Danny by William Wayne Dicksion by William Wayne Dicksion - Read Online

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Danny - William Wayne Dicksion

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Chapter 1

Gunfire and a column of black smoke rising in the distance made Danny spur his horse into a full run. Topping the rise, he saw his house engulfed in flames and men shooting into it from all sides. His father was returning fire from an upstairs window, and he heard his mother scream.

He could see that Sheriff Bodden was one of the men shooting at the house.

What’s going on? Danny screamed. "The mortgage isn’t due until 12 noon, and it’s only 10:30. I’m back in plenty of time!"

He rushed to the sheriff while holding sixty dollars in his hand. The payment was only fifty, and Danny had sold their last three cows for sixty.

Sheriff, stop shooting, Danny hollered. I have the money!

Sheriff Bodden’s stubby hand snatched the money from Danny.

You don’t have it now, he said. I do! You’re too late! The banker told me to foreclose on this ranch, and that’s what I’m doing. I asked your folks to leave the house, but they wouldn’t, so we’re burning them out. Now, get out of the way before I shoot you!

It would be a mistake to try, sheriff, and you know it, Danny hollered back. Now, damn you, stop shooting at my mother and father, and let them out of that house!

I didn’t chase them in there. They ran in on their own, and I’m going to let them get out on their own, the sheriff retorted, his short heavyset body wobbled trying to keep his agitated horse under control.

But they can’t get out with you shooting at them. I saw Deputy Milroy shooting at the back door as I rode up. Let me go in and lead them out. I’m sure we can settle this.

How do I know you won’t come out shooting? You’re just a kid, but everybody knows you’re good with a gun.

Danny jumped off his horse, dropped his holster and revolver at the sheriff’s feet, and said, Here’s my gun. I’ll throw Dad’s rifle out the window before I lead them out.

Sheriff Bodden glared at Danny. All right, men, the kid’s unarmed, so tie him up and shoot anybody who tries to leave the house.

Danny heard his mother screaming and raced for the door, but the deputies grabbed him. He struggled, but the deputies were both big men, and he couldn’t get loose.

Sheriff Bodden, he pleaded, don’t make me watch them burn. They’re my parents! Let them out! It’s insanity to burn them alive! You’ve got the money; what more do you want?

Money? What money you talking about? I ain’t seen no money, Bodden lied.

You just grabbed it out of my hand. Can’t you hear Mother screaming? She won’t come out without Father!

Danny was getting desperate now because time was running out.

Throw him in there, too, Bodden said to his deputies. Why contend with him any longer?

A deputy slammed Danny over the head with his pistol, and that was the last Danny remembered until he woke up with singed hair and a big knot on his head.

When he opened his eyes, he was lying beside the rock foundation of the house. The house had burned down and lay in ruins. The acrid smell of burned wood assaulted his nostrils—a residue of smoke congested his lungs, and he started to cough.

Evidently, the fire had been too hot for the deputies to throw him all the way into the burning house, so they left him at the rock base, thinking that he, too, would be destroyed by fire.

Staggering to his feet, Danny picked up a partially burned plank and stirred through the smoldering ashes. Under the remains of the stairway, he found his parents’ bodies. They had tried to take shelter under the stonework leading to the stairs.

Danny’s father had tucked his gun under his body, and it was still in working order; cartridges were still in the loops of the gun belt. The belt was badly scorched, but it was still strong enough to hold the gun. The odor of burnt leather hovered around him as he buckled the gun belt to his waist. His own gun that he had dropped at the sheriff’s feet was nowhere to be seen, but he spotted his crumpled hat in the brush.

He wanted to cry, but anger stifled his sobs. He looked up at the heavens and screamed, I’m sorry I got back too late, but I’ll make them pay for this if it’s the last thing I ever do.

* * *

Danny gathered scorched wood and built a casket. He then carved the names, Dell and Dolly Duncan, on a wooden cross and buried his parents on a knoll under an oak tree overlooking the creek. He had sat on this knoll with his parents many a summer evening watching the sunset—now it was only a memory.

After sitting beside their grave until it was nearly dark, Danny got up to leave and saw Stamper, his horse, standing behind him with his head down as if sharing Danny’s grief. Somehow Stamper had hidden from the sheriff.

Stamper, Danny sobbed, you’re the only thing I have left. From now on it’s just you and me. He put his arms around Stamper’s muzzle and with tears streaming down his face looked at the ruins of what had been his home.

The barn had burned also, but there was hay in the fields. Danny removed Stamper’s saddle, then fed and watered him. There was nothing for Danny to eat other than fruit growing in their orchard. He ate a ripe pear, then lay down on a stack of freshly cut hay, and cried as darkness came. Memories of his mother’s screams kept him awake—sleep came slowly.

* * *

The sound of Stamper drinking from the water trough awakened him. The sky was getting bright, and trees were silhouetted on the hill beyond the creek. He looked at the grave of his parents and shook his head as he realized how great his loss had been.

Today is the day I will avenge you! Danny yelled; his voice echoed from the hill.

Danny saddled Stamper and rode into town. When he put his hand inside his vest pocket, he found the receipt for sixty dollars that the cattle buyer had given him. It proved that he had the money, which the sheriff snatched from him, and it also proved that his parents were killed senselessly.

He wanted to be at the sheriff’s office when it opened at 8 o’clock. He needed someone of authority to go to, but this was Indian Territory, and the sheriff was the only authority in Videll. The sheriff said the banker ordered him to foreclose on the farm; therefore, the banker was the real murderer.

Sheriff Bodden and his deputies had burned Danny’s parents alive, but would they admit to what they had done? The sheriff had denied taking the money, and if he stuck to his story, he was sixty dollars richer, the banker now owned the ranch, and Danny was homeless.

* * *

The sun had been up for only two hours and already it was hot. Danny tied Stamper in the shade of an oak tree at the outskirts of town and was walking toward the sheriff’s office when his mother’s friend, Myrtle, ran from her restaurant with her arms open.

Oh, my goodness, Danny, she cried. You’re alive! We were told that you burned to death when you ran into your house trying to save your parents. I can see burns on your face and hands. Come on in here, so I can put some salve on you. She led him to the kitchen. I’ll fix you some breakfast. Do you want to wash up a bit?

Thanks, Myrtle, Danny said as he took off his hat to wash his hands at the sink.

Oh, your hair is badly singed! You’ll have trouble combing it, and there’s a gash on your head. Oh, Danny, does it hurt? Let me wash the blood off and wrap the wound.

Guess I must have hit my head when the deputies pushed me. No, it doesn’t hurt. I’m on my way to see the sheriff.

You’ll have time for breakfast, Myrtle said. The sheriff can wait. The bank doesn’t open until 8, and Mr. Strimforth, the banker, doesn’t get in until about 8:20. Sit here, Danny, and tell me what happened. The sheriff and his deputies said all of you were dead. They said that a fire started somewhere in your house, and they got there too late to rescue any of you.

Myrtle placed a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, and apple juice in front of Danny, which he devoured ravenously.

The sheriff lied, Danny said, trying to control his emotions. They burned the house down with my parents in it. They hit me on the head and left me for dead. I buried my parents on that knoll by the creek. I want to face Sheriff Bodden and charge him for murdering my parents. I also want to see Banker Strimforth and make sure he got the mortgage money. When I told the sheriff I had the money, he grabbed the whole sixty and still wouldn’t let me save Mom and Dad. Tears ran down his cheeks. Myrtle, if the sheriff has kept the money, and that’s what I think he’s done, and then getting hanged for killing him is a chance I’ll have to take. I told my parents that I’d make this right. It’s the last promise I made to them, and I’ve got to keep it.

You know, Danny, Myrtle replied as she shook her head, I thought there was something funny about the sheriff’s story.

Myrtle put salve on his burns and bandaged his head.

Thank you, Myrtle, that feels better, he said as he picked up his hat. Now I’ve got to see the sheriff and the banker. And thanks for breakfast; it was delicious.

Myrtle watched Dan as he walked toward the sheriff’s office. He’s only a boy, but he has to do a man’s job, she thought.

* * *

Danny walked into the sheriff’s office. Deputy Melvin Milroy stared at him. You should be dead, Milroy thought.

Sherriff Bodden ain’t here, he stammered. He’s at the bank.

Danny quickly walked across the street to the bank and when he entered the front door, the people all stopped what they were doing. A quiet settled over the bank because they had heard the story of the Duncan home burning and were told that everyone died in the fire.

A woman teller ran into Strimforth’s office to tell her boss that Danny had just walked in. Sheriff Bodden had been sitting in the big, stuffed chair smoking a cigar looking proud. Banker Strimforth, with his shiny black hair combed back, had his feet on the desk and was smiling gleefully at what the sheriff was telling him. They both straightened up at the teller’s message.

I thought you said that Danny was dead, Strimforth said, glaring at Bodden. We’ve got to arrest him for something and make it look good—everybody is watching.

I’ll handle it, Sheriff Bodden said. He jumped to his feet and called out loud enough for everyone to hear, He’s got a gun, and he’s come to rob the bank!

Dan had expected the sheriff to deny taking the money, but he hadn’t expected this.

Sheriff Bodden fired a shot at Danny that just missed his head and smashed the front window of the bank.

Danny dashed to the counter seeking cover as the sheriff continued firing. Danny drew his father’s pistol, but he didn’t fire it until Strimforth fired from behind his desk. The bullet whizzed past Danny’s head and embedded in the side wall. The frightened customers ran for cover.

Deputy Melvin Milroy had followed Danny into the bank and began shooting also.

With Milroy at the front door and Strimforth behind the desk, Sheriff Bodden was emboldened and stepped through the office door shooting. That