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CONVERSATION PIECES XIV: THE GUNFIGHTER
By: Wayne Brown
The mouth always gets a little dry just beforehand. That’s why I always sip a beer up until just before I go outside. Gunfights are a “Main Street Thing” always held outside for all to see. I’ve had more than my share of them. I understand the drill completely….not that I care much for it but my exposure to it has brought me a deep understanding of the event.
Throughout time, man has challenged another man’s hand for a litany of reasons most related back to the basics of one man having control over the other in some instance of time. Cavemen used clubs and fought to the death for dominance just as some animals instinctively fight to the death for the dominance of a group of females or to be looked upon as the “leader of the pack”. That title always comes with the promise of yet another challenge from yet another challenger; it is just a matter of time and circumstance.
I normally don’t completely finish my beer before I go out into the street. I leave about one-third of it sitting there in the mug. The bartender has learned to leave it be for a while. When things are done, I return to this spot and down that last one-third before ordering a fresh one. It is sort of a “I’ll be back” symbolism I suppose one could conclude. I guess it’s a bit of a superstition for me as well, you know playing on the luck that I will win the face down and come back to drink the beer.
I don’t go looking for trouble but it normally does a good job of finding me. You earn a name as a gun-hand and sooner or later some young buck comes along wanting to buy into that fame by leaving you dying in the streets. They push and prod and some even threaten to shoot you in the back if you don’t come out and face them like a man. They seem to have no limits as to what they will do to earn themselves a notch on a pistol butt and a fast-hand name. Few, if any ever stop to weigh what comes with that title and reputation, and it just keeps coming and coming.
Most of these itchy-handed kids got more courage than brains. They don’t think things through. They never see themselves lying there in the dirt of Main Street bleeding from a gut wound that can’t be fixed. They never see themselves pursued by others like a wild animal pushed, prodded, and cornered until a fight is inevitable. Oh, I could take the gun off and put it away but that would not change anything. That fact has been proven time and again as unarmed men have been shot down in cold blood by some wanna-be-gunhand hot to earn himself a name. No, once you stand and fight, you have to stand and fight.
Some might think it gets easier every time but they would be wrong. Each time is different. Each man is different. I know this gun like the inside of my soul. I can handle it in my sleep. I can use it rapidly, accurately, and effectively every time it comes out of the holster and into my hand. I have no doubts about my own abilities with a gun, none whatsoever. That does not mean that I don’t think things through time and again before each confrontation. I play it through in my mind, piece by piece, step by step.
Gunfighters and those who want to be are a breed somewhat like women. Each one of them prefers different things. Some want to chat before hand; others want to get right to it. Some want you to back down and keep offering you that chance…as long as it is you doing the backing down. Every time I go to the street, I have size up what I am up against and decide when I think that moment of truth will come; when his hand will move toward that pistol and threaten me with death. I can’t guess about that, I have to be right ten times out of ten or I am the one lying in the street.
With a past as long as mine, you might assume that killing another man comes easy to me. You assume that I have done it so many times that it is simply second nature to me. I can’t speak for others who have worn the gun and walked in these boots, but I will say that it is something that I never get use to and I hope that I never will. When that fatal shot is fired and the other man goes down, I turn to walk back into the saloon thinking that somewhere a mother waits for a boy will not come home. Somewhere a girlfriend grows up that he should have married but won’t be able to now. I think about the waste of human life all for a function of envy. It’s a poor trade at best.
Each time I walk back to this bar and sip that bottom third of that warm beer, I say a little prayer hoping that the last man has come to that door looking for me. But in my heart, I know there will be others and they will come until there is no reason to come. You see, that is the truth that I know to be the one truth. It matters little that I am a man who is better than most with a gun. What matters is that if you go out there enough, sooner or later, the odds are no longer in your favor…no matter how good you are. Luck always plays into every equation and this one is no different. So even if I believe that I am truly the best gun-hand around, I have admit that luck may not always be on my side. That’s a fact friend.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe that I am due out on the street about now. I’ll just leave my beer here so that you can keep an eye on it until I get back. I would appreciate it if you would do that. And, if by luck I should not return for it. How about just drinking it yourself…one last one on me.
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