Winchester hitting the man with the cigar in the chest, both mills and the guy with the six shooter returned fire firing at both John and up at the ridge. John took cover behind a fallen log, narrowly escaping a shot from Mills. The firing stopped, and then Joe spoke out.
“Hand us the strong box, and we will cease fire, continue to resist and we’ll drop both of you right here, right now!” Joe called.
“What makes you think we will give up this money, we have it, and we are armed, you and your partner leave, and we will give some of the gold” one of the men called back.
“We can’t do that, now hand over the gold”, Joe got up to move to new angle to see if he could get a clear shot, just then John heard it, a sound like thunder that seemed heavier than those that preceded it, Mills popped around the corner of his cover just as Joe got up to move and shot a single round, then Joe fell down the slope, his lifeless shell came to a splash as it hit the stream beneath him.
“JOE!!” John called out; hoping a slight sign of life would show from the crumpled mass.
“Now, you think you can drop us both?” Mills called toward John behind his cover.
“I will shoot you either way” John replied, he reloaded his revolver as he said this. John looked at the direction the shots were coming from. He saw the man who was cleaning his gun running to a new place of cover. John pulled up his hog leg and fired one shot, hitting the man in the shoulder; he dropped down on his back not breathing. John got to his feet and moved to a nearby boulder for better cover. As he moved Mills put a round in John’s leg that left him hobbling to his new found cover. Hoping that the one shot he fired would kill john, Mills ran to his horse hoping to get away, John jumped up from his cover to get a clean shot. He fired two shots just as Mills got on the saddle; he fell into the spring face first.
John ran over to where Joe was lying, but he was too late, Joe had died from the impact, John loaded his body back onto his horse, and headed back up the path.
5 years later
John was riding his horse back to the clearing where he had been with Joe so many years ago. John got down off his horse and limped over to a small grave marker that read. “Joe Claussen, April 3, 1833 to March 17, 1878 “There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.”
Then John watched as the breeze brushed the green fir trees, and the last glimpse of sunlight showing itself before the snow capped mountains covered it for the night.





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