Medicine Drummer's Dog--Short Western Story
Sandy and I was just riding to town when his dog Spot heads over to a gully and stands looking down. Something was up, so we head right over to where Spot was waiting for us. Sure ‘nough there was someone sprawled out down there. Appeared to be a city dude dressed in a suit and fancy boots like he was going to church. Only today weren’t no church day and he looked unconscious, if not worse.
I don’t know what kind of sign the boy and dog got that the man was alive, since they are both deaf. But I heard a groan. Well, at least he weren’t dead.
He seemed to come to a bit after a give him a sip of water. He was vaguely familiar. Then it struck me. He was the drummer who called on the farms and sold home medicines . I even use that liniment of his myself. It was right good when a body is stiff and sore after a hard day putting up fences and such.
I sent Sandy and Spot to town to fetch the Doc and Jason, the sheriff. I told Sandy to let Sarah, his other boss, what we found. Sandy has worked for me as a horse wrangler for a while and a little while ago Sarah decided she could use him on the newspaper. So he kind of works for both of us.
The peddler had a bright red, yellow buggy with black trim. McNulty—James McNulty was his name. He was a new immigrant a few years back. He had that gift for gab that a good peddler has. He was genuinely friendly and would always give his neighbors a helping hand. In return they bought his stuff. It was all first class merchandise from cooking supplies to horse liniment.
Why would anybody steal his stuff? He probably carried quite a bit of cash as he might sell several hundreds dollars worth of stuff some days. It didn’t make much sense to me. McNulty might tell us more when he wakes up.
Sarah came along with the sheriff and we all agreed that McNulty was well liked and we didn’t know of any enemies. Whatever the case his goods was gone along with his wagon, horses and dog .
Sarah brings news
Sarah had several newspapers with her. They were from her “exchange” collection. Newspapers exchange subscriptions with one another. It helps the editors to keep up with what is going on in other towns, with advertising ideas and such. The ones she brought all had stories about the gold rush in Alaska and about dogs. It appears that folks from all over were reporting dogs being stolen. Not valuable dogs but any kind as long as they were big and strong. Horses’ being stolen goes without saying. In the frozen gold country the only way the miners and speculators can get anywhere is by dog sled. Sometimes with horses but dogs are needed where it is really isolated. Sarah thinks that might be what happened to McNulty. Almost any supplies would be valuable and according to some of the news articles you can sell almost anything at sky-high prices in the gold fields. And dogs—they really want dogs.
“Well Jim,” Doc said.” You have to take some of my medicine this time since yours disappeared.”
“Thanks Doc. I don’t try to compete with you. Folks need the stuff we sell just as much as they need you.”
“Just joshing, Jim. Between the Indians and us there ain’t enough medicine out here for what we all need. Now tell us what happened”
“ Was just making my rounds of customers to call on and a group of fellows I didn’t know stopped me. Said they needed to buy some liniment.. So I get out and around to the back of the buggy to get what they wanted and one of them pistol-whips me. I was just awake enough to see them make off with my wagon and all. Next thing I know you folks is around me and everything is gone.’
“Think you can identify them?” the sheriff asked him..
McNulty tried to stand up but it was obvious he was dizzy.” I can try.”
Some of the exchanges had drawings of people suspected of stealing dogs. I went over the exchange with Sarah. There wasn’t a very strong pattern in the stories. Most of the dogs stolen were breeds that were large and rugged and not gentle. Some of the stories did get some information about how the dogs were stolen. Likely there was more than one gang stealing dogs. One struck me as being similar to what happened to McNulty. The gang watched for travelers who were alone, not likely to put up much of a fight. They took anything they could sell, such as horses, carriages and money. If it was the same gang, McNulty was an obvious target.
“ What you think, Jason?” I asked the sheriff.
“ It looks like the peddlers dog fit the bill, aright. That spotted dog of Sandy’s is one they might want too. Better keep an eye on Sandy and Spot.”
19th Century medicine
Medicine Man Assaulted and Robbed
Sarah’s special edition story in the Carbon’s Creek Sentinel told the story of the popular seller of household cleaners and patent medicines being attacked and his losing everything, horse, buggy, dog and merchandise. The story ended with a request to notify herself or the sheriff with any information the readers might have.
Oddly the first person to come by the news office was a Shaman from the nearby Indian reservation. He reported that some men wanted to sell some horses and medicine to the Indians cheap. The men wanted to trade for some dogs on the reservation.
What the outlaws didn’t know was that the medicine salesman –James McNulty was liked and admired on the reservation. Through several years when sickness was bad McNulty had provided salves and medicines to the people. He did not claim any miracle cures but the medicines helped relieve pain for sufferers.
Sarah was surprised. “Don’t you resent a white man’s medicine?”
“Sometimes the doctor comes to the reservation and helps us if sickness bad. We also give him our medicine that might help him help his people. McNulty the same. Some his medicines help and he not brag about them. We help each other. He’s friend to our people, we want to be his friend too.”
“Where did the robbers go?’ Sarah asked.
“Go nowhere,” the Shaman said. Send sheriff out with me and we give him outlaws. Have him bring Sandy and dog Spot out to bring back horses and dog.”
The only problem left seemed to be the buggy, which was in sad shape, but I think I can take care of it with some wood and paint.