GENERAL TOPICS > Saddlebag Tales

Series opening.


The Trinity Kid:
Howdy y'all.
This is part of the first of a series I hope to eventually get between two covers.  Hope ya' enjoy it!

Ranger Hardin

   Texas Ranger Wes Hardin, bearing no family ties to the outlaw of the same name, squinted in the afternoon sunlight, trying to see the the pillar of dust that should be rising.  The Falls gang should have been ahead of him, but there was no sign of them.
   Barely 18, Wes Hardin stood right at six feet without his boots on.  He had dirty blond hair, hidden under a black Stetson, and Cold gray eyes.  He had a red shirt under a tan calf-skin vest, on which was pinned the star-in-shield of the Texas Rangers.  He was brawny, and his skin tanned deep brown by the elements.  A white bandana, knotted tightly about his throat, trailed its ends down his chest.  Around his waist was a brown gunbelt, with a Colt Model of 1911 pistol shoved in the holster on his right side.  His horse was a Palomino, with a double girth Texas saddle.  In his saddle boot was a Winchester Model of 1894 carbine.
   “Now how can that varmint just up and disappear like that?” he said under his breath. From his sabblebags he pulled a pair of binoculars and scanned the north Texas plains again.  Another four hours of riding and he would be out of his jurisdiction, in Oklahoma.  From the boot, he pulled his carbine and worked the lever, putting a fresh .30WCF cartridge in the chamber.  “We'd best not take any chances, ole' hoss.” and he spurred the Palomino forward, down the little hill he had been on.

   When dark came, Wes was within yards of the Oklahoma border.  His horse caught wind of the Red River and nickered in anticipation.  Sighing, Wes gave the horse it's head and allowed it to wade in to the murky water.  When the horse had drunk it's fill, Wes unsaddled it, hanging the saddle from the limb of a willow tree, and let the animal roll in the dust.  When it had finished that, he rubbed it down with a handful of grass from along the river and gave it a measure of oats.  With the essential care of his horse done, Wes turned it loose to graze, secure in knowledge that it wouldn't wander too far.
   From his bedroll he produced a coffee pot, which he filled from a clear spring running down the bank of the river, and started boiling coffee over a small fire.  He also cooked some bacon by wrapping it around the end of a stick and holding it over the flame.  When done with his cooking, Wes spread his blankets and went to sleep.

   Wes awoke before dawn, unsure as to what had caused him to wake up.  With keen ears he listened, and from the surrounding darkness there came the snick of a Colt being cocked.  Wes rolled clear of his blankets just as shots roared from around him.  There were four muzzle flashes, one on every side.  While rolling, Wes had pulled his own Colt, and took a shot at each muzzle flash, rolling over with every shot.  There was no more sound in the woods except the whinnying of his frightened horse.
   Slowly Wes got to his feet, pistol ready in case it was needed again.  But it wasn't.  Wes walked around the camp the the positions he assumed his attackers had been, and at every stop found a dead man.  What was more, all four were part of the Falls gang he had been tracking for the past week.

   “Good job, Wes.”  Ranger captain Gil Moore commented to the sitting young man across his desk.  “With these four cashed in, that only leaves six.”
   Six feet, with graying hair and a mustache, Gil Moore was a hard old man.  He had the strength and body of a much younger man.  A ranger since the 1880's, Moore had brought to justice more than his share of criminals.  His authority being the tin Ranger shield and the old Colt Army revolver on his hip.  A battlefield capture of his Confederate veteran father, the old relic had been converted to fire metallic cartridges.  And Gil Moore was more than capable of putting those metallic cartridges where they needed to go.
   “I only wish I could go over into Oklahoma.”  Wes Hardin said to his superior.  The old man chuckled, and stood up from his chair, reaching across the desk to pat the young man on the shoulder.
   “I can't tell you how many times I've wished the same thing, Wes.”

   Wes left the Clay County Ranger headquarters on the outskirts of Henrietta, walking  toward the middle of the town.  In the darkness, the lamp of a train shone as the 10:30 express came in from Archer City.  Wes came to a cross street, where a drunk leaned on a lamp post, yelling nasty things at passers by.  The young ranger moved him off the street, taking him to a livery barn and piling some straw on him.
   From the barn, he walked down to an all night barber shop and got a shave, haircut and bath.  On the porch of the establishment, Wes watched the street, examining the people walking by.  Many of them were farmers, and businessmen, while others looked like gamblers or people just passing through. 
   Wes went to the house he had bought the month before and made himself a small meal of potatoes and beef.  Since the house was brand new, it had fixtures for electrically powered tools, and even a telephone.  There were several light bulbs, though Wes had no idea how to operate one.  The first time he tried, he had cut his finger breaking the glass case, and even after all that, the wick wouldn't light, no matter how many matches he had burned under it.
   When Wes climbed into bed, the putting of motor cars on the street kept him awake for more than an hour.

   The next morning found Wes out at a small ranch to the east, looking for signs of a horse thief.  Only three horses had been taken, but the rancher was raging over it so hard, Wes was afraid the man would pop.  After an hour of searching, Wes found a set of tracks, and started following them, riding until he was back at the Red River.  The tracks kept going, but Wes stopped.  He had no authority across the river, in Oklahoma.  With a resigned sigh, Wes turned back to Henrietta, sending a telegram to all the sheriffs in Oklahoma to look for a man with three horses bearing a certain brand.
   The rest of the day Wes spent around town, looking around for anything suspicious.  He arrested two drunks for fighting in the street, and helped several young ladies carry large boxes to their wagons, or motor cars.  He investigated a theft of a wallet from a man taking the railroad west, and drew a dead end.  Later, after informing the distraught traveler, he was told that the man had found his wallet in the pocket of his other coat.
   At supper he went to the Railroad Diner, and ate some food cooked by a French chef.  After his supper, he went to the Ranger office and looked in on the horse robbery, but found nothing.  Saying goodnight to Gil Moore, the young man went to his house and again was kept awake by the sounds of “technology.” 

   When Wes went to the Ranger office the next morning, he was immediately handed a sheaf of papers and told to chase a group of pick pockets who had robbed a young man and his wife at gunpoint, then fled to the south.
   Within an hour, Wes was on the trail south out of Henrietta, following the tracks of six horses.  He had ridden for three hours when, as he crested a hill, a bullet swept the hat from his head.  Without thinking, Wes fell from his horse, grabbing the Winchester carbine from the boot as he went, and shooed the horse away.
   On his belly, the ranger crawled back to the top of the hill, and saw a cloud of powder smoke at the top of a hill about one hundred fifty yards away.  Taking note of the wind, he calculated where the hidden shooter was.  Scanning the deep grass, he saw a flash of sunlight on metal.  Raising the ladder sight on his rifle, Wes sighted in on the flash before issuing a challenge.
   “Ranger here!  Put the rifle down and stand up with your hands where I can see 'em!”
   His challenge was answered by the bellow of a large rifle.  The bullet flew about six feet above the Ranger's head, and Wes pulled the trigger on his own rifle.  He had no idea what part of the rifle had reflected the sun, but he played a hunch and had his sights set directly at the spot the glare came from.
   For ten minutes after he made the shot, Wes remained motionless.  Finally, his curiosity got the best of him, and he got to his knees, jacking his Winchester just in case.  No shot came, so he stood up all the way and proceeded down the hill.
   When he got to the hidden gunman, he saw that he presented no further danger to anybody.  A small caliber bullet had poked its way through the front of his neck, bursting out the back in a bloody mess.  He had been in the process of reloading the Sharps model of 1877 rifle when killed.
   Wes searched for the dead mans horse, but it soon became evident that his companions had taken it when the shooting started.  With a shrug, Wes returned to the body and took the gun belt and rifle, as well as ten dollars, likely stolen. 
   “I wouldn't worry about coyotes, bud.  They don't bother their own kind.”
   The dead man matched the poster Wes had for him, and the young ranger wrapped the paper around the gun belt and money, as proof that it had belonged to the man, and scratched the name from the book in his shirt pocket.  His “Bible Two.”
   With the captured Sharps rifle in his saddle boot, and his own Carbine across his lap, Wes took out following the other five.

   The first night Wes slept in a dry camp, and ate canned tomatoes for his supper, not wanting to risk a fire.  He slept in the shadow of a rock, and wasn't disturbed all night.
   Wes was up before first light, and following the tracks as he snacked on a slice of bread.  He came upon a small town about noon, and had a meal, talked to the sheriff, and bought another loaf of bread before getting back to the trail.  It wasn't until several hours later that he noticed he hadn't found the name of the town.
   Just before dark, Wes had his second encounter with the outlaws.
   He had stopped by a spring to water his horse, and to stretch his legs when a bullet whipped out of the bushes twenty yards to his right.  He was too far away from his horse to grab his rifle, which he left wrapped up in the reins, so he bellied down and pulled his Colt Automatic Pistol.  He fired three shots just below a cloud of smoke, then rolled down into a small dent in the ground.  There was rustling as something ran away through the bushes, and Wes stood up.
   When he looked in the bushes, there was a small amount of blood, but nothing to identify the shooter.  Wes returned to his horse, reloaded the magazine in his pistol, and set out after the fleeing gunman.
   Wes followed the blood for a hundred yards before he lost the trail.  The gunman had likely mounted a horse, and tied something around his wounded body part.  But because of the hilly nature of the terrain, and the falling darkness, the young ranger found no signs of where the bushwhacker had gone. 

   By sun-up, Young Wes was already on the trail, following the lone tracks.  On an impulse, he pulled the captured Sharps rifle to his shoulder and put a .45 Government cartridge into a rock.  His hope was to draw the remaining five thieves to him, and ideally arrest all five.  If they did come, he knew they likely would all die, maybe even him.  This whole train of thought went through his head as he replaced the fired case in the rifle.
   After half an hour of riding, nothing had happened.  Wes rode to the top of the highest hill he could find, and scanned the surrounding country with his field glasses.  All he could find was a small column of dust nearly five miles distant.  Taking note of their direction, Wes decided they were heading to Dallas.  That would complicate things considerably, should they make it to the city. 
   After examining  a map from his saddle bags, Wes found a small trail that led to Dallas, and would be quicker than going cross-country.  Angling his course, he reached the trail in an hour, and was on the main street of Dallas in three.
   Wes checked in at the Dallas Ranger outpost, and turned in the weapons belonging to the man he had killed.  A brief discussion with the Captain of the outpost told Wes that the Falls gang had robbed another bank in Randall County, and got away with more than ten thousand dollars.  One of the gang had been injured, hit with a small pistol, and one more had measured his length in the street when he lost a fight with a repeating shotgun.  One bank teller had been killed when he tried to pull a shotgun, and one citizen bystander had been hit by a stray bullet, but was expected to survive.



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