The Old Man's Western Tale

March 15, 2017
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It was a warm, dark night with clear skies during the summer of 85’. The warm temperature came with a refreshing, light cool breeze. It was the perfect weather to go camping in the Illinois summer. Lightning bugs flew throughout a dark forest periodically flashing their yellow-gold abdomens. They were in the hundreds if not thousands and the sight was truly surreal. In the distance there was a fire, it hardly could be told apart from the lightning bugs in  the thick forest. There were three figures gathered around an open flame in the starved rock forest.  The flames flickered and gave little glimpses of the figures’ faces. One figure was big and plump sitting in a camping chair with what looked like a guitar sitting across his knee. As the flames flickered the flashes of light revealed that the bottom half of his face was covered in white. He had a frosty white beard, rosy red cheeks, long slicked back silver hair, and wore overalls with a flannel shirt on. His eyes almost squinted completely shut as he smiled at the other two figures. The other two figures stared at him as if they were captivated by what he was saying. The other shadows were considerably smaller than the burly old man. They sat with poor posture in small camping chairs. Eventually the flickering flames revealed their identities and relation to the stocky old man. They were children,  no older than ten. One was at least two years older, than the other. There was a large blue tent, off under a large oak tree along with some bags. A rusty old kerosene lantern hung above the tent illuminating it and some other camping supplies.  A clutter of fishing bags, poles, nets, and tackle boxes decorated the left side of the cobalt tent. A bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and some chocolate was perched on a stump between the younger boy and the older man. In front of each figure lies a stick with an end covered in sticky marshmallow, but is now covered in dirt and debris. All three finished their s'mores and began to lick their fingers, to remove the sticky residue. The old man set his guitar down and began to speak to the children, presumably his grandchildren. 

He began to speak in a soothing deep voice, “It's getting late you two, what do you say about a story then we head to bed?”.
They both jumped up and down, excited, and exclaimed that they'd love to hear a story.
The old man said, “ This one is a special story I’ve been saving for this trip.”.
His two grandchildren were squirming with excitement and could hardly contain themselves.
The old man began: “Many, many years ago in the wild west, there was an old wooden saloon with a rickety wooden porch. In big crimson, red letters, above the awning that covered the porch ,was printed “Deadwood Saloon”. Inside the old Western saloon behind the bar sits a burly old man with bright white hair, wrapped behind his head in a ponytail. He is fast asleep with his head leaned up against a wooden barrel  of beer, with his arms resting across his strapping chest. The saloon  is old, and rickety stools line the old stained bar. There's carvings in the bar, people's names, carved horse’s, numbers, cart’s, cacti, and other jagged engravings cover the entire bar. The rest of the saloon was empty, three cowboy hats sat on the bar along with a few empty glasses. Eight leather covered barstools line the bar. The barstool on the right-hand end is a large oval piece of wood with an old saddle on it. On the left end of the bar is a cigar, and a small glass of liquor. The tables have hats and gloves on them and the chairs have coats on them; as if people should be sitting there. Each piece of clothing tells a story of who owns it. There’s a black torn up jacket at the left end of the bar it’s faded and looks as if it is 100 years old. There is no one in the ancient saloon besides the elderly bartender, who is fast asleep. A large wagon wheel, with lamps on it, hangs over the middle of the room. The wagon wheel chandelier hangs from the high ceiling illuminating the middle of the room. There is a small raised stage with an ancient oak colored piano,  tucked into the corner. There is an ashtray overflowing with ash and  butts on top of the piano. A faded saddle is hung from a  huge set of elk antlers.  There are plates with some food on them at a few tables, along with some drinks, but no one to enjoy the meals. Oil landscape paintings cover the walls, along with a black bear hide. There is a card table with hands of cards laid out in front of weathered chairs, as if people were just playing. Barrels of alcohol and chests line the walls. There is a pyramid of barrels in one corner that is stacked all the way to the ceiling. Cigarette butts litter the floor, making it look like the saloon hasn't been cleaned in years. A massive set of moose antlers are mounted above the swinging doors that lead into the saloon. Oil lamps dimly illuminate the saloon. Above the bar, there's a stuffed deer head with a cowboy hat perched on top of the deer's head. The hat fits so perfectly, it looks as if  the deer was wearing it when it was shot.”.
The younger boy interjects, “But Grandpa, deer don’t wear hats!”.
The old man smiles and replies,  “Sure they do, you’ve never seen a deer wearing a hat?”.
The boy smiles at his grandfather and the old man continues: “There is a lit cigarette in an ashtray at the bar, adding more smoke to the already hazy  room. Just outside the rickety wooden walls of the ancient saloon, the small town was gathered on either side of the dusty main drag. All ages of the small town were gathered anxiously on old stained porches and balconies. They are all captivated, watching something in the street. Three horses, two brown, and one black gaze into the street as if they're watching what is going on as well. Beyond the anxious crowd stand two men facing each other in the dusty main street. It is silent; a tumbleweed is blown across the street by a dry gust of wind. In the road, stands Samuel Johnson, a well known criminal in the west. Samuel has a mean grimaced face, a black beard,  and a black bandana around his tanned neck. His right hand only has four fingers, his ring finger has a large turquoise ring. A huge scar on his right hand shows, at some time, he had all five fingers.
The older boy now interjects; “Grandpa, what happened to his hand?”.
The old man says, “No one really knows. No one besides old Sam.”.
The old man continues, “Samuel is dressed in a white shirt, black vest, black chaps with long leather fringes on the legs, and shiny black boots.  He glares into the eyes of Jack Sexton; a well known vigilante in the small town of Deadwood. Jack is wearing a light blue shirt, brown leather chaps, brown boots, and is clean shaven. They face each other silently, gazing into each other's souls, ready to draw their pistols at the drop of a pin. A black crow flies onto a nearby balcony and screams loudly, breaking the uncomfortable silence. Samuel grimaces his face and spits a wad of chewing tobacco and saliva onto the sand covered road. Suddenly, the clock strikes two O’clock. They both draw their pistols and fire. Samuel winces in pain and bends over. He Looks up from under the brim of his hat and sees his opponent, Jack, fall down into the dusty street. Jack lays in the street as the chest of his blue shirt turns a deep red.  Holding his shoulder, Samuel, with one hundred eyes watching him, makes his way hunched over into the saloon. He approaches the left end of the bar; bracing himself on the counter, while he reaches for the cigar and places it in his mouth and lights it. Puffing on the cigar, he unbuttons his shirt revealing a deer skull tattoo on his chest. He reaches into the bullet wound and grimaces his face as he puffs on the cigar. He removes three small pieces of metal and places them one by one onto the old bar. He reaches over the bar and grabs a rag and presses it into his bleeding shoulder. He smirks and picks up the drink and pours the entire drink down his gullet. His gaze softens as he struggles to stay standing. He notices the elderly bartender, who was asleep just moments before, grinning directly at him. Samuel wrenches in pain, grabbing his abdomen, and falls onto the saloon floor, stiff as a board.” The grandfather smiled ear to ear at his two little grandkids as they sat listening with astonished looks on their faces.
The older one quickly asked, “Grandpa how did the bartender know he would win the fight and come back in?”.
The old man chuckled and replied “Who knows”.
He then slowly got up and said, “Well guys, it's pretty late let's head to bed”.
He took the ancient lantern out of the tree and hung it in the tent as his grandkids shuffled into the tent. He made sure they got in and he broke up the remaining logs into coals in the fire pit. He looked up into the sky with his thumbs hooked on the straps of his faded overalls and smiled to the stars. The old man slowly made his way into the tent and zipped the canvas door up behind him.

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