Under The Gun
C.J. sat on his blanket and stared at the man holding a gun. Was the pistol shaking, or did it just look like it in the flickering campfire light?
The man had introduced himself as Will Dunn, and he acted friendly right up until he pulled out the Colt Dragoon.
Where’s The Backup?
Will turned his head sideways to holler over his shoulder, still keeping an eye on C.J. “I said, come on in, Wheezer.”
“You don’t have to pretend someone else is with you,” C.J. said. “You’ve got me covered with that hand cannon.”
The Dragoon wobbled in Will’s two-handed grip. “I ain’t funnin’. They’s two of us, ’n he was right behind me.”
“Looks like he ran out on you.”
“Ha! Little you know.” Will lowered the gun. “Say, would ya mind sittin’ still fer a few minutes? This pistola gits dern heavy.”
Are You Serious
The absurdity of the request hit C.J. with a mixture of anger and disbelief. “What? You want me to give you my word that I’ll just sit here so you can rest before you shoot me?”
“Oh, I ain’t gonna shoot ya. Never was that. Jist gonna rob ya. Me ’n Wheezer seen ya leave Fort McDowell with a pack mule. That means ya got stuff worth stealin’. You do got stuff worth stealin’, don’t ya? Sure hope so ’cause it’s been hard trackin’ ya over that scaldin’ ground that won’t grow nothin’ but dirt ’n thorns.”
A Different Type Of Robber
C.J. scooted around on the blanket, causing Will to lift his chin in attention, but he didn’t raise the gun. “Don’t go tryin’ nothin’ funny, now. This here robbery’s about to commence, then we’ll be gone.”
“I just thought I saw someone coming behind you,” C.J. said.
Will turned to the new arrival—a thin man as worn and threadbare as Will himself, leading a saddle mule. The man and animal dived for the spring.
Will tried to wave his arms while ranting but only got one in the air. The Dragoon was too heavy to sling around.
“Doggone it! You was s’pposed to be right behind me. Where was you?”
The newcomer rose from his belly and dragged a sleeve across his face. He had a strong resemblance to Will. “This uphill climb plumb wore me down to my shoes, Will. Ma told ya I can’t keep up.”
“Dammit, Wheezer. You was ridin’. All ya had to do was kick tha mule ’n let him do tha keepin’ up. I swear! You pull some of the dumbest stunts of man or beasts.”
Will turned around to see his victim had moved and was pointing a gun. “Put that big pistol down in the dirt and move away from it,” C.J. said.
Will complied even as he continued fussing. “Well, now. We didn’t even git ta look at what we follered ta rob. All day roastin’, fer this load, ’n we finally git here only ta lose it. Whatcha gotta say fer that, Wheezer? Huh?”
“It’s only our first robbery, Will. Ya gotta ’spect ta find clods in a new-plowed field.”
“Ya said that same thing when we got fired from tha pack train. We didn’t even make one trip, Wheezer. Not one! And they was so hungry fer packers they hired them boys in our stead.”
Wheezer hung his head and recited:
‘Mama said when things git rough
Ta take yer troubles by tha scruff.
Yer a child that’s Oh, so dear
Do what’s right, and have no fear.’
“That’s tha problem, Will. We wasn’t doin’ what’s right. We was robbin’ this man who done us no wrong.”
More Like A rock In The Shoe Than A Threat
C.J. holstered his Colt. “You guys brothers?”
Will nodded. “Yeah.”
“Why are you trying to be highwaymen here? There’s no one but Apaches, soldiers, or prospectors in this country.”
“We tried most ever’thing else,” Wheezer said. “We’re meant ta be farmers, but they ain’t forty acres in one spot ta grow crops in tha west.”
“Where’re you from?”
“Missouri,” Will said. “But Wheezer’s got a weak chest. Tha sawbones said ta come out here.”
“They made fun of me back there,” Wheezer said. “They’d say, ‘Here comes Will Dunn ’n his brother, Well Done.’ I couldn’t breathe so pretty good, ya see.”
As he studied the older, hard-used men, C.J. felt like the experienced, full-grown adult in the camp. “Well, you men can come with me to see if you can find work at Camp O’Connell. I’ve got a few bites of food we can share tonight, and we should be there tomorrow. It’s up to you.”
Is C.J. making a mistake trusting the brothers? Don’t forget to leave your comments.
Crops do grow in Arizona. Here’s where you find them.
Here a look at Missouri’s agriculture for comparison.
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