Western Short Story - Rye Whitaker

Rye Whitaker


He heard the thumping and whimpering again, and buried his head in his arms, in a vain attempt to drown out the sounds. It would be another long night, and the bitter taste of anger rose again in his young throat.

His pa had disappeared two years before the railroad came through, and now, five years later, Jimmy Dundee was twelve years old, and couldn’t quite remember what his Pa looked like. His pa was a good man and would never have deserted them willingly, but he no longer held out any hope of his return, and so he would have to deal with Rye Whitaker on his own.

The railroad had gone through less than a mile north of their lonely ranch, and his ma had been approached by the foreman to provide hot meals for the crew. With no cash money for months and none likely soon, ma jumped at the chance, and her son, Jimmy, delivered the hot food three times a day on Sally. One of the men on the crew was Rye Whitaker.

The railroad gang took turns returning Ma’s empty pots and pans, and most of the men were respectful and grateful for the home cooking. Rye Whitaker however, had a knowing look about him, and neither Ma nor Jimmy felt comfortable until he left.

Then the rails, windmill, and water tower were completed, and the foreman paid Mrs. Dundee, plus a collection the grateful crew took up by passing the hat. It was more money than they had seen in years, and life took on some needed cheer. The crew left, and Rye Whitaker with them.

But less than a month later, there was a knock on the door, and Rye Whitaker was back. The first thing he did was beat young Jimmy black and blue, right in front of his mother.

“That’s what will happen any time you dare cross me, woman. If you sass me, that boy will pay the price. If you push me away, I’ll take it out on him. Now fetch me some supper, and we’ll start being a family.”

His frightened ma nodded, and put a plate in front of a grinning Whitaker. Later, she wiped away the dried blood from Jimmy’s lips and nose with a wet cloth, while silent, terrified tears rolled down her cheeks.

Later that night, Jimmy crept out to the barn and frantically felt for his Pa’s rifle up on the beams. Then a voice came from the darkness of the barn door.

“It ain’t there boy. I found it and took it when I first come in. Now if you don’t want another beating, don’t you ever think about trying me again. I’m here now, and here’s where I’ll stay.”

The worst part was the night sounds. He was only twelve, but he understood the ways of men, and he knew what was happening on the other side of the thin cloth that served as a wall. He could hear his mother’s whimpers, and the disgusting noises coming from Whitaker, and his stomach turned. He drowned it out by scheming and plotting. Somehow, he must find a way to rid the ranch of Rye Whitaker.

“Where the hell did you get these?”

Whitaker was sitting on Jimmy’s bed. In his hand were two gold nuggets his pa had given him. He had left them out the night before. Angrily, Jimmy confronted Whitaker.

“My pa gave me those! Give them back.”

Whitaker backhanded him across the mouth, almost absentmindedly.

“What did I tell you about sassing me boy? Now answer me…where did your pa get these?”

“I ain’t tellin’!”

Whitaker stood and gripped the front of Jimmy’s shirt with a big left hand and methodically began to slap him, back and forth. His mother ran to help her son and Whitaker hit her square on the jaw. She went down in a heap and did not move. Rye Whitaker shook Jimmy hard.

“Now you tell me where your pa got these or I’ll beat your mother half to death. It will be your fault if you make me do that!”

Tears flowed from Jimmy’s eyes.

“Don’t hit her no more. I’ll tell. Pa gave those to me. He found them in the creek up yonder before the rails went through. They was stuck in the cracks of some rocks.”

Whitaker was visibly excited.

“Can you show me where?”

“Yeah, I can show you, but don’t hit Ma no more.”

“I won’t hit her unless she has it coming. Now you show me where your pa found these.”

They gathered tools and ropes from the barn, and packed them on Sally. Then Jimmy pumped a bucket of water from the well.

“What’s that for?”

“For Ma. She’ll need it for supper and I want to check on her before we leave.”

“Leave the bucket there. She can fetch it herself.”

“No. If I can’t check on her, I ain’t goin’.”

For once, Rye Whitaker relented.

“Be quick about it.”

His ma was conscious and sitting in a chair when he entered the house. He told her they were going up to the creek, hugged her, and left.

The outcropping of rock was scarcely one hundred feet north of the railroad bridge that crossed the small creek. There was barely three inches of water in it this time of year, and the cracked rocks were two feet higher than the creek bed. A quarter mile away, the squeaking windmill pumped water endlessly into the tank of the railroad’s water tower, where it spilled over the top and ran down the mossy sides. By the sun's position high overhead, Jimmie knew the noon train would be along soon and stop for water. In fact, he thought he could see the telltale trail of smoke far to the east.

“Pa found them nuggets in those rocks. They were stuck in the cracks.”

Whitaker got on his knees and peered intently.

“I don’t see nothin'.”

“They’re hard to see, what with all the dirt and sand and such. Pa spotted several and then lost them again while looking away.”

Jimmy was a few feet away, peering intently into the cracks himself. Suddenly he called out excitedly.

“Hey, here’s one now!”

Whitaker followed Jimmy’s pointing finger, and there it was, a gleaming nugget of yellow gold, stuck deep in the weather cracked rock, almost covered with sand.

“We'll need the pry bar off Sally’s pack, but don’t never take your eye off it even for a second. That’s how Pa lost several.”

“Just fetch the pry bar, damn you! I’ll watch it.”

He heard the crunch of Jimmy’s returning feet in the sandy creek bed and reached behind him for the pry bar, all the while keeping his excited eyes on the prize. His only warning was the brief flash of reflected light from the wear-polished metal of the pry bar. Then his brain exploded and he knew nothing more.

Using a piece of wire with a hook bent into it, Jimmy fished his nugget back out of the crack where he had placed it the day before. He glanced down the track at the caboose of the waiting train. It had been there for some forty five minutes, chuffing steam quietly, and filling up on water from the tower. He took Sally’s rope and disappeared into the brush. He was headed for home, but he surely didn’t want to be seen; not after what he had done to Rye Whitaker

...

Rye Whitaker was confused. His head throbbed mightily, and a cloth was wrapped tight over his mouth, forcing him to breathe through his nose. He was looking up at the flat bottom of something, and he was lying on some sort of hard and sharp objects. His arms were stretched out to each side, and he was in great pain. There was something rough and scratchy around his neck, as he slowly turned his bewildered head from one side to the other.

He stared stupidly at the sets of wheels and trucks on either side for several minutes before it dawned on his addled brain that he was under a train, and tied to the framework on each side by the ropes around his wrists. He also dimly realized that the roughness around his neck was yet another rope. Then he heard the long blast of the steam whistle, warning that the train was ready to move.

Full realization came to him, and he tried to scream for help, but the gag across his mouth stifled it. He yanked at his bindings in desperation, but they were secure and unmoving. He was just trying to scream again when he heard the chug of the engine and the metallic rumble of the couplers taking up their slack. Then the rope around his neck tightened. Slowly at first, his body began to bounce on the railroad ties and sharp cinders. Then the real pain and terror began.

Jimmy put Sally up in the barn and rubbed her down. In the distance, he could still faintly hear the departing sounds of the westward bound noon train.

Then he put the tools away, keeping Rye’s handgun and his Pa’s rifle. He headed for the house, and placed the guns on his bed, while his ma watched in astonishment.

“Rye wanted me to tell him where Pa found them nuggets.”

His mother's face was puzzled.

“But your Pa found them in Arizona, before he ever knew me.”

"Yes, ma’am, and that’s where Rye Whitaker is headed.”

Her mouth dropped open and she stared at him.

“You mean he’s gone? He just left everything and he’s gone?”

“Yes ma’am. He’s gone.”

Then Jimmy smiled for the first time since Rye Whitaker came to their ranch

“He took the train.”

“Would you look at that Joe?”

The brakeman and the conductor were peering at three ropes hanging under the caboose. All three were barely touching the ground, worn off by the miles, until the short, frayed ends were all that remained.

“Now what the hell do you think that was for, Joe?”

The conductor shrugged.

“Some damn fool kid trick, I reckon.”

More by this Author


Comments 95 comments

marellen 5 years ago

Wow....Rye deserved what he got...even though I was thinking yikes and squinting my eyes....Another good one Will...


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Will, that one made me laugh out loud! voted all the way across and up. Ain't nothing like justice served piping hot, dust


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi marellen,

Jimmy could have gone ahead and killed him with that pry bar, but there's a human need for vengeance, especially when it's about your mother.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Dusty,

You and I completely understand Jimmy Dundee.

It's a guy thing.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

About your mother for sure! Another great one, Will!


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 5 years ago from On the edge

Maybe .. maybe not. If there had been a way to expose his family jewels to the scrapings of the gravel in between the railroad ties, I would have liked to added that! Thanks! I needed a good guys win story tonight!


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Hey ,Will, There is nothing like a little frontier justice, which we need now by the way! LOL. And old saying I enjoy " There is the Law and then there is Justice ".!Awesome job. I pushed useful too , because it is!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, SubRon7, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Poohgranma,

After a few miles of being dragged over razor sharp cinders and rough hewn wooden ties full of splinters, a few blood smears would be all that's left of family jewels.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi ahorseback,

Boys quickly became men out of necessity on the frontier, and it wasn't uncommon for fathers to die early or disappear. Boys often had to take over and become the man of the house.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 5 years ago from On the edge

Now that's a visual that put a smile on my sadistic face!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Darn those kids! Up and awesome.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Poohgranma,

There were actually worse things that happened to men who bothered women in the old west. It just wasn't done.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi dahoglund, and thank you!


chspublish profile image

chspublish 5 years ago from Ireland

As ever Will, you're a star writer and have introduced this gal from across the waters to 'real' western storyline.


Maggie-May profile image

Maggie-May 5 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

Will, you are amazing, I love your stories....MM


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi chspublish!

Jimmy's father was a Scottish Dundee, but his mother was a Houlihan!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Maggie-May!

Did you read The Bride? I've been waiting for your comment.


Dave Sibole profile image

Dave Sibole 5 years ago from Leesburg, Oh

Great read. Revenge is sweet...sometimes.


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

Will, what a great story. Just another great lesson in treating people right. I mentioned before that there is a lot of great talent here on HP. Again, I say if it were a university, you would be an esteemed professor of high honors.

Goodbye, Rye and hello, Jimmy! Voted up, up and away!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Bye, bye, Rye. 'Vengeance is mine,' sayeth Jimmy and he did a damn fine job of it, too.

So did you, Will. Rated up.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Dave Sibole, and welcome to Will Starr world!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

This one is really serious Will. I wonder what happened to Rye.....I sure don't miss him at all!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Dex!

It wasn't all that long ago that older boys were expected to stand up and protect their family if Dad wasn't there.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi drbj!

Women were scarce in the early west, so a man who would molest a woman didn't survive very long. Even prostitutes were protected.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Cardisa,

One of the reasons cowoys carried a sidearm was to shoot their horse if their foot caught in a stirrup and they were being dragged. It was a matter of survival.

Sadly, Rye Whitaker did not survive being dragged hundreds of miles under the caboose of a train. In fact, he was well scattered over those hundreds of miles.


Becky 5 years ago

Wonderful story of frontier justice.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

As usual, a Fine, First Rate, Tale of the Old West...As only YOU can tell it WillStarr, And Rye got what he deserved...Justice was served.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Becky, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi b. Malin!

Rye was an evil man, and he died as he lived...violently.


quester.ltd profile image

quester.ltd 5 years ago

fitting ending - well told as usual

vote up - also as usual

q


katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Fantastic tale, well done


diogenes 5 years ago

Wonderful Will, I really mean that. Although we guessed he was about to get his comeuppance, the train scenario really rounded off the tale well. You have a great talent my friend...Bob


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 5 years ago

In today's world it makes one wonder if some of this western-justice would not solve a lot of problems.

Great as always.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Your story got me so dam angry at the beginning and has left a big smile on my face. I so enjoyed this one! Awesome story!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Justice is alive and well! Awesome!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Will, Fantastic ending to an awesome story. Justice was served and no lawyers made any money.


Diane 5 years ago

Don't mess with Mom's or there will be hell to pay!

Thanks again Will.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I don't know Will. This story dragged along, and dragged along and dragged along.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Will, Great story. I love it when justice reigns and you tell it so well.


writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

Another great story Will, totally enjoyed it voted-up


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, you are a great writer of these stories, I could have carried on reading! I love the revenge! great stuff!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

WhooHoo. I am trying to feel badly about being so thrilled that Rye "left on the train" that way. But I cannot pull this silly grin off my face. This boy is going to be one great and tough man. Maybe we will see him in another story. I hope so. You have given us another amazing read. You are a fantastic writer WillStarr.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, quester.ltd!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi katyzzz!

Welcome to Will Starr world.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Bob, and thank you for your always kind words.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Ginn Navarre!

Today's justice would have locked him up for a few years, and then he would have done it all over again.

Jimmy had a permanent solution.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Susan!

Jimmy got his vengeance.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Pop, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Mike,

Jimmy didn't need a lawyer!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Diane, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL @ mckbirdbks!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Pamela99, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi writer20, and I'm happy you liked it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Nell, and thanks!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Hyphenbird,

Jimmy Dundee is a boy to watch and will be a man to reckoned with!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Wow, This was a great story. Rye got exactly what he deserved. I hope to hear more about Jimmy and his Mother. I love every story you write. Thank's


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, always exploring!


writeronline 5 years ago

Hey, Mr Starr, did you really make this guy up? Or is it Wild West Train folklore...

Because it sounds to me like Johnny Cash was singing about ol’ Rye’s last thoughts in ‘Folsom Prison Blues’.

You know the first line;

“I hear that train a comin’,

It’s rollin’ round the bend...”

Then, a coupla verses on, Johnny sings;

“I bet there's rich folks eatin',

In a fancy dining car,

They're probably drinkin' coffee,

And smokin' big cigars,

But I know I had it comin',

I know I can't be free,

But those people keep a-movin',

And that's what tortures me.”

I like the idea that ol’ Rye got his just desserts around about the same time as the rich folks up top in the fancy dining car were being served theirs...

Looking forward to your next story.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi writeronline!

Never thought of that!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I just had to return and say that Rye Whitaker is an awesome name for a Western character. Too bad he was a creep.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Hyphenbird, and I'm glad you like the name. So do I!


lilyfly 5 years ago

As good as any Louis Lamour... won't you get back to writing your full length novel... or was I mistaken you were doing that? lily


lilyfly 5 years ago

As good as any Louis Lamour... won't you get back to writing your full length novel... or was I mistaken you were doing that? lily


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Wow! Comparing me to Louis L'Amour, my hero?

High praise! Thank you Lily!


Sueswan 5 years ago

Will, I was on the edge of my seat while reading this.

You are a gifted and talented writer.

I thought Rye Whitaker was dead when his brain exploded and was disappointed that he wasn't until I found out what Jimmy had in store for him.

I love a happy ending.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Sueswan!

I'm afraid my really bad guys don't fare so well.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Hi Will,

I love when justice is served this way! And no one tells it like you... no one can get away with hurting your Mamma, ever! Voted UP & AB-- Happy 4th, mar.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi marcoujor, my dear friend, and a happy Fourth of July to all my friends!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..no one does it better than you Mister Starr - and I love your dialogue in this one - and a good writer always knows that dialogue is the heart of any story in explaining the narrative ...... your son Ringo would be proud if he weren't so busy drumming for the Beatles -lol

and I have a homework assignment for you - her name is

D. TROTH - and she is a fellow hubber - please check out her hub JOHN WAYNE: a short and true story, if you can.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi epigramman,

Yup! Let your characters paint the picture...don't tell your readers the story...show them the story.

But you do that all the time!


linnpen profile image

linnpen 5 years ago

Wasn't a murder, was a killin' and a good story.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi linnpen, and welcome to HubPages!


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Wonderful story Will, you are indeed a talented writer! Makes me want to turn that page!

Good job!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Chatkath!

I'm so glad you liked it!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Will, I do so loooove your short stories. Although I don’t have much time to spend here on the hub, your scribes along with Epi’s and several others are among the first I seek…just like a homing pigeon. :-) I was cheering for Jimmy, and loathed Rye for the pain he brought to Jim’s mother and the young lad. Had he not been stopped, someone else would have inevitably died. Who was it that said, “Vengeance is a dish best served cold?” Once again, your words are perfectly paced, and the ending has a twist that is irrevocable and just. Bravo!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Geena, and it's great to see you again!


writeronline 5 years ago

Hi Will, I've already read, enjoyed and commented on this short but powerful tale of frontier justice.

But, on dropping by again, I was so struck by the adsense placement (different of course, down here in OZ) that I thought you'd be pleased to know that Suncorp Insurance, one of the biggies, has the top place, with an ad reading:

"Plan For Life's Bumps & Scrapes. Get A Quote & Apply Online Today!"

Are they onto contextual keywords-based ads, or not?


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Now that little Jimmy is going to have a successful future....

Excellent!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL @ writeronline !


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi CMerritt, and thank you!


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

Voted up. Great writing.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, WesternHistory!


Ghost32 5 years ago

Another guy who just plumb lost his head over a little bit o' gold....

Voted Up and Across--DEFINITELY Funny (if you have the right sort of twisted humor, which I definitely do).

Wups. Coffee's hot. Be right back, finish catching up....


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Our man Rye learned that the criminal life can sometimes be a drag. :-)


poetvix profile image

poetvix 5 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

This was utterly gripping. It is one of the best short stories I have read here to date. I will definitely be reading more!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi poetvix,

I noticed one of your very articulate comments and decide to follow you. I'm going to take a peek at your work!

And thank you!


fashion 5 years ago

Wonderful and interesting.Very wonderful story of frontier justice.I love it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you fashion!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

So glad to be back and reading, and I was waiting to get to one of yours! Working my way from end of June! This was the 1st of the Starr stories to greet me, and it didn't let me down! Love it all--the twist, the "kids thing" end, the survival, and above all, the wicked, wicked ways of JUSTICE! Love it, Maestro! Thank you!!!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Teylina, and thank you!


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 15 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Hi, He got what he deserved. I wish all justice could be served. Jimmy had the right idea. Stella


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Stella!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 2 months ago from Rural Arizona

Another new one for me. I loved this tale of justice being served the way it should be done.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mike! It's an old one...5 years!

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