February 21, 2013


Here I sit, out in the middle of nowhere, waiting. You would think a man could make a better living doing anything other than what he does. Still, the truth is, for four dollars a month, what he does is not hard work. I would not have his job for double the money.

As Sheriff, aside from busting a drunken cowboy up side the head now and then, the waiting was the hardest part of this job. Yep, this damn waiting was the hardest part.

I can remember like it was just yesterday. Ralph Johnson rode into town that morning. That day was not a lot different then every day was. It was dry and hot, with a wind up from Mexico. Sixty percent of it was sand, mixed with them damn tumble weeds.

I was sitting there by the Sheriff’s Office, leaning back in my chair, talking to Larry, our blacksmith, about getting a set of shoes on my horse, Torank. She ran herself right out of the last pair.

I should have called her “Hell Bitch”. The family of pilgrims that sold her to me sure picked the right time to do it. The wind was blowing so hard, I thought he told me, “For two dollars I could buy their horse, Torank.” Later I figured he must’ve said “I could buy their horse for two dollars because she was too rank.”

Larry was telling me it would cost me another two bits, for the time wasted trying to dodge the kicking from that damn horse of mine.

Ralph rode up and said, “Howdy” to Larry and me, then asked if we had seen Doc around town.

Larry told him Old Doc was at the widow Mackey’s place. Her milk cow was having problems calving.

Ralph turned his horse south, but, before he could spur her, I asked, ‘How’s the missus and that new baby boy doing?’

“Fine,” Ralph said. “Just fine now. Yep, they’re doing just fine.” Spurring his mount, he trotted out of town in the direction of the widow’s farm.

The look in Ralph Johnson’s eyes gave me a weird feeling. I tossed Larry two bits and told him to get Torank ready as fast as he could.

Larry walked up to the Sheriff’s office, leading Torank, already saddled.

“You could have ridden her up here,” I told Larry.

“You couldn’t pay me enough to get me on that horse,” Larry said, laughing, as he tossed my reins back to me.

I thought I better head for the widow’s first. I should get there a bit after dark, but I figured there would be enough light. I could ride on over to Ralph Johnson’s place in the morning.

As I rode up to the widow’s farm, I saw a light out by the corral. Riding over to the light, I could see the widow just sitting there by her cow. On top of the cow laid doc.

“What happened, Miss Mackey?” I asked.

“Ralph. Ralph just rode up and shot Anna Bell. Just shot Anna Bell dead. Her and the calf.”

“Miss Mackey, what happened to the doc?”

“Well, land sakes, boy. Can’t you see him laying there? He shot Doc, too.”

“I’m trying to find out why he shot the doc, Miss Mackey. Did you hear them say anything to each other?”

“Well, Mr. Johnson came walking up and asked the Doc, ‘Did you get my message to come back out to the farm? Something’s wrong with Catherine and the boy.’ The Doc told him yes, but he’d had other rounds to make and would see them when he could get there. That’s when Mr. Ralph pulled out the gun and said he would help get the doc there faster. Sheriff, I think the first shot killed the doc, but when Doc fell across Anna Bell, Ralph just kept on shooting and shooting. I heard Ralph’s gun click about four times. He turned to me and said, ‘I have to get back to Catherine and Bobby. Have a good night, Miss Mackey.’”

When I rode out to Ralph Johnson’s farm, I saw him up on the hillside. I pulled my gun and walked up behind him.

He was still looking down when he said, “Hi, Sheriff. I’m ready when you are.”

I slid my gun back into the holster. I looked down and saw two crosses.

One read: “Catherine Johnson loving wife and mother, March 9, 1857 - July.17, 1874.” The other read: “Bobby Johnson beloved son, July 15, 1874 - July 17, 1874.”

“The Doc never came back, Sheriff. He never came back.”

‘Waiting is the hardest part,’ I thought to myself, as I heard the lonely train whistle calling from far down the track.

“The nine fifty-five, right on time,” I said, looking at my watch.

Yes, nothing I can do now, but sit here and wait for that hangman.