Springs at Sage Brush Canyon
Springs at Sagebrush Canyon
Rusty felt drops of sweat running down his face: the suns rays beating down from the early afternoon sky. He’d dare not move to wipe them off; any movement at all could be his last. He kept his eyes fixed on the man in front of him. He knew Cal Branford’s reputation and that his fast gun had killed many men. But, Rusty knew he was in the right; thoughts flashed in his mind. How did things get this far, and why didn’t he just do what the sheriff asked? His mind drifted back to this morning on his ranch three hours earlier…
The morning was a scorcher and offered no hope it might get any better. “Must be near-a-bout ten-ish from where the sun’s a sittin,” he said to his horse Smokey, as he walked him in from the range. “Dang!” Rusty exclaimed looking at his boot covered with fresh evidence of a wandering cow. “Figures; just’d be my luck.” He slid his boot back and forth in the hot desert sand, trying to remove the brown sticky mess. He scuffed off what he could, and slid his boot with the sole angled down to get some off the side, then gave it a good stomp; shook his head and continued towards the corral.
“Rekon I’ll get you watered up. Then, best we get on into town.” He took off his Stetson and wiped his face with his shirt sleeve, slapped the hat on his leg to knock off some of the trail dust, and led the horse into the corral. Rusty closed the gate behind them then walked over and grabbed the pump handle. He worked the hand pump to bring some fresh cool water into an old bathtub used to hold Smokey’s water.
While Smoky drank, Rusty walked over to the barn and grabbed his gun-belt off a rail and buckled it around his waist. He didn’t care much for wearing it, but some things seem to go with the territory and he knew riding into town without it could make things more difficult.
After tying it down to his leg, he walked into the barn and took a dipper of water from a pail that hung on a hook just inside. It wasn’t cold, but it was wet. He washed the dust out of his mouth then took a long pull from the dipper, and returned it to the pail.
Rusty reached down and pulled one of his old Colt Navy Pistols out of the left holster, opened the breach and checked the load. He removed a spent casing, used to settle hash tween’st him and a rattler. Placing his right hand on the gun belt, he pulled one shell out and fed it into an open chamber, checked that one empty slot sat under the hammer, and slid it back into the holster. After checking the other revolver, he walked out to Smokey and the two of them headed into town.
Rusty’s thoughts wandered in many directions thinking about how things might go down in town. His mind drifted back to something he and Smoky had discovered in Sagebrush Canyon. Someone had blasted up the rim rock that provided water down from the canyon, to his and four other ranches. He wasn’t sure yet but he had an idea as to who might have done it. Although he was able to restore the water’s flow; it wouldn’t take long for whoever did it, to come back and undo everything again.
Sagebrush sat just east of the Pecos, and had near-bouts eight hundred folks living in and around it. The rail came through a year ago and made getting cattle to market easier for all the ranchers. But with everything good that comes, there always seems to be an element of bad. His name was Cal Branford, a big rancher from New Mexico territory, and recently came to Sagebrush buying up all the properties in town as well as some of the ranchers homestead too. Cal stood six foot six with a barrel chest, meaner than a snake, and wilier than a Coyote.
When Rusty rode in, Cal was sitting on a bench in front of the Branford mercantile. Upon seeing Rusty, Cal stood up and pushed his black hat back a bit with his finger. His slow stare followed Rusty as he came down the dry dusty street.
Sagebrush was quiet with a few folks going about the day’s doings. Rusty noted a wagon and two horses tied up at Stan’s Tack and Feed. Stan was helping Bart Simms load the wagon; the horses had the Johnson brother’s brand, so he figured they were inside. He felt like someone was watching him, but he didn’t turn to look. He felt it best if he just kept to his own for now and rode over to the Sheriffs office.
Rusty tied Smokey to the hitch outside, and patted his neck. “Be back an a few boy,” and walked in to see the Sherriff.
Sheriff Coleburn, a tall and wiry man, seldom had a lot to say. He looked up from his desk when Rusty came in and leaned back in his chair. “Mornin’ Rusty, what brings you to town today?”
“Mornin Sherriff,’ Rusty took off his hat as he entered, “ I run into somethin’ up to the Canyon mouth, wanted to talk to you about.”
“That so, what was it?”
“Someone blasted away part of the rim rock and stopped the water that feeds the ranches along the creek.”
“I know you folks need that water, you need help to get it flowing again?”
“Done took care of it, but someone sure wanted us to go thirsty.”
“You want me to ride out there with you and have a look-see?”
“No need for that,” Rust began turning his hat slowly in his hands. “I think you and I both know who was behind it.”
“Yeah, we probably do, but you can’t go accusing him with out evidence.”
“You may not be able to Sherriff, but there’s nothin’ says I can’t.”
“Now Rusty, you know his temper, wait until we have facts and let the law deal with him.”
“I could have lost part of my heard, same as Timmons, Granger, and the rest of ‘em. If he tries again, it could stop the water all together, then I would loose everything I worked hard to build!”
“If you go accusing him if this, they’ll be trouble, and I won’t be able to take no sides.”
“I know Sherriff, but I have my family to worry about, and that Canyon is open territory, so there really ain’t no law says he can’t do what he wants up there.”
“You heard what I said, you need to let the law handle this. I’ll go talk to him, and see what he has to say.”
“I’m goin with you; I want to see how he reacts; besides…he’s got his two hands there with him.”
“Alright, but you let me do the talkin’, you understand?”
That was then, now the Sheriff was shot and Cal’s men were dead. It was down to just the two of them. Rusty’s hands itched, but he tried hard to ignore it, He had never drawn on another man, and he could feel his heart beating hard. He kept his eyes strait on Cal. He knew everything would be decided in the next few seconds.
“Well…you gonna draw?”
“Never meant for it to get this far Branford; all I wanted was for you to let the water be. Too many folks depend on it, and you’re a messin with their whole livelihood.”
“You see what happened to the sheriff when he accused me of dynamiting the rim rock!”
“Who said anything about dynamite? Sheriff just asked if you’d been up to the rim rock, and that someone tried to stop the spring water from comin down the aquifer. ”
“That’s the same thing. Now draw and we’ll see who is right!”
“I don’t want to draw on you Branford!”
“Then you’re gonna die!” and with that, Cal’s hand reached for his gun. The retort of his gun echoed through the street.
Rusty didn’t remember drawing his gun, he heard two shots, and watched as Cal staggered and fell to the ground in front of him. He looked down at the smoking gun in his hand, then back at the man lying in the street. Rusty holstered his gun and went to help sheriff Coleburn. His worst fear, the moment of truth had come, and he had survived.
Copyright :: All Rights Reserved
Registered :: Mon Jul 25 11:09:24 UTC 2011
Title :: Springs at Sage Brush Canyon
Category :: Literature
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