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Expectations Will Kill Ya!


                  Expectations Will Kill Ya!

           By Rob Mancebo 

Dan Reed rode into the town of Buck’s Fork at siesta time when the citizens were lazing indoors. The only animal at the hitching rail of the Grubstake Saloon was a big, graying jackass. It was a town of just six buildings. They were cheap, clapboard constructs except for the solid adobe bank that reared up next to the saloon.  Three horses were tied up in front of that bank.  By the size of the town, that added up to a pretty busy afternoon. 

Dan was actually more focused upon the chances of the beer in the Grubstake Saloon being cold.  That’s what he wanted, a cold beer and a shaded corner to rest in for a while. 

He’d just eased down off his horse and was leading it toward the bar to stretch his legs when three men backed out of the bank.  They wore bandanas pulled up to cover their faces, had sacks in their hands, and drawn guns.

One of the men wheeled and leveled his pistol at Dan.  “Hey, now, easy there!”  Dan called out. “I’m not packin’ an iron.” 

He flinched as the man’s eyes widened above the bandana.  He knew better than to talk to people above a low, conversational level, but the bank robbers had surprised him. 

The other two men also turned curiously at his resonant call and he saw one’s head tilt in consideration.  He cringed inwardly for he knew what was coming.  He was too big to hide who he was and the operatic bass of his voice was talked about around campfires throughout the west. 

“It’s Dan Reed!”  the robber called to his fellows while keeping his gun pointed firmly at Dan. 

“You’re pullin’ mah leg.”  Another man stepped around him to get a closer look.  Their desperate work forgotten, the men moved forward to face him. 

“Leggo that horse an’ step on over here,”  the lead man demanded with a wave of his revolver.  There was nothing Dan could do but step around his horse to face them with his empty hands raised. 

“Marshal Dan Reed, huh?” one of the robbers mused.  “Best be careful boys, he might drop a boulder upon our poor heads or yank out a rattlesnake whip an’ larrup the hide off’n us.”  The men chuckled at that and another of the robbers added, “Or bend a section o’ railroad track around us!  Say, you ain’t packin’ no dynamite under that fancy buckskin jacket, are ya Marshal Dan?”  The desperados all laughed like yodeling coyotes at that and stepped forward to face the big man up close. 

Unfortunately, in their distraction, the group walked behind the jackass that was tied to the hitching rail.  Jackass temperaments being what they were, the animal took offense and let loose with both hind legs.  The holdup man nearest the hooves was catapulted into the others with enough force to send them all sprawling in the dusty street.

Guns discharged wildly into the air as the men were knocked over. The kicked man had been knocked out cold.  As his partners tried to rise from the tangle of limbs, Dan reached out and slammed their swimming heads together to finish what the jackass had started.

“You got them!” a strained voice called as a little clerk came running out of the bank to aim a scattergun at the sprawl of robbers. “Bravo, stranger!”  Other people pushed out of the town’s structures at the sound of shots and the masked men were dragged to their feet before a circle of threatening gun muzzles.

“This fellow,” the clerk shouted to the gathering crowd, “subdued them all bare-handed!”

“Nawww I--“  Dan tried to decline their praise. 

“An’ he didn’t even lose his hat nor scrape a knuckle,” a townsman added with wonder. 

“If it wasn’t fer that jackass--”  one of the masked men snarled groggily but was knocked back unconscious by a blow from the butt of the clerk’s scattergun.  “Don’t call people names, you ill-mannered hooligan!” 

“String ‘em up!”  someone shouted.

“Whoa there!” Dan bellowed at the angry crowd. “Let’s keep this all legal now!” 

“Well I’m the judge, that makes . . it . . ‘  the speaker’s voice waned and he joined into the startled silence the townsfolk had lapsed into at Dan’s rumbling order. The group stared wide-eyed until someone whispered in awe, “Marshal Dan Reed.” 

“Well, who else would’ve thrashed a whole gang of armed desperados with just his bare hands?”  the clerk shouted jubilantly and the people of Buck’s Fork cheered. 

“Please, Marshall Dan,” a small voice called and Dan flinched, knowing what was coming next.  “Will you sign my book?” 

An eight year old boy pushed through the crowd and held out a dime novel with a picture of Dan on the cover.  The artist had drawn him riding a rampant grizzly bear while swinging a live rattlesnake as a quirt.  The cover read, ‘True Rip-roaring Adventures Volume #9 by Pat Amblin.’

His name was the only thing ‘True’ in the books. Dan mentally cursed the day he’d sold the rights to use his name to Pat Amblin! He couldn’t have imagined that he’d go from small town Marshall to Celebrity in a few, short months. Everywhere he went someone had a stack of those cussed dime novels Amblin was churning out. Worst of all, people believed them! He couldn’t go anywhere without folks expecting him to do all manner of wild things. Some day Pat’s silly stories were going to get Dan killed! 

He opened the book with a sigh and signed the first page where the story began, ‘Marshall Dan Reed was a mountain of a man with a deep voice that rumbled out orders with all the power of a roaring ocean tempest . . .’ 



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