A writer can not always predict where a story will come from as in this case. Taking a break from writing something or other, I happened to look up at a family portrait taken at the Cartwright (TV's Bonanza) house on the north end of Lake Tahoe. This story exploded full blown as did a dozen others, yet to be published.
The air had that slightly heady odor of fall as a bright sun spread its warmth, finally evicting the night's chill that tenaciously clung to the world nestled in the little valley at the foot of the Sierras. From within the fledgling community of clapboard structures and tents could be heard the shrill laughter of children at play; it was recess time at the school. However idyllic the day may have been, an ominous cloud was slithering in from the north in the form of Rufus Bergoing. There weren’t any posters bearing his likeness, but there should have been, the problem being no one had backbone or stayed around long enough to complain so that his bullying ways went unchecked.
Even Rufus’ horse had a perverted gait as it oozed down the path alongside the school yard fence. Stopping at the gate, Rufus crossed one leg over the saddle horn, rolled a cigarette, and lite up while lecherous eyes perused a rather delectable morsel standing on the school porch. His obscene invitation over the recess noise was roundly rebuked as the girl totally ignored him, shook the bell, wheeled around, and marched back into the white-framed building with head held high. The children glared at the guffawing rapscallion before dutifully moving inside as well. He was about to slide off his corrupted steed when a dry throat started a coughing spell. He needed a drink. The woman could come later. Poking roweled spurs into the animal’s side he felt the creature fold in half.
“Don’t even think of buckin’,” he said, giving the reins a sharp jerk. His voice was deep and raspy with a sinister ring, just as he had practiced the night before while camped.
Had he been in position to see the mount’s eyes, Rufus would have detected a malevolent glimmer as the creature relaxed and discharged a malodorous deposit.
“Geez! Whatya been eatin'? Get outa here.”
That afternoon Dudley stomped into the front room of the log ranch house to unlock the gun case. Removing a Winchester, he began filling the receiver with ammo.
“Wolves again?” Pa McKittrick asked coming in from the kitchen.
“Two legged. Some slime bucket rode into town and cast an obscene invitation at little sister.”
“And does this mannerless individual have a name?”
“Aye. Rufus Bergoing. Leastwise that’s what his marker’ll say.”
“Well, I think I should have a talk with this person first, just to get the spelling correct.”
Dudley wanted to protest, but Pa wasn’t the arguing type, so he dutifully followed alongside as the two cantered into town. It wasn’t hard to verify the impugning remark. The Clancy twins, the community's pain in the butt with their shenanigans, had a real liking for their school marm, Nell McKittrick. She was the only person they’d sit for. They weren’t cognizant of their colorful metaphors as they reported the errant remark verbatim.
Feeling justified in speaking with the individual, Silas continued into town, noting how the people milled about the street, but left a sizable space vacant in the vicinity of Clancy’s Saloon. Tying up their horses across the street, Pa took two steps toward the saloon and stopped.
“Wait here, Dudley. I shall discuss this matter privately.”
“But Pa ...”
“You can shoot him if he draws on me, okay?”
“Aye, pa,” Dudley said, despondent, but hopeful the sleazy critter would make the mistake of drawing down on an unarmed man.
“And use my gun. It won’t put a hole through nine buildings.”
Silas strolled across the street, kicking up little clouds of dust that looked a lot like smoke. The gathering onlookers figured he was pretty upset, although he rarely showed anger. Stepping onto the boardwalk, the Scot stopped at the double, swinging doors, looked inside a moment, then went through. The townsfolk fidgeted as they waited. When it happened, everyone was taken by surprise.
Clancy had recently put in a nice, big window in the front of his establishment. It was through this a duster-clad figure suddenly emerged in an upright position, took two large steps across the boardwalk, planted a left foot in the horse trough on the third step, and slipped on some mud just beyond with the forth. This caused him to roll onto the ground and through a muddy puddle recently created by his untrustworthy steed.
Silas casually stepped through the swinging doors, stuck both thumbs in his belt, and watched as the ignoble stranger struggled to regain his feet, something not meant for the moment as he slipped a second time, landing butt first into a pile of odoriferous manure. When he did gain dry ground and stood upright, his hand went for the pistol strapped on his side. With considerable consternation he discovered it wasn’t there.
Casually reaching into his vest pocket Silas withdrew a cigar. At that moment the townsfolk broke into a sudden stampede and disappeared. Rufus Bergoing looked around with wonder and astonishment. Then Silas stepped off the boardwalk into the muddy puddle. Rufus grinned as he expected his assailant to undertake a pratfall, but the ground either refused to cooperated or knew better. It buoyed him firmly as the man tossed his prized pistol, both pieces, into the horse trough, lite the cigar and strode up toe to toe.
"As I said, I don’t take kindly to such remarks directed at my daughter,” Silas said, again reaching into his vest pocket. Withdrawing a stick of dynamite with a ten inch fuse he pulled Bergoing’s belt out and slipped the stick inside his pants, bringing the smoldering cigar dangerously close to the dangling fuse.
“Verbal apologies will be considered made as I see the rear end of your horse with you aboard as it makes dust for the next county.”
Rufus Bergoing was not a man to back down, but considered this a sizable incentive as he kowtowed several times backward before heading for his horse. When several, relatively safe paces from the cigar he reached for the rife strapped to his saddle. He decided against acquiring the instrument when he heard the telltale click of a gun’s hammer. Looking over his shoulder confirmed a double-barreled shotgun pointed inches from his Roman nose.
“I’d hate to hurt such a noble fly-encrusted steed as you have there, but brotherly duty dictates I am bound to uphold my sister’s honor,” Dudley said.
Rufus Bergoing’s noble steed also turned its head upon hearing the click. Apparently having thoughts of self-preservation, it neatly managed a quick two-step to remove it’s backside from the down-range effects of a very large shotgun. Unfortunately, tethered to the hitching post limited the possibility of complete withdrawal. Having no other recourse, it pulled back, breaking the reins. Now free, it made all possible speed out of town, its rider in hot pursuit.
Rufus Bergoing was a man not to be triffled with, and as soon as he was able to safely dislodge Silas’ gift, and catch his less than faithful steed, he vowed to return. As fate would have it, however, returning would have to wait at least until the blisters on his feet allowed him to walk again.