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My watch has had what you might call a hard life. It don’t always tell the truth. A bit like its owner, huh? On both counts. Today though, the watch and the sun seem to agree – so maybe the watch has decided to turn over a new leaf? Maybe. Maybe I will too. Not because of Carrie’s nagging! Sheesh! Do I LOOK the kind of fella who’d let some girl pussy-whup him into going straight just because she’s got a winning smile and dishes out a bit of sweet-talk? Do I? Oh. Yeah, well! Maybe you’re right. Is that so bad? It’s one thing the man being the boss. That’s the natural order after all! Stands to reason. But… I guess I’ve never thought much of men who take that to mean they don’t even have to listen to their womenfolk. Seems to me – that’s just dumb. Pa always listened to Ma. Before they… No, I’m not gonna talk about my mother. Anyhow, if I HAVE been listening to Carrie – I reckon it’s only because she’s been saying stuff I’ve been thinking already. When I ran off from the home, stealing didn’t seem SO wrong. Sheesh! When you saw the kinda stuff so-called respectable folk pulled! If other folk are rich enough to be targets…and if YOU’RE hungry… I guess I still think that. Kinda… I tell Carrie we – I mean the Devil’s Hole Gang – we don’t hurt ordinary folk. We target railroads and banks. They’re worse villains than outlaws! I don’t know if that’s exactly true. I’ve heard smart folk argue it. But the smart folk I listen to – well! They’re on the wrong side of the law, huh? They’re not what you’d call impartial. I reckon though – even if you take it with a pinch of salt – there’s a lot of truth in there. Carrie says it’s not so much the stealing. It’s the guns. She hates guns. She says… Well, she says – back in the schoolyard – there were two kinds of bullies. One kind hit you – then stole your lunch pail. He hit you because he enjoyed hitting. The other kind would threaten to hit you – so you handed over your lunch pail. He just wanted ‘the loot’. Carrie says – when you grow up – there’s a third kind of bully. He gives you a big smile and says – ‘hand it over and no one has to get hurt’. He likes to cover up the threat
– but it’s still the same. She says all the talk about ‘not hurting passengers, not stealing from customers’ … is just the cover. She’s right. I used to hate bullies. Prided myself on standing up to them – making sure the younger boys at the home didn’t get a real hard time. Now… Now I am one. I pull a gun on some ordinary, innocent family man – an engine driver, or guard, or bank clerk, or train passenger - and I say – ‘No one needs to get hurt…” If I do it with a big reassuring smile – who am I trying to fool into thinking I’m a pretty good guy? Only myself. Not them. They wouldn’t do as they were told unless they were frightened… Frightened of the bully holding the gun. And, I DID fool myself into thinking I was a - a pretty good bad man. I AM a good guy. At least – I want to be. Does that sound soft? I guess it does. I sure wouldn’t say nothing like that to the rest of the gang. That’s another problem … You spend your whole life surrounded by fellas keen to prove how tough they are. You have to be hard to survive. And…you’re scared of seeming soft. You lose sight of what is – a decent consistency. Anyhow, even if it IS soft - I reckon I care more about Carrie’s opinion than about what the other fellas think. At least…I take another look up at the sun …I DID! She’s late! I’ve been hanging around for over an hour. Does she think I’ll sit here all afternoon? Pfffttt! Not after last time! When she turns up – she had better be in a better mood than last time – or – or… Well, I don’t know ‘or’ what… Last time, something was worrying her – and she wouldn’t say! She ended up storming off. Just left me. Made me look a real fool! If she thinks … I stand up, unhitch my horse from the branch I’ve tethered him to. I’ve got better things to do than hang around for another dumb fight – all about nothing! I loop the reins back around the branch, go and sit down. I’ll give it another five minutes. It’d be dumb to ride all this way and not wait, huh? Besides, it may not be Carrie’s fault. Sometimes her boss changes her shifts at real short notice. Half an hour later she turns up. Full of apologies. She HAD been kept back… She is SO glad I waited… She was SURE I would have given up…She is SO sorry…She wasn’t even sure I’d come… Not after the way she behaved last time…
I had kinda made up my mind to be mad at her, but - it’s kinda hard to stay mad if someone says sorry, huh? “Hey, you’re here now,” I say, folding my arms round her, “…let’s make the most of it, huh?” But, instead of smiling up at me – that lop-sided smile that makes her nose crinkle so you just want to kiss it – she buries her head in my shirtfront and bursts into tears. I’ve never seen Carrie cry before. “I’ve…I’m… Promise not to be mad. Please. Promise. I’ve something to tell you… Promise, though. Don’t be angry. Please. I wanted to tell you last time, but – I guess I was still hoping…” ---oooOOOooo--“What am I gonna do? I’ll lose my job and…” “…Hey, hush…” There is nothing left of Carrie’s handkerchief but a wet rag. I take off my bandana use it to mop her tears, as well as I can while still sitting with my arms round her. “…Don’t cry. Please. Here…” I push the bandana into her hand. “…Blow …” She does blow. She tries to pull herself together, as I cuddle her and make soothing sounds into her hair. “Don’t worry. Everything’ll be fine! You’ll see! We’ll get married and – I’ll find work. Sure, it might have to be something hard on the back – but – that won’t kill me, huh? Do me good! Don’t cry, Carrie…please…” I reckon I guessed what Carrie’s news was before she managed to tell me. “I don’t want it to be like this. You must know I’ve dreamed you might …might ask. One day. I love you! You know that. But, I don’t want to force you into…” “You’re not forcing me,” I say. “…I’m volunteering. You don’t think I’d just leave you, do you?” “But, you don’t WANT to get married! All that talk about a life free of responsibilities… not being tied down…” “Oh, for Pete’s sake Carrie! That was when we first met! And, even then – I was only shooting my mouth off! You know me – ALL talk. Course I want to marry you. You know that, huh? This is just what you might call – an extra incentive to get on with it!” “Really?” comes a shaky little voice. “Really!” I say, firmly. I kiss her. Then again – properly. My hand under her chin, I make her eyes meet mine. “Really,” I repeat. “Really and truly.”
“In that case…” I get a smile, still a bit watery, but looking more like the usual Carrie. The voice sounds a bit more like her normal teasing, too, “…isn’t there usually some kind of proposal? Did I miss it?” “Carrie Weaver,” I say, “…will you…” “NOT sitting down!” she scathes. “I’m not listening to ANYTHING until you’re properly down on one knee.” I grin, get myself positioned – properly. “Carrie Weaver. If I promise to go straight, settle down, get an honest job, be a model husband and father – will you marry me?” “I’ll consider it - get back to you,” she smiles. An idea strikes me. I tug the ring off my own finger, push it onto hers. She stretches out her hand to admire the glint of the gold. Despite holding her finger crooked, the ring falls off. She tries it on her thumb, still too big. “I don’t think this will work,” she says. “Besides,” a frown, “…I thought you ALWAYS wore this for luck?” “Well, I’ve got lucky now, haven’t I?” I tease. “It’s done its job! Leastways – assuming you eventually say ‘yes’. Wear it on a bit of ribbon round your neck.” The freckled forehead is still puckered up. “Will the gang be mad – when you say you’re leaving.” “Nah,” I dismiss. “Fellas DO leave. As long as I keep my mouth shut – and, I’d do that anyhow. And, as long as…” I shut up in time. I was going to say “As long as I still do my bit tomorrow…” Wary grey eyes look up into mine. I give a big, reassuring smile. “I think, you should keep your lucky ring until AFTER you’ve – y’know – properly left and gone straight,” she says. “I thought you weren’t superstitious?” “I’m not!” she declares, firmly. “Once you’ve really gone straight, THEN, I’ll say ‘yes’ and take it.” “Don’t you trust me?” “Yes,” she says. Very quietly, she adds, “I do.” “Tell you what,” I say, “…wear this for now…” And I…
It sounds real sappy. I guess it IS real sappy. I pick three or four daisies and weave her a ring out of them. Told you it was sappy. I reckon it was because I was thinking about the – the baby. After the first ‘gulp’ – I started to feel kinda happy about it. No, not ‘kinda’ happy. Happy. In fact, I reckon by the time tomorrow comes and I’ve got used to the idea – I’m going to be walking on air. I tell Carrie something too – something I haven’t told her before. Not because it isn’t true. It IS true. It’s been true for ages. I just never said it before because – y’know. Aw, come on! You already KNOW what I told her. You KNOW! Sheesh! You women! I don’t have to repeat it! Oh alright! I said, “I love you.” Happy now? ---oooOOOooo--I was right. Next morning I AM walking on air. I’ m gonna be a father. I’m gonna be a GOOD father. Like Pa was. Before… I can hardly keep the smile off my face, as I help lever up that track. I couldn’t duck out of this one last robbery. Not at twenty-four hours notice. I’m not conceited enough to think they exactly NEED me, but – the preparations are made and we all have some role to play. The gang – well, I’m not going to get sappy about THEM too and say ‘they’re like family’. They’re not. Still, I do feel a good dose of ‘loyalty amongst thieves’. I am going to put Carrie and the baby first from now on – but, I owe these guys a lot. And, there’s a lot less chance of anyone on that train getting hurt if we stick to the plan. That is most of the truth. I am trying to be honest, but – it don’t come real natural yet. I ALSO know, if I DID duck out now – I’d have the gang all riled up at me. Who needs that? And, I think about the gold. I DO intend to get an honest job. But, my share from today will be a real stake to get me and Carrie started. Stealing from some mining company – it’s not like stealing from a – a PERSON. They won’t miss it! Well. I guess you’ve heard that kind of justification before, huh? It’s the last time, anyhow. What can one last time hurt? From our position in the bushes, we watch the engine screech to a halt in front of the ripped up tracks.
“Alright men,” says Wheat Carlson, “…Let’s get rich!” Like always, I kiss my snake ring for luck. “Going to be passing you on soon,” I murmur. “… to Carrie. Then, one day, to Henry Maxwell Jenkins Junior!” “Let’s go!” calls Wheat. I dig my heels into my horse and, with the rest of the gang, gallop down towards the Brimstone to Denver train. One last time… ---oooOOOooo---
By Paws Magee My tale is not exactly a missing scene. More of a missing character. Or perhaps it's a case of editing error. Let me try again... I'm her. The missing character. You know, the stranger? The sixth one, who was supposed to be in Apache Springs? The one whose scenes ended up on the editing room floor causing the episode's title, 'Six Strangers at Apache Springs', to be debated in ASJ fandom for the past few decades. Well, any way you look at it, I can only come up with five strangers in Apache Springs. Unless you count Barney, but heck, he was dead! And unless you count those two heavenly co-stars of the series as one...though they often acted as a unit...but no, they were definitely two distinct and separate entities. I know, I met them. Cool, blue eyes, mischievous smile, a walk almost as captivating when he's sayin' hello as when he's... well, you get the picture. And those other eyes, warm chocolate, smooth, baritone voice that could melt the snow on top of mount... So anyway, it was a warm day, real warm, when those two handsome hunks of humanity rode their way slowly into my town. I watched them from my favorite hiding spot, in the cool shade beneath the porch of the only hotel located here in Apache Springs. Not much happens here that I miss. Not much happens here...period, but if something were to happen, I'd be the first to know about it from my watching spot. Smithers and Caroline, they've been around for years, don't pay me much mind though. Sometimes they give me a crust of bread or a leftover meal nobody else wanted. "Live and let live," I always say, and that pretty much describes our relationship. Besides, I'm pretty good at fending for myself and that's just the way I like it. See that cloud of dust over that first rise? That'll be the stage. Bringing a couple of rich easterners I hear. Take a look at that frilly flower getting off the stage now, would you? I
give her two days tops before she wilts, begging that fancy eastern husband of hers to take her back wherever it is she came from. Feeling the need for a break from the day's hectic pace and a brief dip in a cooling tub, I strolled into the bathhouse. Caroline's voice was saying something about "not looking if he was pinned to a Christmas Tree", so what the heck, I stuck my head in the door. Bet she'd have changed her mind if she'd seen what I saw! Blushing, I hurried back out into the street. Another stage. Wonder who this lady is? She doesn't seem near as uppity as that last one. The other handsome fella is helping her with her bags. Hold on a minute... I'm watching them walk toward the hotel... I was right, darn nice gait on that man! This is my life. I hang around town most days just watching and checking things out, but my evenings, that's when things really get howling. Oh, did I mention I'm not one of you humans? Maybe I forgot to tell you, seeing as how that little detail sometimes slips my mind. We canines don't care that you humans only have half as many legs as a body needs to make it here in the west. We wouldn't hold a little thing like that against you. Coyote or human, we're all just people. Mr. Fielding, I think he understands that. He came here trying to get a bunch of human people to treat each other better. Hope he succeeds too. Lots of people could get hurt if he doesn't. Good thing I was there to help him and the other two fellas though. You remember how those Chiricahuas went running off when they let loose of that mule? Now come on, do you really think a mule got that bunch so excited? It was me. Me and the rest of my gang. We parked ourselves at the top of the next hill and set to snarling and growling real mean-like. Turned those Indians right around. We did! Yeah, our scene got cut, but it was us that saved those men. The three of them didn't give up too easy either. Decided to go back again. Got themselves caught this time too. So I came back at night. Sneaked in that tepee, real quiet. Slipped right under the side and started chewing those ropes. When I had 'Nice Gait' and 'Smooth Talker' free, we searched out Mr. Fielding and freed him too, only he didn't want to come with us. Wanted to stay right there and keep on talking with those Indians. I know that's not the way the scene played out in the episode, but it's what really happened. So now you know the truth. Mr. Fielding talked the Chiricahuas into going back to their reservation peacefully. Mrs. Fielding took her cranky self back east where she and her husband never understood each other any better than they had during their trip to Apache Springs. Sister Grace went home to Boston to continue her work in the mission and lived a full, occasionally frivolous, life (with recurring dreams of a handsome young blue-eyed fella). Caroline talked Smithers into helping her go after the rest of the gold since the danger was gone, only, I'm pretty sure they won't find it when then get there. You see, when 'Nice Gait' and 'Smooth Talker' left town, one small coyote decided to go with them. She
had been pretty good at sneaking a peek at the maps Caroline looked at over the years. She was pretty good at digging too! Let's just say Mr. Huggins should have called this episode: 'Two Pretty Good Rich Men...and one coyote...at Apache Springs!"
By Lana Coombe Heyes lay back, his arms crossed behind his head, staring up into the endless, star sprinkled heavens. His body ached and he felt tired but he also felt contended. The soft low of the cattle was comforting and his stomach was full, thanks to Jim, the wagon driver, come cook. His partner was sitting a little ways off, finishing a tin mug of coffee, and gently prodding the glowing embers of the campfire, occasionally giving furtive glances in the direction of two, dark lumps on the other side of the camp. “Heyes?” Kid suddenly said in a low voice, “what exactly do nuns do?” In the darkness, the corners of Heyes’ mouth twitched. He had sensed that something had been bothering his partner and was relieved at the question he had been posed, even if a little unsure of the answer himself. “Well …” he started, before hesitating, trying to think of the best way to phrase his answer to his inquisitive but, sometimes, uninformed partner. “They’re ladies who have decided to dedicate their lives to God.” Heyes smiled smugly to himself at his succinct response. “Yeah, but what do they do?” came the dissatisfied return, “I mean apart from pray and all that?” In the darkness, Heyes brow furrowed a little, now feeling ever so slightly annoyed that this line of questioning had interrupted the tranquillity of the evening. He sighed as he raised himself up onto his elbow, picking up a loose pebble from the ground, investigating it with his fingers, as he thought. “I’m not an expert you understand, but they live together in a convent and do all the normal things folks do, like cooking and gardening, but have to stop every once in a while to do their praying. They help people a lot too and are very kind.” Heyes tossed the pebble aside before slumping back down onto his bedroll. "And what's with that dress thing they wear? Looks kinda uncomfortable!" Kid added. "It's a habit," Heyes contributed.
"Must be! Looks like they wear it everyday!" came the dismissive response. Heyes just rolled his eyes. There was silence from the other side of the fire as Kid let the new found information sink in, until eventually, he said, “So …” Heyes could feel himself gritting his teeth a little, at the continuing persistence of his partner, as he attempted to satisfy his curiosity. “So, all these women live together doing praying and other stuff. Are there any men there, to do the heavy work for them, like chopping logs and all that, because they seem real refined ladies to me and I can’t imagine either one of them swinging an axe?” he said, inclining his head in the direction of the dark lumps. “No. There ain’t no men there,” Heyes replied, a little testily. “They’re real strong women who are more than capable of looking after themselves,” he added, for good measure, hoping that would be the end of the conversation. He was to be disappointed. “What about, well, you know, what men and women do? When do they do that?” “They don’t!” Heyes’ voiced had risen a little with his frustration. Across the way, in the glow of the fire, he could see the puzzled expression on his partner’s face. He sighed again, calming himself, feeling a pang of guilt at his lack of patience and lowering his voice, replied, “They’ve given themselves to God. They say they are God’s brides and all that they do is for him, so, they don’t with any other men. They don’t get any of that!” Another period of thoughtful silence followed before Kid eventually said, “Sheesh! I guess that’s why they call them ‘nones’!”
By Shenango The two cowboys walked into the saloon, pausing to check out the action. Not many customers in at that part of the afternoon; but then there usually weren't in mid-day. They had just come from the train station, putting Annabelle on a train and sent her back to her family, having agreed she'd gotten a wealth of "authentic experience" and could return now. They walked up to the bar slowly as they took in the action around them, looking for the dealer. There, in the table not far from the piano in the corner, sat a man dressed a bit dandified. He was dressed like a lot of gamblers and dealers, dark suit, white shirt with a dark string tie and a ladies' garter around the arm to hold the sleeve back slightly.
Ordering a pair of beers, they slowly sipped, watching the game going on there. As the bartender delivered them, the dark one asked him, "Is that the only action in here?" "For the moment," he replied. "If you come back in a couple hours, we usually get a few games going after supper. Nothing high stakes though, till the weekend." "Thanks," replied the light haired one. Heyes put a hand out to stop the bartender from walking away, then asked him, "Would that be Deke Considine dealing?" "Yep, that's Deke. You know him?" "Know some of his family," Curry answered him. Sizing them both up, the bartender cautiously returned to his duties behind the bar, not saying anything else. He knew their type and he was even surer he didn't want to cross them. The guns strapped to their legs were more than a warning to him even though they appeared friendly enough. "Well," said the darker one, "It looks like we might be able to make a few dollars here." "Heyes," his partner said, "You sure you want to do that?" "Why, Kid?" Kid Curry casually glanced around the room speaking quietly to his partner, but both knew he missed nothing there. "I was kinda thinking we should tell him about how Annabelle's all grown up now. Do we want to get into a long game with him?" "Got a plan, Kid," Heyes said, nodding to the game. Curry looked at the game, inclining his head toward his partner. "What's the idea?" While they were talking, they noticed that two seats opened up at the table. "Come on," Heyes led the way over. "Afternoon, Gents," the dealer greeted them. "Care for a friendly game? Table stakes, of course. Name's Deke and I deal for the house." They nodded as they took the two recently opened chairs. "Name's Jones, and this is my partner, Smith." They took a few hands to get the feel of the game and more importantly, the players, winning modestly at first.
After a while, the other three players at the game took their turns bowing out, leaving only Deke at the table with Smith and Jones. "So, Deke," Smith started, "I think we have a mutual acquaintance." Deke looked up over the table to them. "Oh," he answered noncommittally. "And who would that be?" "Well," Jones answered, "We got to spend some time with a nice young lady by the name of Annabelle Considine." Deke startled in the chair, but fought to keep his poker face. "Heard she was kin to you," Jones continued. Deke's face softened. "Annabelle? How is Annie? Why, I haven't seen her in some time." Heyes casually watched as his partner handled this. "So she said," Jones continued. "She found out you were in this town and we were headed here. Wanted us to look you up and give you a message." "My Annie?" he asked them. "How is she? Why, she's just a child. What was the message," he asked, both eagerly and cautiously. Heyes and Curry swapped glances then Heyes spoke up. "My friend, Mr. Jones here, spent some time with Annie while he was traveling on business recently." Deke looked at him, the card game temporarily forgotten. A faraway look took over his face, like he was almost afraid to ask after her. Reading people as well as he did, Kid slowly continued. "She's not a child any more, Deke. She's grown up to be a pretty young lady." Deke sat back in the chair, exhaled and shook his head slightly. "I haven't seen Annie for some time now. Is she..." he hesitated, not sure what to ask, "Is she... how is she?" Heyes looked at him, "Deke, she's a nice young lady, one a man'd be proud to call his daughter. When we talked to her, there was some talk of considering marriage to a local boy." "Marriage?" He exhaled. "Why she can't be that old..." He tried to consider how long it had been since he'd seen her. The long sigh and sudden regret covered his face and he nervously took a drink. "She thought you'd like to know we met her," Smith said.
Deke looked from one to the other, discomfort taking over. "Thank you, gents; appreciate the news." "One more thing, Deke," Jones added. Deke looked at them. "You seem to have settled here," Heyes told him, "But your daughter is not too far away. Might be a nice idea to go visit some weekend." At Deke's confused look, Jones continued, "A man has family, that's a reason to stay in touch with them. Not to be wasted." Looking at each other, the two finished their drinks, picked up their winnings and stood. "Be a shame to not keep in touch with family, especially when they sent you regards," Curry said. He sat there, slightly stunned, not realizing they'd stood, then suddenly looked and saw them. "Thanks, Gents," he saluted them with his drink. "I surely do appreciate you passing that on to me." They walked out of the saloon and back over to the hotel. It was getting close to supper time and the dining room was recommended to them. "Heyes, you think he'll go see her?" "Don't know, Kid. Anyway, we did what we could. It's up to him now," Heyes said. Curry nodded, not looking at him. "Come on," he continued, "I know you gotta be hungry. We did our quota of good deeds for today. Let's eat."
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