Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Ran Into Butch Cassidy

Decided to put in a short, short story, which I wrote as my donation to a Lesson for the Writer's Roundtable, a group headed by Greta Bishop of the Bishop Literary Agency. The piece is entitled, "I Ran Into Butch Cassidy," and here it is:

It was a rainy, foggy, cold, wet night when I stopped into the Lost Boot Saloon for a quick belly-warmer. It was a slow night in the whiskey business. At least in the Lost Boot, it was slow, and no wonder. It sat at the bottom of Clay Hill all by itself. The town was on the top of the hill, and when the road gets wet like tonight, nobody was going to venture down the hill on a horse or in a wagon. The wet clay would stick to everything, and it was about eighteen inches deep. And that was not the only reason. The town was the only habitation around for miles at the edge of the Uintah Mountains. So, I found myself to be the lone customer.

I removed my slicker and threw it over a stool to drain, shook the water off my Stetson, took one of the four remaining stools of the bar, and ordered a shot of 100-proof rotgut and a glass of beer from the bartender. He had been quietly watching my entrance from his position behind the bar, resting one elbow on it, his blue eyes alert.

"Howdy, stranger, here's your liquor. Bad night tonight, ain't it?"the saloonkeeper said.

"'Tis that, all right, lousy weather, but the rain's always good," I said, downing the shot and sipping on the beer. "When did this place open up?"

""Hasn't been open long, and if it had been me, I would've picked another spot for it," answered the barman.

"Are you new to the territory? I haven't seen you before around here?"

He gave me a funny look, like I had asked a dumb question.

"Not exactly. Been around for awhile, checking things out for myself. Why?"

"Just making conversation. What did you do before taking up bartending."

"I was an outlaw, they say. Name's Cassidy, Butch Cassidy. Ever hear of me?"

"BUTCH CASSIDY? I can't believe it. He was reported dead a few years ago in South America!" I said, startled. "You're not sprading some manure, are you, trying to pull my leg?" I looked at him closer, but the only likeness I've seen was that picture in Texas with the Sundance Kid and some woman, and there was a light resemblance to that.

"Not a whit, here I am standing hee looking you in the eye. I don't have my gun, so I'm not going to be holding you up. Want another shot?" he said and laughed.

"Sure, sure, give me another one and we'll talk some more, since there ain't no one else around to interrupt us. How many banks and how many cattle have you rustled over the years anyway, if you're really that Mr. Cassidy?"

"Well, the Sundance Kid and some of the Hole in the Wall gang did our share of robbing, all right. I don't rightly recall the exact number and I don't dwell on it. That was something, that big shootout in Brown's Hole with the Wild Bunch, wasn't it?"

"It sure was, and you lost a couple of members over in Nine Mile Canyon, picked up by Oscar Beebe and the law from Price, as I recollect."

"Oh, yeah. Those things happened from time to time."

"Well, since we're just talking between us, let me ask you, Butch, if you don't mind. Did you ever have any moral qualms about the people on the other end of your justice? I mean all the damages and disruptions you and the gang caused, it made it pretty bad for some of them. And the law was after you until you were reported dead, as I recall."

"Sundance and I would talk about it once in awhile, but I've been in it for so long I didn't think too much about it. Why? Are you some kind of preacher or something going to give me a nice long lecture on the morality of taking other peoples money? A lot of them people deserved what they go, and I always tried not to have to shoot too many people, but I can't say that for Sundance. He was just too rambunctious. And we did help out a number of desperate folks, too, so it wasn't all killing and robbing for our entertainment."

"I'm not a preacher, if that's what you're thinking, but I wonder if you could to back, would just do it all over again?"

"Of course, some of it. Like I said, some of it was for good reason."

"I don't think I could've done anything like that. My bringing up never let me consider doing anything along that line. Like I said though, I can see some of the good you did and that's noteworthy, but the other stuff, uh-uh."

"Some people have told me that. We have a different row to hoe in life, and mine just took me down that path."

We talked about this and that for awhile longer and the rain let up, so I told him so long and that I had to find a way up that hill tonight.

He watched me pick up my slicker and toss it over a shoulder, and said, "Just go another mile west, there, and there's an old trail up the hillside out of the clay. You can't miss it, if you follow the hill around there to about where the cedars start. There's a huge boulder at the bottom, and you just cut up the hill there. It's the old outlaw trail I used to use occasionally. Good luck to you."

I found the trail with no problem and made it into town in good shape, but kept the meeting with Butch Cassidy to myself. The next afternoon, after visiting my friends, I headed back home, taking the same trail. When I came near the saloon, I looked and looked for it, but it was nowhere to be found. It must have been a mirage or dream. Darn! I sure would have pursued that conversation a little further. I bet I could have changed his mind about the whole matter, but I really didn't have a chance. I must be losing my mind. THE END

Any comments anyone has about this or anything else, please have at it.

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