Western Short Story - The Yuma Stage

The Yuma Stage


From the cloud of dust and the clatter of steel rims on stones, I knew the afternoon stage from Yuma was just over the next rise, maybe half a mile off and headed my way, so I rode off the road, just as four men appeared from out of a dry wash. They pulled bandannas over their faces and took up positions on either side of the road. They hadn’t seen me, so I dismounted and let the reins trail on the ground. Old Doby was well trained and wouldn’t go anywhere. He found a patch of grass and contentedly went to grazing, paying no attention to the sins of man.

They had picked the perfect spot. The team had just pulled a long grade, and would be winded. The dry wash provided concealment for a robbery, and the sandy bottom would slow the team even further. In fact, just beyond the wash was the flat where the drivers usually halted and let the team have a blow. Both sides of the road were strewn with old volcanic rock, some as big as a small house, and except for the sand of the wash, it was thick with cholla, prickly pear, and tall saguaro cactus.

With my Winchester in hand, I scrambled up the hill and found a spot between two boulders where I had full view of the wash and the road. One of the outlaws was sprawled out in the middle of the road like he was hurt or something, and the others had taken up positions on either side where the driver couldn’t see them, but I could see them plain as day. Two were armed with revolvers and the one who looked to be in charge was armed with both a revolver and a scattergun. They all had rifles too, but they were on their saddles, some fifty yards away.

Now looking back on it, maybe I should have cut loose then and there, but I was hoping they’d just hold up the stage and let it go without bloodshed, so I held off. We waited, both the watcher and the watched.

I heard that driver whistling his team over the brow of that hill, and then the first pair of horses showed, followed by the rest of the team and the coach. To my surprise, there was a shotgun messenger seated next to the driver. That could only mean some sort of valuables on board, and it also meant possible bloodshed. The driver was full on the brake as they maneuvered down the slope and the horses were obviously winded from the long pull. Then the driver spied that body, and came back hard on the reins.

The coach came to a halt some fifty feet back from the man lying in the road and the driver leaned forward in his seat, trying to figure out what was wrong with him, but that shotgun guard was already lifting his weapon as he spotted a masked man on his right. Then the outlaw with the shotgun stepped out from concealment, also to the right and slightly behind the guard.

“We got you boxed messenger man. Best thing for you to do is hand that scattergun over butt first. “ The guard hesitated, and then shrugged. Whatever he was protecting apparently wasn’t worth dying over. He took the shotgun by the barrels and handed it over.

The man on the ground scrambled to his feet and the fourth man stepped up by the driver.

“You passengers just set still in there, and don’t nobody commence shooting! We know what we come after, and once we get it, you can go back on the road.”

“All my passengers are women, and if you molest them in any way, hell won’t have it until the men of this territory hunt you down and hang you all!” I recognized the driver as old Bill Davis, and he wasn’t afraid of anything. He was also right. Molesting a woman was a death sentence out here in the territories.

“Ain’t nobody going to harm your women. Just hand over that satchel and we’ll be on our way.”

That’s when it happened. The shotgun messenger said, “What satchel?”, and just like that, the man with the shotgun cut loose and that messenger rolled off his seat to the ground, stone dead.

For a shocked moment, nobody moved as the echoes of the blast died away in the surrounding hills. Then the man with the shotgun spoke again.

“Now I want that satchel driver, and I mean to get it, even if I have to kill everyone in that coach to do it.”

I’d heard enough. I centered my rifle’s front sight on the shotgun man’s chest and cut loose. Dust puffed off his vest and he went straight down. Instantly, the man who had played dead in the road spun and fired his revolver, hitting a rock not six inches from my head and stinging my face with chips. That man could shoot, but so could I. I levered in another round and he too went down.

I shouted down from my place in the rocks, “The two of you still standing! If you want stay that way, drop those firearms and step away.”

“That you Jimmy?” The driver had recognized my voice.

“Yeah Bill, it’s me.”

Bill Davis turned to the two remaining outlaws.

“You boys best get rid of them guns. That there’s Jimmy Wiggins, and he ain’t missed anything with that rifle in years.”

The guns hit the dust of the road and Bill Davis climbed down and retrieved the dead messenger’s shotgun.

“Come on down Jimmy. These birds ain’t going nowhere.”


It turned out that the stage was carrying a bank transfer of $25,000 in gold. One of the bank’s tellers was a cousin to the man with the shotgun, and he was in for a share, but all he got was a one way ticket to Yuma prison along with the two I brought in.

It also happened that the ladies on board were the territorial governor’s wife and daughters, and he showed his gratitude with a nice sum of money, as did the grateful banker. Two of the four outlaws had prices on their heads, and I got the reward money too. All that worked out just fine, because I had been planning a trip to the California gold fields and I needed a road stake.

When I set out for California later that month, I rode alongside the stage for a spell. Bill Davis was driving and we talked until we came to the place where the road split and he had to go south.

‘Well Jimmy, I’ll have to leave you here, but I want to thank you for what you done. That damn bunch of hooligans might have killed us all if you hadn’t been there. By the way, what the hell were you doing all the way out there anyway?”

“I was getting ready to hold up your stage.”

He just stared at me for a minute and then a slow grin spread across his face.

“You’re always spoofin’ someone! See you later Jimmy.” He clucked the team and moved on.

Except I wasn’t spoofin'. Like I said, I needed a road stake.

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Comments 73 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Dang good story with a nice twist at the end. It would be great if we could just kick back in rocking chairs on a nice sunny porch and you could just tell stories all day. I would stay as long as you were willing to talk.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

My cousin back in Iowa is an accomplished oral storyteller, but I don't have her talent. My forte is the written word.

However, I can swap lies with the very best! :-)


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Well, lets buy your cousin a plane ticket and get her headed this way. We might ought to wait until it warms up just a little. What part of Iowa? I lived in Iowa for awhile in my youth.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Northeast Iowa for me. The oral storyteller is my first cousin's daughter, and to tell the truth, I've never met her! They live somewhere around Des Moines.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Aye WillStarr, swapping lies is a gift I'll give you a go one day, setting a fire and some mud and I'll even tell the first, giving you fair shot at topping it then I'll play truth or lie with ya', got some desert truths many swear are lies, ought to be fun like this hub!. 50


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Wonderful tale as always. You write a heck of a story. Up and awesome.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks breakfastpop!

Have a great day.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hey Dusty!

Sounds like a deal. I always work best with another liar!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Great story. The twist might have a ring of truth for some old western types.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

Awesome story Will! I love the ones with a twist like that at the end...the good guy turned bad guy turned good guy...I liked it! Up and Awesome! WB


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

dahoglund

You're quite correct. The line between law-abiding and outlaw was often blurry. Law officers in one state were often on wanted posters in another.

Hi Wayne and thank you!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Another wonderful story. I loved that the horse was "paying no attention to the sins of man". Thanks for the enjoyable read.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Suzie!


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Brilliant, your story's light up my day!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks aguasilver!


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

You have the western jargon down to a science! Exciting, and hang on each word or bullet, which ever comes first, story! Fantastic tale of gun totin' outlaws. Awesome example of the lost art of storytelling. You tell it with guns ablazin'!


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

a fun read -- thanks !!!!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Amy and CM!

Doc Holliday was once suspected of holding up a stagecoach outside Tombstone for a gambling stake.

He was subsequently arrested, but for some reason, there were no witnesses willing to testify. :-)


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hiya Will, OMG! this is just awesome! I love all your writings. You are so talented and so skilled in writing stories that hold your readers waiting for something special to happen at the end. So cool! I call it your special spice and darling, I wasn't disappointed, oh not at all. I love it.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Rosie, and we love you right back!


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 5 years ago

Will, I with many others like and ending that has that special twist that leaves the readers all using their imaginations to never quiet--let it end.

I use to live on the old Butterfield trail in Southern Calif and if only it took talk louder???

I can imagine this story with audio--sound in the background (shots being fired) (horses hoof)etc. Thanks


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Ginn.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Will, probably a little late coming in with this. Several "real history" books and articles I have read alluded to the fact that the line was very blurred between some of the famous lawmen and outlaws. In some cases, the local lawman was just plain the meanest guy in town, no special training or love of the law was involved. They did it for the little bit of pay they received, and all the perks that went with the job. They ate and drank for free, and were allowed to live in the jail. I doubt there were long lines of men waiting for these jobs even with the perks. There are stories that the Earp's controlled all of the gambling and prostitution in old Tombstone. Man, those must have been the days. Just keep on writing these stories.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks OP!

Sometimes the only way to tell the good guy from the bad was the star on his chest, and even that depended on the accepted definition of 'good'.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Will, I thought the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. Guess I was wrong.


Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

What a wonderful, exciting read. As always you have great story's too tell. What a twist, I like story's like that.

Have a great day.

Rhonda.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Rhonda.


ltfawkes profile image

ltfawkes 5 years ago from NE Ohio

You've got a new fan, Will. Great story. Besides a terrific plot, I like the economical way you set the scene:

"Both sides of the road were strewn with old volcanic rock, some as big as a small house, and except for the sand of the wash, it was thick with cholla, prickly pear, and tall saguaro cactus."

Very visual. Nice job.

L.T.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Words are expensive so I use them sparingly!

Thanks LT.


Diane Reece 5 years ago

ANOTHER TALE OF THE OLD WEST AND A

NICE TWIST AT THE END.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Diane!


Ghost32 5 years ago

Yep, the twist at the end made it clear: The dead outlaws got that way for daring to horn in on ol' Jimmy's action, all right.

I've seen that little "karmic twist" save me from my own foolish thinking a time or two. A couple of months before I got out of the Army, stuck in Germany, my fiancee wrote telling me of a drunk driver who hit her car. She was five-three but didn't care OR think, chased him and his wife down. She was 17, two girlfriends with her that night.

Jumped out of her car, confronted the guy, who was in his thirties. He smacked her upside the head. She jumped back into her damaged Chevy, cranking it, wouldn't start, with the guy tearing off her side mirror and banging on the window with it. Finally the Chev fired up and she peeled outa there.

I found out where the guy lived in Missoula, Montana, meanwhile training for the day I was out of service. Would normally have flown into Butte, but hit Missoula instead, 2 days ahead of when I'd written everybody I'd be home. Plan was to pick up an axe handle, lay in wait in the down-at-the-heels neighborhood, and do a bit of a number on the fella when he came home from the bar.

Even had each stroke defined and tallied, 4 quick "taps" and gone. Had it gone down as planned, he'd have had maybe a 20 percent chance of living through it. I didn't much care either way.

But fate stepped in. His place was mere blocks from the bus station...but he'd moved, to an upscale place on a hill the other side of town. No way a loner on foot could go unnoticed up that way.

So I let it go, finally.

Not as dramatic as your Yuma stage tale, nor could I tell it in as few words.

Just as heavy on the potential legal consequences magically avoided, though.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I walked that path several times in my foolish days, but God looks after fools I guess.

Thanks Ghost.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Hi Will,

Yuma caught my attention..as I was stationed at Yuma Proving ground..long way from Yuma and Yuma being a long way from any big city..lol anyway I enjoyed the story..love the ending..from Potential robber to hero..great story..UP UP UP :)

Sunnie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Sunnie,

I lived in Yuma for about a year in 1976.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Small world..1978 and 1979 for me.:)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Darn! That close and I missed you! :-)


mquee profile image

mquee 5 years ago from Columbia, SC

Another enjoyable story!Very entertaining. I don't know how you do it every time, but keep up the great work.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi mquee and thank you!


taazakhabar profile image

taazakhabar 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

Awesome and immensely gripping tale... You are a great storyteller. I like your style


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you,taazakhabar.


Mitch Alan profile image

Mitch Alan 4 years ago from South Jersey

Ahhhh...the anti-hero...well played Will, well played.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Mitch!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

I don't know how I missed this but I did. I thought I had gone through all your listings and read them all. Obviously not, will be doing it now.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Becky. It will be in the next book!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

This is a really good one, but no surprise there. Oh yes, you always get me with your own unique surprise twists!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ruby!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Loved the picture of the stagecoach and the story telling brought it to life. That Jimmy sure is a surprise. Hope he finds what he's looking for. Another great story with a twist. You really have the knack for it.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Peg, and thank you!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Such a natural writing style, easy-going. Really enjoyed this.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you for the kind words, Pamela!


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Great story! I was right there at the scene. Love the twist; only suspected it right near the end!

Thanks also for following me. I'm off to read your version of the ending to Frank's story now. Ann


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ann!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Awesome story, Will. You sure know how to put real character in your characters -- I can almost hear them talking when I read their words. You are fine wrtier -- have I told you that before? Seems familiar. I enjoyed reading this.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

That ending is fantastic. Having driven through Yuma more times than I want to remember, I mostly feel sorry for the bad guys who were going to be rotting in prison there. Great story!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Phyllis, and I apologize for the delayed response.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mel!


ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 2 years ago from Lagos

Interesting write indeed; superb!

Followed it all through to the last. boy O boy, that Jimmy can shoot! Those outlaws got a taste of his skill. A perfect write indeed.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, ubanichijioke!


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 2 years ago from Cape Cod

Howdy Will. I 'shore' liked your story. Usually I hang out with Max Brand and Zane Gray, but when Jodah told me that you write Western yarns, I had to saddle up Yukon and gallop right on over here. I'm glad I did. I live on Cape Cod but have spent a bit of time in Prescott, where I almost killed myself trying to run a couple miles in the thin air on my first day in Arizona! I've spent time in Williams too. Once, on my way to Mexico, I detoured for a short time in Bisbee. I was hoping to see J. A. Jance (Author of the Joanna Brady series) but I couldn't find her. I also couldn't stay in Town - it's just too scary. I didn't see any ghosts of grizzled old prospectors, but I felt like one could pop out at anytime. Well, now that I know how to get here, I will be back soon for another adventure. Keep up the good work.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Bill, and nice to meet you!


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 2 years ago from Cape Cod

Thankyou Will. Great story. Stages are fascinating to read about, but I sure would not want to ride in one.

At a steak house in Arizona (or maybe it was in Kansas- I can't remember for sure), I got to see an authentic Western stagecoach of the late 19th century. It was so small and cramped that I am pretty sure I would have great difficulty riding in it as it bounced along unpaved dusty trails at speeds of about five miles per hour.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, Bill!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Three years ago; wow, I sure missed a good one here. Just like sitting down to an old western. You are a great story teller. Will share and hope to bring it back to a few. ^+


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Jackie!


saty100faces profile image

saty100faces 2 years ago from India

Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.You have it all Will.Great one indeed !!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Satarupa, and welcome to HubPages!


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

Great job building tension and mystery. I really enjoyed reading this, especially with the twist at the end.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Jennifer!


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

Haven't read a cowboy story for years, but this one's a real trail-blazer. Love the twist at the end.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you FatBoyThin!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

o dear....that is quite a twist. Grrrrreeeeaaat story.

laughing laughing

Angels are on the way. ps


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 20 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Patricia!

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