Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 September 2010

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PostSeptember 2010

Murphy's Law of Combat

Using Murphy's Law of Combat, the Devil's Hole Gang escapes from a posse.

"Murphy's Laws of Combat"

If the bad guys are in range, so are you.

Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.

Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.

The bad guys invariably attack on one of two occasions: When you're ready for them. And, when you're not ready for them.

Don't draw fire, it irritates the people around you.

If it's stupid but works, it isn't stupid.

When in doubt, empty your magazine. (May need tweaking to 'empty both barrels' for 1880s??)

Anything you do can get you shot. Including doing nothing.

Don't ever be the first, don't ever be the last and don't ever volunteer to do anything.

Five second fuses only last three seconds.

There is no problem so large or complex that it can’t be solved with high explosives.

The Devil’s Hole Gang stopped at the top of the ridge to give their horses a rest. In the distance, they could see the posse as it continued to follow them. Heyes took off his hat and wiped the sweat with his shirt sleeve. “Damn.”

“Horses are tired, Heyes. What are we gonna do?” Kyle asked as he caught his breath.

“Should’ve used dynamite to open the safe instead of waitin’ around for Heyes to open it,” Wheat muttered under his breath.

“Wheat.” A word and a look from Curry quieted the grumbling.

“We could start shootin’ them when they get a little closer,” Lobo suggested.

“Nah…if we can shoot them, then they can shoot us. Don’t want anyone hurt if we can avoid it.” Heyes took a quick swallow of water from his canteen. “Just watching them get closer is gonna get us shot. We gotta go. Kid?”

“There’s that abandoned mine a few miles away. Can take the rocky path and hide in it. Hope they ride past us.”

Heyes furrowed his brow. “The one that opens up to that room so we can bring the horses inside?

“That’s the one.” Curry rang his fingers through his damp curls and put his hat back on.

“Lead the way, Kid.” Heyes reined his horse to follow his partner.

Wheat shook his head. “Of all the stupid ideas…”

“Why’s it stupid, Wheat?” Kyle asked. “If the posse rides by…”

“We could get trapped in there. Did they think of that?” Wheat spurred his horse after the others.

An hour later, the gang was in the cave. Several men were tending to the horses in the back where it opened up to a large room. Heyes, the Kid, Wheat, Kyle and Newman were near the mouth of the mine. The prints at the entrance had been swept clean. Everyone was holding their breath and hoping that the posse would pass them by.

“CURRY…HEYES…we know you’re in there! Throw out your guns and come out with your hands up!”

Kid gave his partner an apologetic look. “Guess it wasn’t my best idea.”

“Said it was a stupid plan,” Wheat mumbled.

Heyes started pacing. “Didn’t have a choice now, did we, Wheat? Horses weren’t going to go much further and we had to take a chance.”

“What’re we gonna do now, Heyes?” Kyle spit out a wad of chaw and sat down on a box.

Newman pulled out his gun. “Know what I’m gonna do!” He went to the entrance and, before anyone could stop him, quickly emptied his chamber.

“SO THAT’S THE WAY YOU WANT IT!” The posse fired back at the mine for several minutes.

Curry grabbed Newman’s gun and gave him an icy stare. “What were you thinkin’? If they didn’t know for sure if we were in here, they do now. Just irritated ‘em out there!” The Kid paused as he controlled his anger. “Get in the back with the horses. I don’t wanna see you for awhile.”

Heyes also glared at Newman as the man cowered to the back of the cave and then continued to pace.

“HEYES…CURRY…you have nowhere to go! Give yourselves up!”

Wheat checked his gun for the third time. “Yep, these guys are professional…know what they’re doin’, that’s fer sure.”

The Kid leaned against the cave wall with his gun in hand and arms crossed. He watched his partner pace and then glanced over at the other men. He saw seven boxes littered inside the mineshaft and began looking in them. Most were empty, but one had a old pair of boots, another had rusty tin cans and yet another had mining equipment. Noticing the box Kyle was sitting on, he asked, “Whatcha sittin’ on, Kyle?”

Kyle looked up. “A box.”

“I can see that. What’s in the box?”

“I dunno.”

Curry took a deep breath and tried to remain patient. “Think you can check and see?”

“Shore, Kid.” Kyle got up and removed the lid. A big grin spread across his face. “Whooo-ewww! Look what’s in here!”

Heyes stopped and turned to see what got Kyle excited. “Dynamite?!?”

“Yep, but they got short fuses on ‘em. Bet it’s five-second fuses. Good stuff though.”

“How much is in the box?” The Kid walked over and peered inside.

“Lots! Gosh, over twenty, I’d say.”

Heyes’ mind whirled as he worked on a plan. “And it’s good? Not damp? They’ll light?”

Kyle took a few sticks close to the entrance where the light was better. “They look good, Heyes.”

Heyes walked close to the opening and looked for himself. Then he glanced outside. “Kid, where you figure the posse might be out there?”

Curry joined him and went as close as he could while remaining in the shadows and out of sight from the posse. “I’m guessin’ behind those rocks on the left, that large boulder on the right, and, maybe…nah, the hillside is too steep for someone to be above us. Bet they talked about it though.

“So if we had someone who could throw good, he could toss lit sticks to the right and left and get the posse rattled?”

“Sure…who’d you have in mind?”


“You? Heyes, I can shoot more accurate than you.”

“What’s shooting have to do with it? We’re throwing dynamite.”

“Okay and I was better at throwin’ the ball when we was kids, too. Always got the ball to the kid with the stick.”

“You did have a good arm and could run, but…” Heyes shook his head. “It’s too dangerous. What if we need your gun, too?”

“After all this dynamite? You light ‘em and I’ll throw ‘em. Have the others and horses ready to go.”

Heyes ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah, maybe the posse will back far off, if not persuaded to leave. Horses are rested now and can run to Ribbon Creek Canyon, if need be. And it’s so narrow; we can use some dynamite there, too, to block them from following us.”

Wheat was helping Kyle carry the box near the entrance as he muttered, “Dang fool volunteerin’ like that. Wouldn’t see me wantin’ to be the first outta this mine, even with a stick of dynamite.”

“Kyle, take about ten sticks of dynamite with you for later.”

“Shore thing, Heyes.”

“And Wheat, get the rest of the men and horses ready to leave fast.”

“…and I ain’t gonna be the last one, either.” Wheat turned and went further into the mineshaft to get the men prepared.

Heyes found a candle stub and lit it. “Well, should we see what a few explosives can do about our predicament?”

Curry holstered his gun and took off his jacket. He stretched his arms and shoulders. “Ready when you are.”

“Kid, I know Kyle said they were five-second fuses, but to be on the safe side…”

“I’ll be thowin’ them like they’re three-second fuses.”

“And don’t aim directly. I’d hate to see anyone killed.”

“Not plannin’ to add murder on my wanted poster. Don’t worry, Heyes.” Kid smiled.

“You know that’s what I do best.” Heyes paused a moment. “Hope this works…”

They both went as close to the entrance as possible without being in the line of fire and Heyes lit a fuse with the candle and passed it over to the Kid. Curry took a few steps out and threw the stick to the right. As the dynamite was about to sail over the large boulder, it exploded. Another stick passed between the outlaws and an explosion occurred just over the rocks on the left.

The posse was startled by the explosions that kept on coming. Their horses fought the lead ropes to escape. A few of the confused men shot back, but from behind the cover of the rocks. Others went to the horses that were breaking free and about to bolt. They looked over to the sheriff leading the posse. “Retreat! Meet at the river!”

The relieved men quickly obeyed the order and mounted their horses. Their animals needed no encouragement to leave the area.

As the posse began to retreat, Curry threw as far as he could over the rocks. Both outlaws were breathing heavily as they ventured out of the mine to evaluate the situation.

“I…think they’re…gone!” Curry was doubled over with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath.

“Thought I heard…river.” Heyes put a hand on his partner’s back. “Think it bought us some time to get to the canyon.”

“Yep…better go.” The Kid straightened up and hurried to the mine. He hollered, “Let’s get goin’!”

One by one, the outlaws led their horses out of the mine into the afternoon light. They mounted and waited for directed.

Heyes took his horse’s reins from Wheat and got on his mare. “We’re going to Ribbon Creek. If they follow again, we can create a landslide in the narrow canyon. Any questions?”

The men shook their head. Heyes took off and the rest followed with Curry in the rear keeping a watchful eye for a posse. When they were a few miles away from the canyon entrance, Curry spotted a dust cloud following them. He urged his gelding faster to the front. “They’re comin’!” he yelled to Heyes.

Heyes glanced back and nodded that he understood. They drove the horses into a fast sprint for the last mile. Once they reached Ribbon Creek, they slowed to a walk, following the stream until the steep canyon walls were on both sides. Heyes stopped when he spotted a precarious ledge on the wall.

“There.” He pointed to the gang. “If we can make that come down, they won’t be able to follow us and we can come out the other side miles away from here.

Shielding their eyes from the afternoon sun, the men looked up in the direction Heyes pointed.

“How are gonna get the dynamite up there?” asked Newman.

“Well, Kid? Got a few more throws in that arm of yours? I can maybe toss high enough to come close, too. With dynamite, we only gotta get close.”

Curry moved sore muscles he didn’t use enough. “Sure, Heyes. Gotta be done.”

“Okay, Kyle, you light ‘em and hand ‘em to us to throw.”

Kyle grinned as he lit the candle stub Heyes took out of a pocket and handed to him.

“Okay. Jist tell me when!”

The partners looked at each other. Both heard horses approaching.

“Don’t forget, Heyes…three-seconds.”

Heyes nodded. “NOW!”

Kyle lit a fuse and handed it to Kid. Wheat handed Kyle another stick. He lit it and handed it to Heyes. The outlaws threw the dynamite as high up as they could. The explosions set off several small rocks to tumble down into the canyon.

“Higher…on top of the ledge!” Heyes shouted as he threw another stick. This one and the next made their mark. Seconds later, the ledge came crashing down into the narrow canyon effectively blocking the way.

The Devil’s Hole Gang shouted with excitement. The idea worked!

Heyes and the Kid grinned at each other. Heyes put his arm about his partner as they walked back to the horses. “Glad to see you haven’t lost your throwing arm, Kid.”

“You didn’t do too bad yourself. Of course, you didn’t hit the mark as many times as me, but…” Curry grinned and reached for his canteen. He took a deep swallow and passed it to Heyes.

“Well, someone has to be the captain of the team. Can’t all be throwers.” Heyes took the water and drank some. He handed it back to Curry and mounted. “Let’s go home, boys.”
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