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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Excerpt from Stranger from the Valley

Correction to something on the last blog: The website for amctv blogs is blogs.amctv.com/futureofclassic. That should be the correct address to get to the Westerns. I got to the site using the address on the last blog, but it took a couple more steps.

Another short selection from The Stranger from the Valley:

Cranky began laughing, too, at their little tomfoolery. "Pretty funny, huh, Chappie? Them Utes are funny," still grinning, as he lifted his beer glass.

"Ha-ha-ha! Pretty funny all right," Chappie agreed. "Tell me, Long Paul, how long has that Fedderson worked in your fields?"

Long Paul had gone back to setting the place to rights, but he looked around at Chappie, then Cranky, then back to Chappie. "That Fedders' fella plenty good worka', you bet, him do waterin' my hay 'bout three moons now, you bet, good white man. No mind work for Injun Long Paul. He no mind."

"Did he work for you last year?"

"I go his house yesterdee, pay him good money, you bet, no troubles with him. First time I pay him. No work very long. You bet."

Cranky said, "Shucks, you could've asked me that."

Long Paul eyed Chappie to see if he had any more questions, and then went back to doing what he had been doing when there were none forthcoming.

"Just wondered," said Chappie.

"It's getting late, and I an't getting any business, so I'm closing up as soon as these guys are finished. Where you staying?"

"Don't know. Haven't decided that far ahead yet, why?"

"Well, you could stay here in the bar, if you think you could find a spot to throw your bedding. That is, if this is good enough for you?"

"What's wrong with that old two-story building there on the corner, next to where that old man lives? Does he own it? Is he the only one in there?"

"That's old man Weaver's. He lives by himself there in that old house next to it. That old building used to be a hotel. It was always busy with the gold hunters and cattlemen, when it first opened up, I heard. But, when that fizzled, it pretty much fell into disuse. I wouldn't go in there myself. It's about ready to fall down. I got a bet with old man Henberry that this is the year it's going to crash.

"Ole man Weaver is a cantankerous old fussbudget, gives everybody a hard time, and just lives on what he saved up. I should say exists. He doesn't live, just exists. Esther looks in on him now and then to see if he's still alive. She says the place is a mess in there. Most everybody's forgotten about him, even the church. He took a shot at the last elder to visit him, so they haven't been there any more. Sometimes he doesn't come out of there for a week or two except his trips to the outhouse. A real odd feller, if you ask me. He hasn't done a thing to that ole hotel since he emptied it out, sold all the furniture and fixings. That was all going on when I showed up in this area about 20 years ago, now. He must be in his eighties, ole fool, but still getting around to do for himself. Goes to Thorneycraft's store just enough to keep himself in fixings, usually on Wednesdays is when I see him hobbling along with his cane and pulling a little wagon to carry his stuff in. Tried to talk to him a couple a times, but he was too busy talking to himself to answer. A strange ole man all right."

Chappie sat through this extended oration without saying a word, just waiting for him to finish. Cranky looked at him over the glass of beer to see his reaction, then Chappie spoke up, "Doesn't he have any relatives? Nobody from out of town even comes to see him?"

"I heard tell he had a brother came to visit him one time about soemething or other and they got into a terrible argument. The brother left town and has never come back. I sure would like to know what they were arguing over. Esther said she heard a shot before the brother left. But she didn't know anything more about it. I guess whoever was shooting didn't hit what he was aiming at, but who knows."

"Maybe that's why he chooses to live alone?"

"I don't lose any sleep over it. Ain't none of my business."

Their conversation continued for another few minutes, and by the time they had said everything there was to say about the old man, Long Paul and his brother had finished straightening up the place and were standing at the bar listening.

"You fellers want another beer?" Cranky asked, already knowing the answer. "One more free, then got to close up."

They each took a big swallow, and then Long Paul said, "That ole white man, Weaver, him good friend of the Utes, you bet. Him used have Ute wife long time ago. Very happy, laugh all the time, have a good time."

He was about ready to say something else, but Flat Paul began, "Ole man Weaver good man. Help Utes many times before white men come. He marry big Chief's daughter, Little Blue Wing. Very happy."

"Even I didn't know that," Cranky said, "Imagine that, married a squaw."

"Wife die, ole man leave Ute country," Long Paul added. "Come back in few years, build those houses where he live. Then him go crazy. No talk to no one no more. Hate everyone. He say him live with wife's ghost."

"That's what he say," Flat Paul chimed in.

"What do you fellers think? You see a ghost over there?" asked Chappie.

They both looked at Chappie with their dark countenances, showing very serious expressions, eyes in a squint.

"Huh-uh, no see ghost," Long Paul answered, "but that ole man do. All the time talking, he say, 'Come Blue Wing, make me dinner, clean house, wash clothes, take off boots,' him say. Then he do it. No ghost. Crazy in mind, sick."

"When's the last time you talked to him, Long Paul?" asked Cranky.

"Tonight. We stop say hello. He think we are Chief and friend, We leave him alone. Him die soon." Changing the subect, he asked, "You want we clean place tomorrow night?"

"Not tomorrow. You're drinking up all my profits. Next week. Come back next week."

With a look of disappointment, Long Paul said, "Next week, we come back five-six sleeps. Next time we drink whiskey, you bet."

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