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A Tale from the Wild West or Déjà vu in the Space time Continuum - In Memory of Jose Guerena

Updated on May 8, 2014

One Time in Pima

Now I’ve done my share of saddle riding and seen the behinds of more hoofed beefsteak and plumb ornery ponies than I mostly want to think about. Lemme tell you bout one trail push that stands out in my mind, just seemed kinda peculiar in the way things worked out and stuck with me.... Some things nag on a man’s conscience, I guess.

We were moving bout 400 head of quality horseflesh over to Yuma for the Army. There were plenty of gripes about such good stock going to waste to that outfit but then there was a barrelful of complaints bout most everything. A more dis agreeable bunch I ain’t ever rode with, before or since. I just wanted this one to be over, so of course, up jumps sumpin to slow us down. Jamie Brooks the one legged cook was aiming the chuckwagon over a rise when the dadblum wheel fall off. Well, righting the wagon and working the wheel back on, weren’t that big a time but a keg of water broke loose and got into the foodstuffs. Ruin’t most everything ‘cept the beans. Now beans with beans for every breakfast, dinner and supper for the rest of the ride weren’t going to be tolerated by that bunch. No way, no how! So afore the roar got too loud Ol” Joe Mchenny the trailboss sez tomorrow morning 2 riders and Jamie would go to the next town, some place called Pima, pick up supplies and meet up with the company by sunset. At first the men were happy, getting their way and all, but soon they got to arguing bout who was gonna go. Ol’ Joe didn’t call it out like most bosses would have, guess he figured to let the men fight it out and he’d pick the winner in the morning.

Now, not every man was quarreling. Tanner was looking off to the West, just as if he were all by hisself, not saying a word, as usual. It’s hard to get to know a fella when he don’t hardly talk, but after a while you get a feel for how he deals with things. He walked kinda stiff and turned his shoulders, insteada just his head to look at something, he’d been thru some hard times for sure. Tanner had short legs, wasn’t fat, but was kinda bulky looking. He could ride like he was painted on the saddle and had a way with the horses that worked very well, though I ain’t quite sure how he pulled it off. Seems like he just thought it and they did it. Made horsing look easy.

Early on, that fool Clarence spooked a rattler over by the corral and afore you cold blink that rattler was dead. Tanner set his shooter back in place, looked over at us kinda sheepish like and went on his way. That’s when I noticed that he always had a gun on him, or 2 or 3. He didn’t fuss with them all the time, cleaning and such, as some do, but they were there and they were ready. Another time, Clarence {boy, that fella sure could bring a lot of grief on his self} wanted help on a bridle and called him Tan. Tanner,s eyes looked to pop outa his skull. “What did you call me” he said real low. Clarence knew he done stepped in it, took a step back and said “Tan?” Well, Tanners eyes liked to double again and he looked ready to strike, though he really hadn’t made a move. He said “Doncha ever call me that again. You call me Tanner or not at all!” Clarence stepped back again, lost footing and fell into a Saggaro. Sounds comical, but it really wasn’t at the time. So we knew Tanner could ride, was good with the ponies, could shoot what he aimed at and had a temper. Overall, a good man to have around. Just don’t call him Tan.

The sun set mighty nice that day as I recall. As the blue tuned to pink and then red, so did the temper of the men. When the bickering was reaching a fever pitch, Tanner stood up and said “I know a story about this place you is all fired up to get to.” He didn’t speak all that loud, but the noise from the men dropped right off. When the dead have arisen people tend to take notice. Tanner had just about equaled all the words any one there had ever heard him say. He said “ I saw a thing that was just plain wrong and nothing ever come of it, this fella got all shot up and there was this purty Spainish woman, his wife, I dunno, maybe that had something to do with it and she had a little boy and, and”. He kind of drifted off and looked away. “Well, what the hell happened” said Ol’ Joe. That brought Tanner right around, like a whip, “ I’m getting the facts straight in my head” he said. “lemme tell it in my own way.” He glared at the trailboss. “Thas all right” said Ol’ Joe as he put his hands in front of him, like he was pushing something away. “Take your time” He said, “Take all the time you want”.

Tanner paused and looked at each man in turn. He said “We was having a time in some cantina over in Pima when we heard a commotion going on. Being of inquiring minds and lit up just enough, we decided to check it out. Turns out the Sheriff and a bunch of deputies was going around town, picking up various parts of this one family, said they was all making illegal likker or some such, never did figure that part out” Tanner shook his head and continued. “The sheriffs men come up on this one house and went in the yard real quiet. Now those men were loaded for bear I tell you and I don’t rightly know why. I saw the men they already caught and they sure didn’t look like no desperados to me”. A black look passed over Tanner’s face, as he went on. “Those deputys gathered up by the door and knocked on it, not real loud, then hollered ‘open up’ not very louder. After bout half a minute them fellas just kicked open that door and let loose with a hail of lead that I ain’t seen since the war. Scared the hell outta me, I sure did’n see that one coming. Now the Sheriff was standing well back and I could see him good, and soon this woman comes outta the house all dazed like and she sees the Sheriff too and runs right up to him. That old Sheriff musta been expecting this, cause when she gets up to him screaming ‘ why did you shoot him’ he uncoils and slaps her down as hard as any slap I’ve ever seen, on man or woman. The amazing thing was that she snapped right back up, I didn’t see her push off or anything, kinda bounced right up like a willow after you bend it down.

The Sheriff had two of his deputies hold the woman, and he looked to be ready to throw another one on her when someone says ‘Stop’ real loud and that stayed the Sheriffs hand. Found out later it was the Doc who said it. Now as all this is going on, the man who got shot is moaning away in the background. Don’t see how he was still alive after that barrage, in fact don’t see how the woman, his wife it turns out, was not hit as well. Guess them deputys were some mighty tricky shooters. Now the Doc wants to go inside, but the Sheriff wouldn’t let him, said it wasn’t safe, but his deputies were just milling about, not even going inside the house. The man who got shot, Jose sumpthin or other, was starting to make less noise as this little feller comes stumbling outta the house. He see’s his Ma, runs over to her and wraps his self right around her leg. A deputy tried to pull him off, but that li’l tyke wern’t about to budge. Now the wife is getting hoarse from pleading with the Sheriff to let the Doc take care of her man and asking why the Sheriff done for him. In between his ma’s cries the boy looks up to her and says “Daddy’s hurt bad” then he looks over at the Sheriff and asks “Is my Daddy a bad man?” The Doc straightens up and says “Enough of this”, shakes off the deputy holding his arm and marches right into that house with all them deputies right behind him. Doc comes out a short time later, shaking his head and holding an old Colt Dragoon in both hands in front of him. Goes up to the Sheriff and says “Look at this, you son of a bitch, it wasn’t even cocked” and drops the gun at the Sheriffs feet. The Doc turns to go and that deputy starts to grab at him again, but the sheriff shook his head and so, they let him be.

We all headed back to the cantina after that episode and of course all the talk was about what we had just seen. Seems like that Jose feller was just a hard working man putting in long hours in a mine not too far away. He had been a soldier too, supposed to have served with distinction in the last war. There was talk of him and the others being some sort of bandit gang, but that didn’t add up. Just idle barroom gossip trying to justify a bad play. The Doc came in and started drinking hard and muttering about his ‘Oath’ whatever that was about. Before he got too far gone he said he might of saved Jose if given the chance but that he would never know. He also said that it looked to him like half the bullets hit that feller after he was already down. After that, we all started drinking heavy.”

Tanner turned away and stared off to the remuda. Clarence, all caught up in the story, forgot his self and asked “Didn’t the Sheriff get in trouble?” When Tanner didn’t answer he asked “Do you know what happened to the wife and boy?” Tanner spun around with a look so full of rage I figured Clarence was a goner. Tanner started in a deep growl “ Doncha understand, you idjit,” then let loose with all he had and screamed “ THERE IS NO HAPPY ENDING IN THIS STORY.” Now we was in open plain so I don’t see how, but I heard me an echo. After a bit, his body eased and he turned back with clear eyes and a sheepish smile on his face. He said. “Sorry boy, I know you just asking, hell, I’d like to know myself”. He shook his head and headed off towards the horses.

The boys were mighty quiet after that tale. We bedded down early and I remember looking off to the horses and seeing Tanner by this big roan mare that Tanner often used to help control the herd. He was moving his hand like he was making a point and right then the mare bobbed here head like she was agreeing. Kinda looked like they wuz having some sort of conversation. Need not to say, I kept that little tidbit to myself. I Found it hard to sleep that night. The picture Tanner painted of that wife, her little boy and that dying man kept stirring me awake.

The next day Tanner was gone. Gear, horses and all, just gone. Seth, who had the first watch and Adam, who had the second, swore they never saw a thing, but I do not see how that could be. Figure one or both had been snoozing in the briar. Today, none of the men wanted to go to Pima. Jamie neither, but being cook, he had no choice. Since Jamie and I got along Ol’ Joe volunteered me, so, none too happy about it, off we went.

Jamie and me mostly rehashed the story Tanner told us on the way there. Trying to figure out the what of it. By the time we got close to town my head was on a swivel, I was that ramped up. Entering town, damn if there wasn’t a tin star right there by the road waving us over. “Howdy” he says and asks our business. We tellem and just as pleasant as can be , he directs us as to where to get supplies and a smithie for the wheel parts. “Have a good time in Pima boys, and welcome back any time.” he bid us goodby. After we leave, Jamie whispers to me “Do you think he was one of the ones?” I shake my head and whisper back “I just don’t know." At the general store, the blacksmith and later, the bar we mention what we was told by Tanner and nobody says they know a thing about it. The bartender even said he’d never ever heard of such a thing anywhere, let alone in this quiet town. Well, that was it for us. We got on out and mostly rehashed the story all the way to the herd.

Now the funny thing about that company was that even though we was down a man, things started clicking like one of those fancy Swiss watches. The men quit grousing all the time and even took to kinda looking out for each other, lending a hand without being asked and such. The biggest change was in Seth. He became a right proper horseman by the end of that trail. Started thinking things through before he spoke, too. He was pulling more than his share, so the other men respected him and took to calling on him for advice. That Clarence fella finally got bit, guess Tanner weren’t around to protect his ass and that’s where he got it too. So we was two down when we got to Yuma and in all ways a much better crew than when we started.

I never did see that roan mare again but Ol’Joe never mentioned it. I figured Tanner never took his pay, so Ol’ Joe must have considered it a wash. Not like there was a hell of a lot he coulda done about it. Jamie and me often talked about that murder,about Tanner and the town. We both believe he saw it, as it happened. The man was too riled up inside for it to be otherwise. I’ve been told a tall tale or two and this weren’t like that attall. Still, how come everyone in that town said they didn’t know a thing? Mystery to us.

One thing for sure, a play like that is about as wrong as wrong can be.

Post script by author; This short story was motivated by the clearing of all wrongdoing by the Sheriff’s Office of Pima County in the needless killing and torture of Jose Guerena. Please go to;

to understand how tragic that event was and the miscarriage of justice that it is.

If you would like to read a proper western short story by someone who actually knows what they are doing, please go to;

for one excellent example of many.

This is a first time effort on many levels. I would like to thank Ghost 32 for starting his Hub on the Jose Guerena atrocity and publishing his other works that provided a welcome break from it. All props to you sir.

The story pretty much wrote itself, except where ‘I’ got in the way. Starting the hub was another matter entirely and I tried not to do it. If this generates any income it will be donated to the most appropriate place to assist the Guerena family. Similarly, if someone could use all or part of this story to advance knowledge of Jose Guerena's death, have at it. I certainly will not chase you down.

A comment on Comments;

I am primarily interested in the ways and means in which to change the rules to stop the abuses of the [anti]Patriot Acts. Links to good websites with pertinent information or information about good candidates willing to take a stand, will be greatly appreciated. That all being said, if you care to comment, please write whatever you want.


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    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Elenin, Aye a tale teller you are, got me, held me to the last word. The Pima boys best not ever come messing round here, I hold the hand of high, low and mid ground, peace 50

    • Elenin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from So Cal

      Becky, Thank you for your support, here and on the other hubs that are bringing the story forward. ‘Sticking’ is a great way to put it. Writing about Clarence {you know who was meant} getting snake bit was a personal highpoint.

    • Elenin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from So Cal

      Beyond thanks G, would not have happened without you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Ghost is right, this is anything but funny. I really enjoyed this. Very good story telling, in a manner that may stick with a few more.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautifully done, Elenin. First crack at writing a western or not, you don't need to take a back seat to anybody. Will said it right when he described this page as "an amazing piece of work".

      Makes me think mebbe Tam the tall tale teller might know a story about this here Pima thing. Fiction should not be ignored; it often holds things in our memories mere "fact" can never quite touch. Do believe I'll ask him, next time we cross paths....

      Voted Up and everything but funny.

    • Elenin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from So Cal

      I just watched it Bill. POWERFUL. I would have found a way to get there, if I had only known. This feedback is the reason the story was written. Thanks so much.

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      An amazing piece of work. Very well written. Grabbed me right away and held me to the last sentence.

      This is a video of a recent tribute to the slain Marine. My daughter-in-law was one of the marchers. :

    • Elenin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from So Cal

      Thanks Reynold Jay, Your comment and 'up really mean a lot to me.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      7 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Yes a tragic story on every count. I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and beautiful. Hey! I'm now your fan! RJ


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