GENERAL TOPICS > Saddlebag Tales

Old Guns

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1stSgt Fritz King:
A gypsy woman once told him the reason he woke up at 3:30 in the morning was that the spirits of the dead were most active at that time.  She said he should open his mind and heart to them, so they could deliver their message.  He’d woken up almost every morning this week at that witching hour, but no messages came to him.  Except that his cat wanted his attention, and curled up in the crook of his arm to be petted.  Even so, it took him at least an hour to fall back asleep, and sometimes, he never did.

He looked at his sleeping wife.  She wore a sweet smile, like a secret she’d been keeping.  She’d exorcised her demons when she killed Cutter.  Fritz still carried his demons.  They rode with him every night.  Every man who died under his command…there wasn’t quite a squadron, but it was close.

When he woke again, sunlight streamed through the bedroom window.  Scarlet was up and about.  The smell of coffee and fresh baked biscuits filled the air.  He dressed and went to the kitchen.  Scarlet was cooking bacon on the stove.  She was already dressed and ready for work.  Fritz figured she’d already been outside to tend to the foals.

As he looked she turned her head over her shoulder and smiled.  Each time they made love was like the first.  She stirred his blood.  She always had.  She always would.

“Mornin’ darling,” she smiled, setting a plate in front of him.  He poured a cup of coffee into his old tin cup.  It had been crushed at the Rosebud when Strider fell.  He had thrown it away, but Scarlet had rescued it form the trash bin.  She gave it to Bill who reshaped it.  She then painted it with crossed sabers, and the 2 and I representing his old unit.  Like him, her love had transformed something old into something new.

“If it’s okay with you,” Fritz said, “I’m going to ride into town and pick up some parts for the Springfield.  Do you need anything?”

She asked “do you have enough lead to cast some bullets for the Whitworth?”

“I think so,” he replied, “but I’ll pick up a spare ingot at Chris’s.”

She kissed his cheek.  “Give that to Chris for me.”

“As long as he doesn’t kiss me back,” he quipped.  “Damned Frenchmen…!”

Fritz wrapped some bacon round a biscuit and headed to the barn.  Strider’s ears twitched as he approached.  He licked his lips, anticipating the snack.

“You know Scarlet wouldn’t approve of this” he said to his mount, tearing the biscuit in half.  Strider gobbled it greedily.  His horse behaved almost like a human.

Fritz saddled Strider with his McClellan.  He led him outside and dropped the reins, allowing the bay to crop grass while he went to the shop.  The Springfield was right where he left it.  He opened the safe and took out the Centennial Model.  It was his favorite long gun, given to him by Scarlet when it was new.  He loaded the tube and put five rounds into the buttstock slide.  Cycling the action, he put one more round in the tube, and headed back out to his horse.   

1stSgt Fritz King:
Chris LaMarche had been a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy during the war.  He lost most of his hearing from the pounding of the guns.  As a result, he left the Navy and became a gunsmith.  He met Fritz during the war and they became fast friends.  Fritz was happy he’d decided to settle in the west. 

Fritz dismounted and tied Strider’s reins to the hitching post out front of the shop.  He scratched the bay between the ears and said, “don’t wander off.”  The horse nodded as if he understood…maybe he did. 

Fritz entered the shop and called out “Chris!” loudly.  Chris was at his bench, so Fritz approached in his line of sight and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hi Fritz!” Chris yelled and got up to hug him.

“Scarlet told me to give you a kiss for her.  I think I’ll let her do it herself.”

“Coward,” Chris replied.  Afraid I might kiss you back?”

“Yes,” Fritz laughed.  Fritz saw a Colt Lightning disassembled on the bench.  “Problems?”

“These things are junk.  The works are too delicate.  They get out of time.  Colt should’ve left well enough alone.”

Chris and Fritz had like minds when it came to guns.  “I like the birds head grips though.  The gun Colt should’ve made.”

Chris looked over his glasses and smiled.  “Didn’t Bill build one for you?”

“Many years ago” Fritz said. 

“Where’s your carry gun?  Don’t you usually go heeled?”

Fritz had left the house without his pistols.  He reached into his vest and pulled the 1849 Pocket.  Scarlet had reinforced the pocket with leather to keep it secure. 

“Fritz,” Chris said, “this gun is almost 50 years old, and it’s a cap and ball revolver!”

“I like it,” Fritz replied.  “I nearly killed Cutter with it.”

“Not according to Scarlet.  She said you were nearly killed.  Leave it.  I’ll convert it to cartridge for you.”

Chris got up and went to the display case.  “I made this for a customer who never paid.  Carry it until I finish yours.  It should take about a week.”

Chris handed him another 1849 pocket.  This one had a loading gate milled into the recoil shield.  It was set up to fire a .32 caliber Colt cartridge. 

Fritz handed over the old Colt.  “Take good care of it for me.  That’s not why I’m here though.  I need some sights for an 1863 Springfield Rifled Musket, and an ingot of lead to cast some bullets.”

Chris pointed to the back.  “You know where the parts bin is.  Help yourself.”

Fritz started digging in the box.  With a little luck, he’d find what he needed.

This is a great read. You have talent in writing.


1stSgt Fritz King:
Fritz found the sights he’d been looking for, and a Vernier tang sight.  Additionally, he picked up a tin of musket caps, a can off FFg black powder and paper to roll cartridges.  Chris had a mold for casting Minie balls, and threw in a second ingot of lead.

“You know she’s gonna beat you, right?” Chris said.

“Perhaps,” Fritz replied.  “But it’s the thrill of the chase that makes life worth living.”

Fritz made his way back home at a leisurely pace, the Centennial model resting across his saddle.  That’s when he heard the boom.  It came at a distance, rolling across the prairie.  Fritz waited for an answer.  About a minute later, an identical boom echoed.  He’d heard that sound before.  It was the Whitworth.  Scarlet was practicing.  Fritz quickened his pace.

He could see her in the distance.  She was shooting offhand, taking her time and showing her skill.  Now that he was closer he heard the ringing of the steel plates at the far end of the range.  She was wearing his kepi to keep the sun out of her eyes.  Her hair fell behind her shoulder in a single braid.  His cavalry cord, almost white with age, held it all in place.  She was smiling.  As she lowered the rifle to reload he approached.

“Milady,” he said, tipping his hat.  “don’t let your daddy see you wearing blue.”

“You know he doesn’t care about the color,” Scarlet replied.  “Only the man who wears it.”

He couldn’t see where she was hitting on the target, but she wasn’t wearing glasses yet.  Her eyes were still sharp.

“You’re not gonna give me a chance, are you?”

Scarlet capped the rifle and pulled the hammer to full cock.  “A slim one…maybe.”

She smiled as she pulled the trigger.  The Whitworth thundered.  The plate gonged.

“Care to walk down and check my work?”

Fritz dismounted and walked beside his wife.  They held hands.  He held his horse, she held her rifle.  Not much was said.  Not much needed saying.

Five bright spots shone on dark metal.  A ten-dollar gold piece could cover them all.

“Can you cast me some more bullets?” she asked sweetly.

“This is gonna be harder than I thought,” Fritz said.


Still fiddling with finding the button....


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