A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing - A Short Story

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing



He was big and ugly, sitting up there on his tall horse, viewing the situation with obvious disdain. Behind him were two loaded pack horses. To the south was a shady, wooded area, adjacent to the flat, grassy meadow where the horses were now cropping.

“Name’s Charley Watters. Now what the hell are you doin’ out here, all by your lonesome?”

Mary poked her head out of the canvas top covering the wagon, her green eyes flashing dangerously.

“He’s not alone. I’m with him!”

The big man grinned, showing wolfish yellow teeth.

“Well now, you are a right smart looking little filly, ain’t you?”

Jonathon Smiley stepped to the big man’s horse and looked up at him, jaws clenched.

“I’ll have you know sir, that you are addressing my wife, and I’ll not tolerate that sort of talk about her.”

Charley Watters stared down at him.

“You sayin’ she ain’t pretty?” He glanced at Mary again and back at Jonathon. “No, I cain’t say I agree with you, mister. She sure enough looks pretty to me.”

Thoroughly flustered, Jonathon’s face darkened.

“That was not my meaning! I mean you ought not to speak about another man’s wife like that.”

Charley Watters spat over his shoulder and wiped his tobacco stained beard. He nodded at Mary, tipping his greasy hat. “Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am. If your husband says you ain’t pretty, it shore ain’t my place to argue agin’ it. I reckon you ain’t pretty after all, more’s the pity.”

In spite of herself, Mary smiled at his pretended bewilderment. Then she put her hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle.

“Now see here! I’ll jerk you off that horse and give you a proper thrashing!” Jonathon Smiley was now red-faced and angry.

Charley Watters stared down at him again, thoughtfully tugging at his beard.

“Well, you have sand to talk to me like that, what with you not armed, and I’ll give you that much. But if you whup up on me - and that ain’t likely - who will help you get that wheel back on?”

They had left the small train of five wagons yesterday, after a passing trapper told Jonathon of a long valley with a small lake and a reliable stream that flowed all year, just ten miles south. But a few miles short of their destination, the left front wheel fell off, and the axle nut was nowhere to be found. Jonathon had been told to pack an extra nut for each side, but he didn’t see the necessity. Now they were marooned.

“I’d be obliged for the help, but I can’t find the axle nut either. I spent all day yesterday looking for it.”

Charlie Watters spat again, and slowly shook his head. “Didn’t no one tell you to carry a spare for each side?” The axle threads were usually reversed, from one side to the other, to help keep the nuts tight.

Mary looked at her husband reproachfully from her seat in the wagon. She loved him, but sometimes his stubborn streak and refusal to take advice from anyone irritated her. Last night, she scolded him, and he admitted his fault, but that solved nothing.

Now he meekly looked down at his toes, as he admitted his mistake to Charlie Watters.

“I did not listen, and that, I admit, is a fault of mine. I don’t like to take advice.”

Charlie Watters dismounted and walked over to Jonathon, who was still looking down in shame. Then he abruptly backhanded Jonathon hard, knocking him down. Mary screamed from the wagon and Jonathon stared up from the grass at the massive, towering figure.

“Now you listen to me, boy. When you talk to a man out here, you look him in the eye, even if you are ‘fessing up on a wrong thing. Men out here don’t cotton to no damn coward who won’t stand his ground! You will do well to remember that.”

Jonathon came to his feet, and wiped his bleeding mouth with the back of his hand. He stared at the blood for a moment, and then abruptly drove his fist hard into the big man’s stomach. He had been in several fights, and such a blow usually stopped the fight or put the other man down, but this time, it was like hitting a barn door. Charlie Watters simply turned and walked back to his horse, digging in his saddlebags.

“I carry a couple of spare axle nuts. You ain’t the first greenhorn I have came across and you won’t be the last.”

He glanced at a bewildered Jonathon. “I admire that you took a whack at me, bein’ I’m twice your size and all. You ain’t no coward, sure enough, so you just look a man straight in the eye and you’ll do. And carry you a sidearm. This ain’t no place to be unarmed, especially with a woman to protect.”

“I have a rifle in the wagon.”

“Where it will do you no good. You keep it ready to hand from now on, you hear?”

He knelt and wiped the dirt and grass off the axle stub. Then he tried the nut, and it fit.

“You got grease and a leather for the makin’ of a washer?” Jonathon nodded, and went to fetch the materials while the big man dug an axe out of one of the packs. He walked to a tree and began cutting off a stout looking, low lying limb. Mary watched his expert use of the axe in grudging admiration. She did not approve of his teaching methods.

Charlie Watters cleaned the limb with a few strokes and carried it back to the wagon, sliding it under the front axle. He pointed to a rock.

“Fetch that rock, son, and when I lift the axle with this here pole, slide it under, and we’ll clean and grease the stub. Then I’ll lift it the rest of the way while you slide the wheel back on.”

Mary made a meal while they worked, and after they were done, they ate. Jonathon asked Charlie about the valley, and he nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s a might fair spot sure enough, but most folks fight shy of the place, because a party of prospectors were killed there by injuns, about twenty year back. Some damn fool camped there a few days after, and he told a tale about ghosts and haints hooting around so much that night that he packed up and skedaddled. Since then, no one seems to want the place. It’s open to anyone who ain’t scared.”

Jonathon waved at the pack horses.

“Where are you headed?”

Charlie Watters pulled a pint of whiskey out of his pocket and offered it to Jonathon, who shook his head no. Charlie shrugged and took a long pull. Then he belched loudly.

“Just comin’ back. I tried me some prospecting, but came up empty.” He pointed north. “There’s a fair sized town name of Wayside maybe ten miles yonder. I got me a job there, and I’m headed back. When you folks need supplies, it’s the closest place.”

He stood and stretched. “Reckon I’ll be on my way.” He looked at Mary and grinned again. “It ain’t often that a pretty young thing with all them soft places can also cook, but you surely can. If your husband ever gets himself foolishly killed, you just come look old Charlie up!” Jonathon just shook his head in dismay. There was little else he could do other than shoot him, and the rifle was still in the wagon.

Two months later, the cabin was standing, and a crop was in, so they hitched up the team and drove to Wayside. After five miles, they ran across a rough road, and figured correctly that it would take them to the town. They took a room at the hotel and traded the big Conestoga wagon for a farm wagon and two riding horses. Then they began to load the wagon with much needed supplies.

The next morning was Sunday, so they dressed and headed for the small church on the outskirts of town. As they neared, several townspeople joined them. As they turned up the church path, Jonathon looked ahead, and was startled to see a familiar big man standing at the bottom of the steps.

“Look Mary! That’s Charlie Watters! Who would have thought him a church going man?”

The man in front turned around and grinned. “Well I should hope to smile he’s a church goin’ man. He’s the preacher!”

More by this Author


Comments 74 comments

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Wonderful, an original Will Starr western to cheer me up. Wonderful story and I loved the twist. All is not as it seems at first glance. All clear on the spelling.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I love it when my proof reader is first!

Thank you, Becky!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

OOps, missed one. Hr pointed to the rock.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 3 years ago from Rural Arizona

A rainy afternoon in Arizona and a new story from WillStarr, It just doesn't get any better than this. I hate to admit it, but I didn't see the WillStarr twist coming until it snuck up on me.

Good job my friend.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mike! Rainy days are great days to write.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 3 years ago from Rural Arizona

Bill, I have been tickling the keys this afternoon myself. I will be sending you a draft in the near future.

It sure is more fun than arguing politics isn't it.......


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

It's a toss up!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 3 years ago from Rural Arizona

Depends, if your arguing with a brick wall it just isn't that much fun.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas

Great one, Will -- and a preacher. . . your wonderful imagination never ceases to amaze and entertain me -- and I thank you, my friend. I'm already looking forward to your next adventure! Best/Sis


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 3 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Great reading as always. but this time I figured out he was the preacher before I read it...Yay for me...:O) it is always a challenge with your stories...God Bless...:O) Hugs G-Ma


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

I always enjoy your tales of the west, Will, and this one is no exception. As you are one of HP's best known fiction writers, I wonder if I could impose on you a bit to get your take on a potential future contest entry. It's titled "A Certain Place In The World." No problem if you don't have the time and feel free to remove this post as I do not wish to clutter up your comment section with my request.

At any rate, I enjoyed the yarn and voted it up as usual.

Thanks,

RG--


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Angela!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Can't fool G-Ma!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Sure thing, Randy. Where can I find it?


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

On my profile, Will. It's a new one. I didn't want to put a link in your comments. I appreciate your time and opinion, thanks!

RG


writer20 profile image

writer20 3 years ago from Southern Nevada

Another great story, loved it.


Nan Mynatt 3 years ago

Will, I marked you up on this one. That's the way it was back then, and we are still roaming about and trying to make it today. Great story, and where is your story book.


btrbell profile image

btrbell 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

What a great story! I loved it! Thank you!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Uh-Oh! "Ya never know who you might be talking to :) Good thing Johnathan did'nt shoot him. Superb story. What a gifted writer you are.

Keep 'em comming!


snerfu profile image

snerfu 3 years ago from Madurai, India

Lovely story. Good hub. Keep writing more.


Sunnie Day 3 years ago

Good morning Will that will teach the to mess with a man of God..Loved the twist at the end! The title is perfect! Loved this story! Have a blessed Sunday.

Sunnie


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

Vintage W. Starr. I admire your use of frontier dialogue.

Bob


Ghaelach 3 years ago

Hi Will.

Most times I look for a twist after the first paragraph.

A preacher never came to mind.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Must have been hard for greenhorns way back then.

LOL Ghaelach


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Oh good! A new short story by Will Starr. I wait for these with such anticipation. :-)

As soon as I read, “A proper thrashing,” I thought, “Uh oh,” and that trouble might be in the wind as Jonathan Smiley had a lot to learn, being a stranger to them parts. I liked Charlie right away. Never judge a book by its cover. Terrific story, Will, as always. :-)


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 3 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Will, I love this one best of all, I think. It shows the hardiness of old preachers, the gruff goodness of tough men, the reality of the Old West... you just keep getting better and better.

Paragraph beginning "Charlie Walters dismounted..." put the "n" at the end of "the" and it makes better sense. That's the only one I caught...


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Joyce, my faithful reader!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Randi!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Audrey!

Looking forward to the grand opening of your studio in Phoenix!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Snerfu!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Sunnie,

Book review coming!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Howdy, Bob, and thank you, pard.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ghaelach, for your long distance loyalty!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Genna,

Just go to a working ranch, and you'll be a greenhorn!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you so much, Barb!

For some reaso, I drop the 'n' a lot!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Will;

Lol...absolutely...and don't I know it! :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

We all feel like greenhorns at one time or another!


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I had a feelin' that Charlie Watters was a good man. He wouldn't have taught Jonathan a hard lesson about the wild west otherwise. In his no nonsense way, he did the couple a favor by preachin' the ways of the west in no uncertain terms, by the original "touch love" approach. Great story told by a great storyteller. Thanks, Will.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Amy.

The old west was a hard life, and it took hard men and strong women to make it work.


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 3 years ago

Oh yes, you nailed it again. loved it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ginn!


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina

Excellent as usual. Thanks for the story!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ronnie, and I'm waiting for another superb resspenser story, hopefully about my much admired police officers.

I was once a security officer on a lonely home building site near the I-17 freeway and right on the Phoenix city limits line, so the Phoenix PD, the Maricopa County Sheriff, and the DPS all checked on me every night just to make sure I was OK (and to have a cup of the coffee I always made sure was fresh!)

One night, I surprised a burglar, and he started firing on me. He came out on the short end, but you should have seen the response from all three departments! Cops, helicopters, and dogs all over the place! That was before 9-11.

I have loved those law guys ever since.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 3 years ago from Asheville, NC

I love the way old Charlie just whacked Jonathan. Agree all the way with Amy. Loved it.


Sueswan 3 years ago

Hi Will,

I give this one a big Amen!

Voted up and sharing.

Take care :)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Suziecat!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you for the share, Sueswan!


resspenser profile image

resspenser 3 years ago from South Carolina

Will, I have been thinking of trying my hand at a cop novel set in the south about 1976 or 1977. Got a few ideas down and thinking of using the characters and some of the stories I've done on Hubpages.

You have lived an interesting life! I wonder if this new breed of cop even drinks coffee?

Thanks for the encouragement!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

You have what it takes to write a best seller cop story. Go for it!


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

What a great story! Loved it, you really got me in with that ending.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Blossom!

I'd love to come to Oz, someday!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 years ago

You see, you can't judge a book by its cover.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Pop!


LadyFiddler profile image

LadyFiddler 3 years ago from Somewhere in the West

You spend your time writing mighty fine stories Will. You should move to Texas seeing that you love western cow boy stories lol.

Have a good night's rest


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Texas? That's too far east! I live in the real West...Arizona!

Thank you, Lady Fiddler!

^_^


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Love your story ending, what a great surprise. You certainly know how to tell a tale.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Great twist on this one, Will. I did not see it coming. That Charlie was some preacher man!


wayne barrett profile image

wayne barrett 3 years ago from Clearwater Florida

Very entertaining. This is the first of your stories that I have read and I don't think it will be the last. Thumbs up!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Teaches, for the kind words!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, drbj!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Wayne, and welcome to my site!


bethperry profile image

bethperry 3 years ago from Tennesee

LOL Will! Enjoyed this


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Beth!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

hey Will - ran right over when I saw you published a new hub. This is another notch in your belt and deserves a place in your next gathering of short stories.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you for the kind words, Mike!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Things are not always what they seem. I especially liked the dialogue when they were conversing about the wife. Good story.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Don!


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 3 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Dog gone, I missed this one. I ususally check to see if you have posted a new hub....and I missed it!

Now that is my kind of preacher....one who IS honest, and not out to impress anybody. Tells it like it is!

Yet, another great read! Always makes my day better.

Chris


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Chris!


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 3 years ago

Such a wonderful story. It made me smile. :-)


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 3 years ago from Malaga, Spain

My kind of preacher!

Another wonderful tale to take my mind of mundane things and point it towards a time when life was (or seemed) simpler.

John


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you John! Good to see you again.


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 3 years ago from Tucson, Az

Oh I do love all your stories Will :)

what a great way to show the young man to look a man in the eye when He is talking/even when "fessin up to a wrong"

we can all do well to remember that bit of advice


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Barb!

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