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A Short Story by Jim Taylor

The bullet went through the fleshy part of the rider's arm bringing him awake with such a jerk that he fell out of the saddle. It was lucky that he fell off the horse for a second bullet following closely on the first just missed him. A third shot threw dirt near his face as he rolled behind a rock, wondering what the heck was going on!

It had been a 3-day horseback trip in the Superstition Mountains. The rider and his Dad had prospected off and on over the years in these mountains and had found some color now and then. The Superstitions were especially rugged and in many ways, very mysterious. Over the years a number of people had disappeared in the rough canyons. More than one body had been found with signs that their end was not due to natural causes. He and his Dad had been deep in the range on the occasion of the death of several people who worked the canyons and peaks and he knew that at times the country could be dangerous. Once a geologist who had been hired to do some work on Weaver's Needle was killed by the lady who hired him. As he was coming down the side of that volcanic remnant of long-ago eruptions she dropped a rock on his head. After he fell several hundred feet he was surely dead, but she kept the Sheriff's Posse away from the body long enough to make sure. That little feat, by the way, was accomplished with an old .30-30 levergun from high atop a peak that overlooked where the body lay. So while the rider was aware of the dangers he had never personally experienced any trouble. Until now.

His horse had moved a short distance away and was looking for a little grass to chew on. Being trained to gunfire it was not bothered by the shots that had racketed the canyon. The only thing the rider could figure was either he had been mistaken for someone else or he had wandered onto someone's claim and they were afraid that he had come to try and take whatever it was they thought they had found. More than one poor soul had gone into eternity over some pot of fool's gold.

The rider tried to stop the trickle of blood running down his arm by tying a bandanna around it the best he could. The pain was growing in intensity but he tried to concentrate on just how many were on the ridge above and their location. Once while trying to tie the bandanna he must have shown himself for several shots hit nearby. From this he was able to tell about where the shooter was, but not if there were more than one of them.

All this time he was holding his old .45 single action in his hand. He had somehow pulled it from it's holster, not consciously, and was sort of amazed to find it in his hand. Though just a young man the rider figured he would do whatever he had to in order to survive. It was not more than 150 yards to the top of the ridge and he knew he could make it hot for whoever was up there, if only he could get a clear shot. Thinking of that he decided to move to a place where he could maybe see a little better. Staying low he scooted behind the rocks the best he could until he had moved about 50 feet from his original position. He did not think anyone saw him move and he kept his eyes on the hill, watching for movement. After some time he spotted someone standing in the shadow of a large boulder, holding a rifle. The rider rested the sixgun over a rock, lined up the sights on the man's chest, dropped the rear sight down a bit and touched the trigger. At the shot the person jerked and dropped the rifle. The sound of a dull "whop" came back over the distance at about the same time. The gun fell down into the rocks and the rifleman fell over backwards into the brush and rocks behind him. After seeing the rifleman fall, the rider immediately moved away from the spot figuring that he would be quickly located if anyone else was around. The rider still had not seen anyone else, but he moved cautiously, coming in from the side trying not to make any noise or show himself. As he moved through the tangled hillside he heard a noise to his right. Turning he saw a man going directly away from him about 75 yards off. The rider shot for the middle of the man's back and the stranger threw up his hands, dropped immediately on his face, and did not move.

The rider waited there in the shadows for what seemed like a long time, though in reality it was probably about 20 or 30 minutes. Nothing moved during that time. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity he eased down the hill and caught his horse. It was with some difficulty that he got into the saddle, but once mounted he headed on out of the mountains and away from that canyon. All told it was about 36 hours until he got home. By that time the wound in his arm had stopped bleeding. It was sore for quite some time, but never got infected so he treated it himself and never worried about it too much.

Both men were left where they fell. The rider never approached either of them. The rifle is probably still laying in the rocks. It has been enough years now that it most likely would not be any good. After he thought on the matter a while the rider came to the conclusion that it probably was not a very good rifle anyhow. It had not made much of a hole in his arm.






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