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Kid Irish
(An Arizona Cowhand)
A Sequel of Western Stories

George H. Lafferty


(Episode 1)

I figured I was about seventy miles out of Tombstone, pretty much Northwest, as best I could make it out. I had ridden out of Tombstone after I had to kill a man over a poker hand. He accused me of dealing off the bottom and just had to shoot it out. I can do some things real fast, others I am so slow I don't even bother to try.

When it comes to clearing leather with a Colt Peacemaker, I'm panther quick. When it comes to dealing cards, especially off the bottom, I am slow as molasses in a blizzard. Take my word for it, I wasn't cheating, I just got lucky with the way the cards fell and dealt myself a really good hand. Three pretty little ladies and a pair of fours, for a natural full house.

The eighteen dollars and change I swept up off the table before I left the saloon, swung up in the saddle on old Dusty and headed out the north end of town, didn't hardly seem worth dying for to me. I hate having to take a life but I would hate losing mine even worse.

While I'm no gun slick and don't even want to get a reputation as a fast draw started, a man had better learn to use a gun and learn well. That is if he wants to keep on herding cows and trying to stay alive while he wrangles up a gold eagle or two. I had a good teacher, my pa was a sheriff back in Missouri and he had more than his share of trouble, especially during the war. Between the Kansas Redlegs and Bloody Bill Anderson's boys in southern Missouri, he had his hands full from time to time.

Then there were quite a few boys trying the same line of work as the James and the Youngers or the Daltons, for that matter. Maybe they never made a big name for themselves but they could sure kill you just as dead.

When a man wears a gun on his hip and the closest law is what he has the nerve to make stand, gunfights happen all too often. I learned from my pa, never cross the law and always be ready to draw if you can't find a quick way to get out of it.

Pa had a real strict way about him and a real quick backhand when he thought I was getting a little big for my britches. About the time I thought I was full growed and too big to whup, I was six two and two hundred, he taught me different in a hurry.

He told me he would miss me, and write when I could. Said I was welcome to come home to visit every couple of years if I took a notion.

I took this to mean it was time for me to get out on my own and recent bruises and welts taught me not to argue. I was seventeen then, about five years ago now I guess, and I haven't grown much since then. I drifted west like most everyone else, picking up a little work where I could and not putting down much in the way of roots. I figured there was plenty of time for that and I wanted to see some country. If I didn't keep moving, I might never get to see what could be on the other side of those far mountains.

I camped out the first night after only about ten or twelve miles. I didn't expect to see much in the way of pursuit or anything and I wasn't mistaken. Fights, even gunfights, were not what you would call a rare occasion in Tombstone, Arizona. Why, I had heard in the saloon that there had been a bad one that week already. Some Mexican had gotten drunk and caused trouble in one of the saloons, then when the law showed up, he killed a deputy and wounded another. The wounded deputy had gotten off a shot, which had caught the Mexican in the groin. The bullet had shattered the bone sending splinters all through his guts. They said it took that Mexican four days to die.

I rode all day the next day before making camp, but I really didn't cover that much ground. I was in no big hurry, just sort of drifting now that I had worn out my welcome in Tombstone.

Some big wig, name of Gadsden, a railroad tycoon I think, had managed to engineer a land purchase from Mexico, for the government. This had added a strip of land across the bottom of New Mexico and Arizona, making a new border with Mexico. I had decided to see what all the fuss was about, so I was sort of drifting west through part of this country toward a little town called Gila, Arizona.

All I had seen so far was cactus, sand and snakes. I should have been so lucky as to keep it that way. The first I knew of any danger was a shot ricocheting off a nearby rock. Looking back, I saw three or maybe four Apache bucks coming on hard. If that one buck hadn't had an itchy trigger finger, they may have had me before I could even react. As it was I reached for my saddle gun, a Winchester lever action rifle, while putting the spurs to old Dusty and the chase was on.

Central southern Arizona is a hot dry place to be, and there isn't a lot of people around to help a fella out when he gets in a bind. The redskins had dealt with the white man enough to decide they wanted no part of what we were selling, and these boys seemed plumb upset to find me moseying across what they thought of as their stomping grounds.

While the terrain looks flat, there are many gullies, washes, arroyos and low spots. If a body tries hard enough, he can make trying to shoot him from the back of a galloping horse nearly impossible. This was exactly my intention as old Dusty did his level best to leave a smoking hole in the air and become part of the horizon.

Dusty was good and fresh, not having been ridden hard. He had been curried and fed fresh oats in Tombstone, so he was ready to let out all the stops for a really good run.

I thought I had it made, when I saw three more warriors come over a little rise off to my right front. Veering left, I started looking for a place to hole up, where I might have a chance of standing them off. All of a sudden, things weren't looking too rosy for old Kid Irish, namely me.

I don't remember just when I picked up the Kid, cause of my blonde hair and light blue eyes and being pretty young at the time, I guess, but the Irish part isn't all because of my heritage, my name is Rusty Irish. Actually, I am part Irish, part English and part

Cheyenne Indian, having a grandpa who spent a few winters with a squaw while doing a little trapping up north. The son, my pa, he brought back with him was called a half-breed. Me, I took more after my ma, though. She was a blue eyed blonde.

Most folks I've talked to don't seem to dwell much on their Old World heritage

though, you mostly hear them claim to be Missourians or Kansans or Hoosiers or something like that.

Right about then Dusty plunged into a wash I hadn't even seen coming. It was sort of deceptive as the ground seemed to be rising, then all of a sudden you were heading down into a fair sized little wash. It looked to be about the best I could hope for, so I reined Dusty in and bailed out of the saddle. Rolling into some scrub brush, I crawled partially up the little embankment and threw the barrel of my Winchester over the top.

Firing from a steady and especially a prone position is a hell of a lot better than squeezing off a few quick shots over your shoulder, hoping to discourage close pursuit.

I drew a good bead on the first buck and snapped him out of the saddle; swinging to the second and firing again so fast the echo was nearly like one shot. The second shot wasn't nearly as good as the first but at least I didn't miss altogether, as I half expected to. I grazed him at least, as he went over sideways nearly falling off his horse as well.

I was ready by the time he straightened up and I didn't miss the third shot, neatly putting a hole in his upper chest. Two down and at least four more to go, I thought.

I quickly scrabbled about ten feet to my left, looking for another decent firing position. I didn't want to stay in the same place too long as my targets had abruptly disappeared. They were out there somewhere, of course, but I couldn't see them. It is things like this which tend to worry a body to death. I sure didn't want to give these boys a chance to sneak in on me, they could teach a snake how to be sneaky in the dark. If you have ever seen a lizard blend in with his surroundings and seem to disappear, then you have an idea of what an Apache brave can do. Now you see them, now you don't.

A quick movement to a new firing position was all I dared chance and then I froze myself. I wouldn't have cared if I had crawled into a pit of rattlesnakes, I wouldn't have moved a muscle. I somehow knew they were too close. Any further movement would have given my position away and drawn their fire right down on me.

Easing my right hand slowly and quietly down to my holster, I drew my Peacemaker. I can get rounds off a hell of a lot faster in tight quarters with it, than I can a rifle.

Three of them came right over the edge of the wash in a rush, not five feet to my left. I capped off three quick shots, nearly fanning the hammer in my haste to shoot. I threw one shot at each of them and as close as they were, it would have been harder to miss than to hit them. Two were fatal shots but the third only winged him, allowing him to get a shot off at me.

I felt the slam of a large hammer in my side, then the burning pain of a gunshot wound, as I slammed off a fourth shot that hit that buck in the forehead.

Another heavy slam, this time in my left thigh, let me know where the fourth and last bastard was. I let him have the remaining two bullets in my peacemaker, about four inches apart in the middle of his torso.

I lay there, for awhile, about half expecting more of them to appear and finish me off. When the pain started to ease a little, I pulled off my bandanna, from around my neck, and tied it around my thigh to slow the bleeding there as much as possible. That done, I tore off the tail of my shirt to make a pad to hold against my side. The pain I set off, trying to pull my shirt tail out, was almost too much to bear but I knew I would bleed

to death if I didn't stop the flow of blood. I managed to get the rest of my shirt off and wrap it around me, tying it across the pad of shirttail, before I must have passed out.

It was dark when I woke up and I was feverish, I guess, cause I was shivering like it was cold out here. While it was probably considerably cooler than in the daylight with the sun burning down, this is not true desert and it does not get cold at night. The temperature had to have been still in the seventies if not the eighties. I managed to crawl to where Dusty was complacently trying to eat some of the course buck brush. Dusty wont run off like most horses, I have him trained very well. I never have to tether him and although I still tie him to hitch rails in town, I really wouldn't have to, as he would stay put.

This could have been a life saver all by itself now, as I pulled myself up on the stirrup to reach my canteen. Without water I wouldn't have had a chance. Hurt like hell, though it did, I took off my impromptu dressing and washed out the wound on my side. Seeing the actual damage gave me some hope, though. It looked like the bullet had deflected off one of my ribs, just tearing a nice nasty gash along my side. I knew the rib was broken, or at least cracked by the pain of moving at all. At least it hadn't gone in and ripped up any internal organs. I felt I had a good chance to survive this.

The bullet in my thigh was a different kettle of fish, I figured if I didn't get myself to some help to get it out I was in trouble. Though the bone didn't seem to be broken the bullet was lodged deep and I couldn't get the bleeding to stop. I could slow it down with the direct pressure but I couldn't make it stop.

I must have passed out again, cause when I opened my eyes again there was an

Indian bending over me. I grabbed leather but there was no peacemaker there to get hold of. Either I had dropped it after the fight or the Indian had taken it. I had no idea where I had dropped my rifle during the fight.

The Indian just held me still, until I quit struggling, and then in very broken English tried to tell me he was peaceful, a Navajo Medicine Man. Well, one Indian nearly killed me so I guess it was only right for another one to save my life. I must have been delirious for several days. I remember waking several times to see the old Indian near a very small fire, or bending over me with water or some sort of soup or thin stew.

When I woke one morning I felt fairly clear headed and looked around for the Indian. There was no sign of him anywhere. Dusty was tethered nearby with a pile of prairie grass and small brush near him and the tiny fire was out. My canteen was within reach and full. There was a clay bowl of the thin soup near me and my wounds were neatly bandaged, with a poultice on my thigh.

I never saw the Indian again but thanks to him, I was able to make into the nearest town where a local sawbones took over where he had left off. I probably owe my life and at least my leg to that Indian. I will never forget the way he saved me from those Apache bullets.

The End

( 1998 George H. Lafferty