THE SECRET OF THE SATIN SLIP MINE

The torn face of Windy Sharp could most often be found
around the Riddletop Mercantile Store.  In clement weather he
would lounge himself in a decrepit cane chair, propped back
against the storefront and protected from the hard sun of the
dry Arizona Plateau.  In winter, Windy would most likely be
found draped across his favorite cracker barrel, in as close
a proximity to the big pot bellied, tie-cut stove as he could
properly tolerate.  His eighty-some year old bones, which had
accumulated surprisingly little flesh, felt the raw edge of
time when exposed to the winds which ripped directly down
from the frozen Yukon.
A hundred miles to the south lay the harsh desert run of
the usually dry, but, sometimes savage, stone crushing, Salt
River.  The lower Salt Valley fell to near sea level and the
days, no matter how low the sun, retained a warm, friendly
appeal.  But, from Windy’s cracker barrel perch in the center
of Riddletop, over eight thousand feet straight down would be
covered in a ear popping drop to that same sea level.  It was
snow country by anyone’s measure and generally the snow came
packaged in a blizzard manufactured in Siberia.
Windy was the proprietor of the history of southeastern
Arizona, long before the history professors of the State
University down in Phoenix dropped from their dames.  He not
only remembered, but, due to a wandering life style and an
agile ability to become involved in any mischief afoot, was
an active participant in most of the more notorious events he
related.
His listeners were a mixed lot of the young and old from
the country surrounding the little, high country town.  His
own companions of yesteryears had long departed, leaving
Windy in sole and uncontested possession of the facts; some
saying he occasionally abused this trust.  But, who could
gainsay the eye witness whose name did appear regularly in
the old, dusty news chronicles of those days of a long
departed era?   Especially a man who had written some long
reports still contained in the ledgers of the Arizona
Rangers.
Windy experienced a Renaissance of sorts as a newer
generation came into being, which held no direct memory of
the times he pontificated about.  The years passed and the
world around him changed, yet, only small digressions from
the stories could be detected by his most avid listeners.  It
became a generally accepted fact that Sharp’s Law, in matters
related to the pioneering days of the old Arizona Territory,
was the best authority available, outside the written word of
those Territorial Gazettes still in one piece.  And the old
news print was always dated, reported from second hand.  No
amount of ink could replace the account of one who witnessed
events at first hand and often carried the vivid scars of
those ancient battles, as evidenced by the ripped and scarred
flesh of Windy’s face.
Windy’s name was an almost lifelong possession and
accurately reflected his ability and inclination to talk.  It
was lain on his young brow by his mother, a woman of stolid
Texas cow country stock, who left this life in childbirth,
down in the Tonto Basin.  Windy, as usual, found the best
words to describe the naming event:
“I’d brought some tale in to satisfy Ma about the latest
personal malfeasance I’d involved me and my brothers in.  She
was a kind woman, but, could recognize a rounder before he
crossed the lower bridge on the Tonto, leading up to our
little spread.
“She told me, ‘That, son, is pure West Texas Wind!’
“I reckon’ its been Windy since that day..nigh on eighty
years ago.”
The listeners surrounding the weaver of tales would give
the usual little laugh.  Not out of any sense of obligation,
but, rather, out of respect for their old history book on
the cracker barrel shelf.
Rowdy Miller was a particular favorite of the old man.
Rowdy’s father owned the Bucket and Bell Ranch, north of
Riddletop.  Like many of the ranchers in the area, Miller
realized how the world was changing and wanted his son to get
as good an education as available in the area.  So Rowdy
spent long hours on the four mile trail to town and back each
day.
Sometimes weather would intervene with a blasting
snowstorm falling onto the little community out of the
Painted Desert to the north.  These storms blew up in a
matter of minutes and devastated the plans of every thinking
person within miles.  When the cattle ranch kids were caught
up in the throes of a blizzard, Mrs. Kitchner would take them
all into her big, many bed-roomed and empty house to mother
until the storm passed.  These were times of rare joy for the
kids, a holiday from the hard rigors of ranch life.  Games
for the smaller children and immature courting for the older
ones carried on far into the night, all under the watchful
eye of the matronly old spinster.
Once, a twelve year old boy and his sister were allowed
to  try for their home when a small snow squall eased into
the town, just as school let out.  The snow increased and the
children became disoriented and lost.  They were found, days
later, frozen, in the lee of a spruce, south of town.  The
horse wandered home, unscathed.  Since that pitiful
experience, Mrs. Kitchner would take over the welfare of the
children at first snowflake and only relented their care when
all danger was past.  She removed the children from harm’s
way.  The grateful parents regularly rewarded her for the
keep she furnished, but Mrs. Kitchner’s own reward was the
safety she offered and the sight of her home full of happy
kids.
When the snow pellets peppered the outside walls, Windy
could count on Rowdy to take his place at the old man’s feet
to hear his tales of long ago battles.  Windy became attached
to the boy, probably because the kid reminded him of himself
at the other end of the long, dark tunnel of years.  Sharp
felt a good strong pride within when he saw the sparkle of
excitement he put in the boy’s eyes.  Rowdy made him recall a
hound pup he’d had when he was young, down in the Tonto Basin
on his father’s grassy ranch, before the cattle wars broke
out and his remaining family were rooted out and spread
across the land..or killed.
Like the pup, Rowdy possessed big nose, ham-sided hands,
huge ears, and feet about six sizes larger than was
absolutely necessary to keep his tow head above his skinny,
tadpole tail.  All in all, the boy was a good, wholesome
product of ranch life and held the beginnings of those morals
which would stand him good for the balance of his life.
When the youngsters gathered about him, Windy, to his
credit, attempted to lace his stories with those traits so
cherished by the westerner: honor, fealty to your partners,
and to love and protect women.  He felt a special bond with
young Rowdy Miller and suspected his efforts at imprinting
this young, and far from sterile mind were paying dividends.
So, it was a soul wrenching slap the evening when Rowdy
sauntered into the store with the snow pelting down and
rising two feet against the buildings, to announce to Windy,
“I’m goin’ to be just like that desperado, Waco, Mr. Sharp,
when I git growed!”
A deep, sad light gathered in Windy’s torn old face as
the words soaked into his mind.  An astute observer would
have seen the many memories flooding through the old man.
Indeed, Sharp was even more deeply affected by the words than
could be seen from his outward aspect.  A phrase, especially
from his young protege, could not have been found to rip him
in a more profound way.
After a moment, he rallied himself and, straightening
his spine, he faced the problem as he had so many others in
his long life he cared not to number them.  Putting his
flinty eye upon the boy he said, “Sit down son.  I’ll give
you the true dope on this Waco gent, no salted, preserved
leavin’s, but, the raw unvarnished truth.”
Rowdy was aware he’d struck some type of nerve and sat
as he was told in his usual position, at the old man’s feet.
Looking up, he noticed a kind of spare strength he’d not seen
before, looking out the rheumy eyes.
Windy’s first words came as a shock to Rowdy, “Boy, I
was a Arizona Territorial Ranger for ten years.  It was due
to one man..that man was LaRue Breton.  The finest man to
ever walk God’s green earth.  The likes of this Waco don’t
make bug squat to a man like LaRue.”
Giving time to his mind to gather the strings of
thought, Windy sat immobile for long moments.  When he
grabbed the ends together he went on with the story he’d
spent long years trying to forget.
“This tale is for only you, Rowdy.  It won’t ever be
tol’ again.”  The other men in the room gathered close to the
stove and one prodded up the fire a little.  This story
promised to reward them for many a repeated tale and long
hours of listening to trivial remembrances.
This is the story, occasionally in Windy’s own words,
as he told it to Rowdy that night:
Larue Breton was a Ranger, part of an elite force which
tried to guard the territory against the predations of
countless outlaws of all kinds and the fast gunmen who hid in
the vastness of the desert and mountains.  The Lincoln County
Wars were winding down, over in New Mex Territory.  The big
ranchers there and the Federals were hanging the leftover
badmen and sweeping the rest out across the boundary lines.
The same general thing happened in Colorado and Texas.
As the gentlefied woman’s face of civilization showed herself
across the land, the riff raff of the west were pushed
further ahead of her.  The same type thing occured over in
California.  The herd of hungry killers fell into Arizona and
Utah, the last of the untamed wilderness left in the west.
And there was a terrible, wonderful wild land within the
borders of the Arizona Territory.
“Waco,” declared Windy, “nobody ever knowed his name, or
cared for all I know, was one of these hombres.  He’d built a
reputation for himself in Lincoln Country as one who would
kill anyone, any time, for any amount of money.  The killing
served as its own reward for Waco.  I heard once he gut shot
an old drunk down in El Paso and wouldn’t let anyone out of
the saloon.  He just sat and watched, drinking from a bottle
of whiskey as the man twitched and finally died.  Took half a
bottle.  Waco walked out of that bar a happy man.  That was
the type of low scum he was, a regular full blown pestilence.”
Waco crossed over into Arizona one summer and spent his
evil earnings in one bar after another.  He killed a couple
of men in Globe and drifted down to San Carlos.  There he met
Lisa Wilkins.  It was the proof of the evil in him, what he
did to the girl.
She came to the town with her brother, Emmet.  He bought
a small bar, enlarged it, and catered to the miners from the
small quartz mines around there.  For a short while, there was
real excitement about the gold in the rocky mountains and the
river’s sandy bed.  It played out pretty quick, but, just
then it meant some fast money flying around.  Lisa stayed
around the bar, as Emmet kept his eye on her.  He need not
have worried, for Lisa was pure and innocent a girl as ever
graced the territory.  Until Waco came.
When Waco walked into the saloon, he touched some deep
need in Lisa.  He carried his short body like a king, the
pride of the gunfighter showed in every move he made.  It
made up for, in some degree, what he lacked in physical
stature.  His evil good looks, and he was a handsome gent,
appealed to her vanity.  When he caught her look, some foul
motive took him and he made every attempt to drag her down to
his own cesspool of life.
Lisa’s dark haired beauty missed sultry by about two
heartbeats.  The raven hair framed a face of innocent charm.
When she entered a room in her gold shot dark blue dress and
red sash, it’s sure she turned every head.  Her sparkling
brown eyes searched for the dead, cruel, splintered green of
Waco’s.
Some perverse thrill must have driven Lisa.  Emmet tried
to warn her of her folly, but, Lisa must persist.  She
carried along with Waco for two weeks and the warped little
man ran out of money.  Waco headed down into the mining
country and miners began to come missing.  That was the point
where Larue Breton entered the story.
The Rangers were organized to try and tame a huge
territory.  There were only twenty six of them to start.  It
was a pitifully small handful of men, no matter they could
each wrestle a full grown Grizzly single handed.  They, needs
be, were spread across a huge expanse of mountains and some of
the most rugged desert in the U.S.  Only the most pressing
situations could demand an Arizona Ranger.
Trouble between Mexican sheepherders and the cattlemen
in the Sierra Ancha’s brewed up and Major Lexington, head of
the Rangers decided it needed nipping in the bud.  He sent
word to LaRue to take care of it and to, by the way, settle
the hash on one Waco, a killer rumored to be murdering some
miners.
The message caught up with Breton as he delivered the
last in a long line of prisoners to the hungry gallows of the
territorial prison in Yuma.  With no more than a nod, LaRue
straddled his horse and headed up to San Carlos and points
north.
He roamed up into the mountains to try the waters of
the incipient sheep and cattle war first.  By the simple
expedient of finding no sheep or herders, he decided the
powderkeg was defused and went after his alternate quarry.
Two days yielded little in usable information.  He was
advised by a wizened little man that if he inquired in
Wilkins’ Saloon in San Carlos, he may stumble onto the news
he wanted.  Without delay, LaRue followed the lead.
When Larue Breton sidled into Emmet’s little bar, a new
era dawned for Lisa.  The moment she set eyes upon Larue’s
long, spare frame topped with his sandy brown hair, Waco was
relegated to the territorial past.  Only the demise of the
badman remained to mar the future.  She saw LaRue the instant
he passed through the batwing, swinging doors and watched as
he surveyed the room.
Hawk eyed, buckled for trouble as all Rangers must go,
LaRue carried the look of pure hell fire waiting for a match.
He possessed a dark and somber countenance which could freeze
the core of many a would be crook and put an unknown desire
into wanted men..the need to be away, far away.  Panther-like
moves carried him to the bar where he leaned, back to the big
mirror.
His gaze lingered on every face and many a one would
turn the crimson of a mountain sunrise under his scrutiny.
He sought not those small fry in the saloon and his eyes
lingered over Lisa for long moments.
She felt her own face
begin to color and the faint stirrings of resentment.  Any
mood she retained was washed away when LaRue’s face broke
into an unrestrained grin.  As Lisa gazed into his sky blue
eyes and the easy grin spread, she could perceive the sky
open from dark clouds and the sun break forth.
Breton pulled
his big sombrero from his head and the sandy gold hair
spilled over his face, as the gold splashed clouds paint the
summer sunset.
Breton, in quick, smooth steps, appeared at Lisa’s side.
He sat without so much as a by you leave.  Their eyes never
parted for an instant.  He asked Lisa, direct, did she know
the outlaw known as Waco.
“I do.  And it is for you to kill him.  Never will
there be rest not peace for me until you do,” was her
forthright answer.  She didn’t rattle around as most women
would have done.  Lisa found the beast she wanted and was
willing to pot any other that got into her way.
Larue’s backbone rarely bent and he sat ramrod in the
wooden chair.  He slowly slid his fingers beneath his vest
and pushed it back.  The Star of the Arizona Ranger appeared
like the first star of evening.  Lisa’s eye followed his
movement and when she saw his badge of honor, felt the
strength flow into her.
Behind the bar, Emmet rolled out the long sign of a man
just reprieved, standing with the rope around his neck.  He
knew this stranger to be the famous Ranger LaRue Breton.
Love is a curly haired little monster that peeks at a
man from behind bushes and deep draws, then pounces on him
when he least expects it.  LaRue entered the saloon knowing
Waco could be there.  Therefore, he went in ready to fight
and to blast the life from another lawless devil.  The last
thing the poor Ranger looked for was this dark haired spirit
girl awaiting her future.  They both found that they least
expected in the waning of the mining days of San Carlos, in
the Wilkins’ family bar.
The Ranger lingered long that night, talking to Lisa.
But, he recalled his work.  Bidding her good night, seeing
her dark look of wanting, and wishing he needn’t go, he left.
Down the San Carlos to where it joins the Gila, he
traveled.  Ever seeking word of Waco, hoping to finish the
job and return to Lisa, LaRue found only cold trails.  At the
end of a week, he once again sought Lisa’s company.
In the joyful reunion, they appeared as the lovers of
many years.  But, the joy was short as Lisa told LaRue, “Waco
is near.  I have heard he was seen near Peridot, two days
past.  He would not come so near and not come to me!  Oh, my
love, what shall we do?”
LaRue cursed himself for seven kinds of a fool.  Waco
was so near where he had been for the last days and he
escaped the Ranger’s grasp.  He told Lisa he would set out
for the little town on the Gila to head off the outlaw.  But,
if Waco should return to send word quickly.  The distance was
not great and he could return in a few hours time.  Agreed,
they parted again.
Unknown to either LaRue or Lisa, sly, gauche eyed Willy
Potts sat only one table over and in the chair directly
behind Breton.  Willy fancied himself the greatest badman ever
to be.  His only hold outs were no courage and not a brain in
his pointed little head.  He carefully listened to every word
which passed.  Noting it all down in his minuscule mind, he
set out to find Waco and his gang.  Willy would parlay this
knowledge into a place in Waco’s plans.
Waco was not hard to find.  His location could be found
through several of the lesser known badmen in the area.
Willy went directly to the Satin Slip Mine.  The mine was the
abandoned work and dream of a Dutchman named Rossman.  He dug
what ore existed from the mine in just two days, but the hard
headed miner kept at the digging long after in vain hopes of
hitting another pocket of gold laden quartz.  After sixty
feet of desperately hard work, even a dead man could see the
fruitlessness of the endeavor.  The mine and its attending
shack were abandoned over a year ago.  Falling into a
dilapidated state, they were used only by Waco in his
occasional need for a secure haven.
Willy whispered his name and the outlaw allowed him to
enter.  Telling his tale, he watched as Waco’s neck swelled
and his face became a mottled red.  Fearing for his life,
Willy withdrew to the stone wall and awaited the outcome of
the black thoughts he could see pulsing through Waco’s head.
At length, Waco regained control of his dark passion.
“The girl had jilted him for a Ranger,” thought he!
“Don’t you fear for Waco, Willy!  I can take care of
this mighty Ranger.  You can see here,” he waved around the
dark and empty mine shaft, “I ain’t got none of the boys
here, just now.”
“Reckon you could get one more to help me, we’ll put out
the lights on this tall hombre!”
Did he!  Billy Stupert was every bit as good a gunhand
as Willy and could be counted upon to help to terminate an
Arizona Ranger.  “Why,” thought Willy, “our reputations will
be made in one stroke.  Everybody in San Carlos will give the
sidewalk to Willy Potts now.”
“We’ll lure Breton here an’ ambush him when he comes to
get us,” declared Waco!
Plans laid, Willy departed to find his friend and Waco
retreated into his dark, foul thoughts.
The next day, a teamster left a letter in the only bar
in Peridot, “From a lady in San Carlos, for thet Ranger,” he
told the barkeep. At about ten that evening, LaRue entered
the bar and took the letter from the white fingers of the
barman.  Opening it, he read his lover’s words:

     “Rue,
          I have a note, in my hand, from Waco!  He is here,
      now.  I must go to the Satin Slip Mine and meet him
      at nine tomorrow night.  Please, be quick, our
      lives depend on this.
          This is my plan: I shall go and meet the killer
      one last time.  You will go there now, as soon as
      you may.  The last time I met Waco there, I saw a
      keg of powder at the mouth of the cave.  If you
      can, without being seen, set the fuse and prepare
      it to blow-up.
          I shall slip away, when I may.  You will be in the
      rocks, there are many, and will see me.  I will
      make some small sound so you shall know it is I.
          Be fast, my love, my heart.  This we shall do and
      we will be free!
          Tomorrow night, dearest.
                Lisa”

Breton gazed into the smoke of the room for some minutes
and then turned to a miner near him.  He asked if the man
should know the location of the Satin Slip.  Most miners knew
of the Dutchman’s folly and directed LaRue with accurate
information.
Late that very night, Breton reached the mine.  Finding
no one around, he proceeded to secure the powder and fuse.
He found not one, but three small kegs of black blasting
powder.  All had been used and all retained no small amount
in residue.  In a small wooden box, were three sticks of
dynamite.  Pouring the powder all into one barrel, he fused a
stick of the dynamite and crimped it with his teeth.  He led
the corded string out the corner of rough rock to a hidden
spot.  Returning, he made sure no marks remained and left the
entrance undisturbed.
The sun only cleared the mountains when LaRue finished.
He turned to think the situation over and determined to get
himself a bit of help.
“My part come in,” says Windy, “when he wandered, early,
into my little two bit camp on a sandbar of the San Carlos.
I’d come a bustin’ into the country to git rich..quick.  I’d
busted all right..an quick.  LaRue braced me to help him git
this Waco and tol’ me what he’d done to set it up.”
“I agreed, right enough,” the old man continued, “Waco
was a terror that needed pluggin’.”
“LaRue know’d me from up on the Tonto.  He punched cows
for some of the smaller cattlemen an was one reason every
Jake one of ’em wasn’t killed in the big war with the big
cattlemen.  I’d been a little frazzle headed kid on a mud
colored mustang then, but, he’d been friendly to me.”
Breton and Windy wound their way back to the Satin Slip
and took up positions.  Windy to the front, amongst the
jumble of boulders in the draw facing the front of the mine
and LaRue to the side, where the fuse lay.  On the far side
of the mine face threaded a little trail leading to San
Carlos, past the dilapidated shack.
The day passed hot in the rocks.  Breton, no sleep for
the past night, dozed and nodded.  Windy sweated and kept in
the shadows as best he might.  Just after the sun sank beyond
the rocky mountain rim, the three outlaws rode up the trail.
Waco led, his piercing gaze searching everywhere.  Windy
slid far into the crack he occupied.  LaRue almost cut down
on the little killer right there, but, refrained fearing to
miss.  The plan of Lisa would seal the fate of the evil
monster, for sure.
Sheltering the horses within the dirt floored shack,
they made their way into the cave.  The stars gained
ascendancy over the sun-emptied sky and the night roamed on
to its fateful completion.
Not long after the tiny moon set, Lisa rode to the shack
and tied her pony to a loose board.  Stealthily, she trod the
track and entered the mine.
LaRue could feel the pain of seeing her disappear within
the lair of the killer.  With all his strength, he withheld
his desire to blast his way into the foul den and free his
love.  The hours passed with the slowness of eternity.
Softly he shifted position time and again.  Waiting was not a
game the Ranger played well.  He longed for the fire to
cleanse the air and purge his soul.
Time passes for everyone and when the night grew old,
before the morning was new, Lisa came, silently, from the
cold maw of the mine.  She moved as a wraith across the rocks
and mounted her horse.  A small pebble she threw on the tin
roof of the shack to mark her passing.
Not hearing the sound of the horse down the trail,
Breton waited long moments more, to be absolutely sure his
beloved was well away.  When he felt sure of her safety, he
lit the fuse.
It smoked its way into the mouth of the cave, the
resulting explosion rocked LaRue from his heels.  Dirt and
rock launched far into the night air, filling the valley with
debris.  Huddling his head between his arms, Larue awaited
the outcome.  Through the rushing noise, he could hear the
sound of the mountain collapsing over the mouth of the old
mine and the rocks raining down on the tin roofed shack.
Dust settling, he came to his feet and raced to the now
disappeared mine shaft.  Satisfied, he turned to seek his
deputy, fearing he might have been hurt by the falling rock.
Shouting, he searched the rocks where Windy was hidden,
finding him in the crack.  Windy had a huge knot on the side
of his head.
“Like one of yore ears, Rowdy,” Windy threw in.
Reaching for Sharp’s canteen, he mopped the man’s face.
As Windy recovered his senses, LaRue sighed.
Windy, bleary eyed at first, came around.  He took on a
look of dismay..he was naked except for his long john’s.
Breton had not noticed, in the dark, and asked Sharp
what he had done with his coveralls.  Even then neither
realized the horrible turn of the night until Windy declared,
“Rue, I was hit before the blast.  I never heard it!”
Then..only then, did LaRue see the fate he’d been dealt.
Spinning, he stared at the long gone hole.  Shuddering,
he raced to the place the old Dutchman had spent long hours
of backbreaking labor.  LaRue threw himself onto the blasted
rock and the dust rose as he pitched big rocks away.  In a
frenzy, Breton tore at the face of the mountain of rubble.
Tears streaked down both cheeks and the air rasped from his
lungs.
“Aw, I tried, waren’t no use,” Windy sadly recalled the
night.  “I grabbed one arm, but, Larue just elbowed me back
down the hill.  Tried again an’ again, same thing.  When
such a thing happen’s, ain’t no other person in the world,
just you and what you lost.”
The sun rose and with it the heat.  Hour after hour,
LaRue Breton continued his purgative labor.  Windy stayed at
his back the whole time.  He began to roll the larger rocks
away and noticed the streaks and splotches of blood covering
them.  Breton’s fingers and hands were shredded from the
sharp quartz.
In time, even the strongest must rest and Breton, at
four, collapsed against the boulders.  Sharp brought him
water and with quiet words convinced the Ranger no hope was
left.  Returning with the horses, Windy brought the lost man
to San Carlos.  He turned LaRue into a rented bed and went
down to tell Emmet of the tortuous night.  After that
sorrowful deed, Windy Sharp drank himself to sleep.  In the
morning, Ranger LaRue Breton was gone to parts unknown.
Breton figured work would drown his sorrow and he set
out upon one daunting task after another.  After each,
though, his trail led him back to the defunct Satin Slip
Mine.  He would relive that night each time and the pain
would come again.  Ever he searched for the outlaw scum,
Waco.
“Weeks later,” Windy droned on as the snow climbed the
outside walls, “I was up in cow country again, workin’
roundup outside Happy Jack.  Me an’ a few of the boys went
inta town on a windblown Saturday afternoon to throw a few
back.  Come along nightfall and who should walk in but Waco.
“That stole the wind right out of me.  Didn’t know what
to do.  He walked over to the poker table, proud as you
please, an’ sat down.  Drew a hand and played like there
waren’t no trouble in this world.
“I laid my plan to brace him, couldn’t do no other
thing after that horr’bul night.  I owed it to LaRue.  I
poured a little red liquor down my raw feelin’ gut and slid
my hand around the grip of my ol’ pistola.
“Waco must have had an eye on me, for he caught the
motion and pinned me with one of them cold eyed stares of
his.  I couldn’t bring myself to move.  Then, just as I was
thinkin’ I’d be the chief performer at an inquest, we both
noticed as how the room become dead quiet.
“Just inside the swingin’ door stood LaRue Breton like
a ghost just rose an’ about as pale as one.  His blue eye
twinkled as he pitched his gaze around Waco.  Looked about
like a kid at Christmas what just got what he wanted bad, an’
knew he won’t get, an’ does.
“Then, LaRue goes cold, blue ice from the North Pole
wouldn’t be no colder…them eyes watchin’ Waco for any
move atal’.  That badman never seen nothin’ like that big
Ranger comin’ down on him.  LaRue glided across the floor
an’ stood with the damnation of all outlaws written across
his face.  An’, believe me, Rowdy, Waco seen it!  He didn’t
have to wait to see Purgatory’s Gate, it opened right there
in LaRue Breton’s eyes.
“Waco rose, spilling table, chips, gold, and cards over
the sawdust floor.  The chair toppled backwards, crashing
behind him.  The gamblers scrambled to corners, shivering in
the hot summer air.
“Waco dropped his hand, it was a blur.  I was proud I
wasn’t on the other end of his hate.  Bitter quick was that
outlaw.  Not one chance would I have had agin’ him.”
But, fast as he was, his gun only came clear of leather
when the dust jumped on his fancy vest and the splinters flew
from the plank wall behind him.  LaRue Breton held the Colt
in his right hand as the slug spun the small gunman around.
LaRue pulled the other Colt as Waco looked over the damage
done to the saloon panelling and the Ranger put two more
slugs, together, into the doomed man’s spine.
Waco was slammed into the wall and bounced back around
to face his nemesis.  Somehow, he retained a hold on the
pistol, useless, in his hand.  It went off, blasting a fist
sized hole into the table upended before him.  At the sound
of the shot, Breton cut down with both guns, slamming round
after round into the dead-on-his-feet outlaw.
LaRue walked on into the smoke, pouring fire and lead
into Waco.  When he reached the table, he stopped, seeming to
realize what had occurred.  His eyes searched over the dead
body.  Once again the room exploded with sound as LaRue bored
the last two shots into the corpse.
With a little, underhand pitch, Breton flipped the left
hand gun to the floor by the outlaw, where it bounced once.
The other, he swung in an overhand sweep and threw onto the
body, it landed with a sodden thump, almost a sucking sound.
“Rowdy, I’ve seen a lot of folks pass this life, not a
few of ’em pushed across.  But, I’d never seen a man plumb
wore away by bullets like that!  I must’a been in kinda
shock, for the next thing I knew, LaRue was standin’ right in
front of me.
“He reached out and took up my hand with his left and
with his right he covered it.  Then was when he spoke the
last words anyone ever heard come past his tongue.”
“Windy, go and tell the Major, I’ve finished it.”  That
was all Breton said.
“Wal, he gripped my hand, kinda warm, and as he pulled
it away, I saw the big Ranger Star a’lyin’ there in my palm.
“The room stood quiet as he walked out.  ‘Bye Rue,’ was
all I could run up the pole.  Sounded pitiful, but, that was
all that was said.
“We heard his horse clatter down the road, towards the
Rim, we thought, but, we really didn’t know.  Wherever it
was, nobody ever seen LaRue Breton this side of them Purgatory
Gates again.”
Windy sagged for a few minutes, after the long tale .
The listeners sat, relaxing, in the warm afterglow of a story
finely told.  No one hurried the old man as he gathered his
thoughts, it was obvious he wasn’t finished, yet.
Rowdy’s mind whirled in the mist of years and the action
which reached across them.  He left the yearning to be a
badman like Waco in the distant past.  LaRue Breton now held
the high and shining honor of being the youngster’s hero.
And not a little bit of the reflected light shone upon the
old man, Windy Sharp.  Windy’s tale turned out to be a well
greased idea.
At length, Windy roused and continued, “Wal, son, I took
that star up to Flag’ and tol’ Major Lexington the whole sad
story.
“When I pulled the star from my pocket, I gave it a
long, sentimental look and reached it out to Lexington.  He
watched me and when it looked up at him, he pushed it back.”
“‘Sharp, Breton gave you that star.  He is a man who
knows exactly what he is doing at all times.  He meant you to
have it.  Pin it on, he swore you in better than I could do,’
the Major tol’ me.  An I did.
“Rowdy, I wore that star for ten happy an’ horrible,
scarifyin’ and satisfyin’ years.  All tol’, them was the ten
best years of my life, just as that one night at the Satin
Slip Mine was the worst.
“I’ve seen badmen and Civil War, goodtimes an’ bad, some
fine hosses, fine women, an’ damn to them tin Lizzies they
run aroun’ in up in Flag’.  But, I never seen nor heard one
single word more about LaRue Breton, to this day.”
“Now, gentlemen, I hope you took notes, ’cause that tale
will pass the mouth of Windy Sharp no more this side of them
same Purgatory’s barbed wire Gates!”

Two months later, Rowdy, his mom and dad, and a
surprising number of the long time locals of Riddletop, made
the twenty mile trek down off the Rim, in buckboards, through
the stiff needled, sweet smelling blue spruce and the aspen,
just curling its fresh bell shaped leaves, to lay Windy in
the tiny Sharp’s family homestead cemetery; amidst the
mist-shrouded mountain beauty of the spring filled Tonto Basin.
And, the year was 1924.

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