Challenge Accepted

She Was No Help

Esther May exhaled in a gust and panted. She must have held her breath during the Indian’s ride in front of the firing line. How did she miss with the rifle supported on top of the wall and all the shots she fired?

Her .44 Henry had a capacity of 15 cartridges in the tube below the barrel and one in the chamber.

Sixteen shots.

She probably fired more than all the rest of the defenders put together. Esther May gritted her teeth and checked to make sure her rifle was empty by swinging the lever down which rolled the block back.

No shells.

She looked for the embarrassing tattle-tale pile of spent cartridges that would proclaim what a terrible shot she was.

Three empty cases lay near her feet.


Her rifle wasn’t fully loaded. She had succumbed to buck fever: that excitement a greenhorn experiences when first seeing big game. She had been working the lever and pulling the cocked trigger for nothing. In the rush of engaging the enemy, she hadn’t noticed the recoil of the first three rounds or the lack after the shells were fired.

Moisture in her eyes spilled over. She might have saved the victim from being dragged had she kept her head.

She would use self-control from now on.

Do It Right

Esther May dragged a sleeve under her nose taking away the sudden drainage and wiped her cheeks with her hand. A deep breath and another glimpse over the wall set her right. The way the Apaches seemed to burst out of the ground unnerved her, but she had a moment to reload.

She picked up the empties to be refilled and used again. Then she pushed shells into the Henry until it couldn’t hold more.

She remembered why she didn’t keep it fully loaded when she lifted the rifle. Sixteen shells made the weapon too heavy for her use from a horse. Firing from support was a different matter. She meant to make any threat pay for their audacity in attacking the hacienda.

Finding the Field of Fire

Esther May surveyed the path the Indian rode from start to finish. At either end, he was moving almost in a direct line to or from her. When he passed in front, his sideways motion was the fastest. Her best shot was at either end, but it was also the longest.

She had never flipped up the rear sight and used the range selector. It must be there for an occasion as this. “How far do you think it is to where the Indian went in the wash?” she asked Mustache.

He squinted and rubbed his chin. “Hmm. It’s longer than our big rodeo arena …” He tipped his head side-to-side as if his ears were on a seesaw. “I guess 300 pasos would be about right.”

“My sight isn’t in Spanish, so what do I set it on?”

“Three hundred steps would be close to 100 yards for you.”

Esther May dialed up the rear sight and waited. Time stretched for hours it seemed, but her shadow hadn’t moved any farther.

Thoughts Drifting

“Drink water, senorita.”

Her companion’s words brought Esther May out of her reverie. She felt the sun on her head and trickles of sweat down her neck. She rubbed each eyebrow with the back of her thumb and flicked the moisture away. Then, just as in her daydream, the Apache emerged whooping where he last disappeared.

Aim High

Esther May positioned the rifle, barrel high enough to shoot the moon, aimed and fired.

The Indian’s mustang fell, throwing the Apache forward, arms and legs spread wide. He rolled in the dirt in front of his dying horse, gained his feet, and stood with his arms spread, chest bared, and head thrown back.

What Are You Going To Do About It?

His posture was a challenge.

Esther May gave her .44 caliber answer. The bullet struck the ground several feet in front of the Apache in a cloud of dust.

The ricochet finished the duel by throwing the Indian violently backward.

Cheers erupted from the front wall followed by a volley of gunfire from the back.

Is Esther May justified shooting at an unarmed man? Leave your thoughts now.

The Henry rifle Esther May uses is featured in this episode. Read a little about it here. Esther May’s rifle.

To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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