Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 Story 3 Happy Tails to You

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CD Roberts

Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

PostStory 3 Happy Tails to You

Happy tails to you until we eat again.
Happy ails to you, keep aching until then.
Who cares about the pen* when one is dying?
Just think of all those folks that you’ll leave crying.
Happy tails to you until we eat again.

*Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary built in the fall of 1873

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were resting in a secluded glade by a country stream. The weather was warm, perhaps a bit balmy, the sky was a rich baby blue dotted with fluffy cotton balls of clouds. They had finished eating and scattered about them were the remains of their lunch, tin mugs, a couple of tin plates, some half-eaten biscuits, and the bones of an unfortunate wild bird that had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Heyes was reclining with his head propped upon his saddle reading, and the Kid was idly tossing pebbles into an empty tin can. He was drowsy, but not enough to take a nap, and he was bored. Heyes would probably read until the sun set, and that meant no blackjack, and no conversation. Oh he had tried to talk to Heyes but the only responses he received were grunts. Tossing individual pebbles didn’t cause Heyes to so much as lift his eyes from the pages of his book, so the Kid finally threw all the remaining pebbles at the tin can. The result was a resounding clang, and Heyes raised his head. He smiled, reached one arm out lazily, and grabbed the can. He pulled it close between himself and his book.

Returning to his reading he merely commented, “Bad strategy, Kid, using up all your ammunition at once like that.”

“Fine,” said the Kid, and he got up, and decided to walk on down along the stream, making sure to take the remainder of the biscuits and an apple. As he walked, he found all sorts of trash, evidence that they were not the only people who had picnicked in this spot. Folks sure were sloppy he figured. He found two more tin cans, a cork, a bottle of Brown’s Cure All, two empty beer bottles, a canteen with a hole in it, and a boot minus its laces.

He kicked the junk into a pile, and being satisfied with his efforts at collecting garbage for target practice, decided he needed a break, so he sat and munched one of the biscuits. As he was eating he heard a slight rustling noise to his side. Probably a bird he figured. Nope wrong, it was bigger’n a bird, maybe a large squirrel or a raccoon. He took the other biscuit and broke off a piece.

“Here you are fella,” he said holding out the chunk of baked flour and water, smiling in what he felt was an encouraging manner. There was more rustling and a pointed snout poked out from the bushes. It sniffed the air, and timidly came out a bit farther, the head followed by the body as is usually the case.

“Oh hell,” said the Kid and his smile faded. The animal was black with a bushy tail, and had the unmistakable white stripe of a skunk. The Kid gulped.

The skunk came forward and sniffed the proffered treat. He took it and sat down to eat.

“I’ll be damned. Well I sure am relieved you didn’t turn around and lift that tail of yours.”

The skunk finished chewing and looked up at the Kid for more. The Kid bit off a piece of apple and held that out. Apparently the skunk liked that even better, because it leaned forward eagerly to snag it, and in so doing, accidentally bit the hand that fed him.

“Ouch,” the Kid swore quietly, making certain to refrain from sudden movement. He slowly brought his hand to his mouth and sucked on his finger.

He heard a snigger from behind.

“That’ll teach you to make friends with a skunk.”

“Funny Heyes, and in case you weren’t aware I’m already friends with a skunk. You know the two-legged kind. What are you doin’ sneakin’ up on me anyway?”

“You were far too quiet, Kid. I figured you’d be shooting up half the place by now. So being your friend, I figured I’d better check up on you. But seein’ as you’re OK, and in good company, I’ll go back to my book.” Heyes laughed and turned around.

“Some friend, huh,” the Kid said to the skunk having no one better to talk to. “Heyes always had to get the last word in, even when we were kids. ‘Course he wasn’t Heyes then. In those days we called him Tom. That isn’t exactly short for Hannibal, is it?” he pondered. “Didn’t matter though. Anyway, he’s my cousin, iffn’ you’re interested.”

The skunk looked up at Kid with a quizzical if not rapt expression, so figuring he had an audience, the Kid continued.

“When we were kids we had to go to school, and work on our families’ farms early in the morning, and in the afternoon, and all summer long. Saturdays too when there wasn’t any school. Sunday our ma’s made sure our families went to church. We had to dress up in our best suits which was damned uncomfortable, all starchy. Then it took a couple of hours to get to church, and a couple of hours to get home. And the service! I think that was a couple of hours too—leastways the sermon seemed that long. The reverend, what was his name? Bloggett? Ploggett? Well, it don’t matter now, he always kept saying ‘uh’ through the whole dang thing .That doubled the length of the sermon. ”

The Kid smiled. “You shoulda seen all of us boys. He’d say ‘uh’ and we’d say ‘uh.’ Got our hands smacked a lot.”

He thought some more. “We lived in sod houses in the middle of nowhere it seemed. Lots of wind too. Hard work and wind. So of course we ran off and played hooky whenever we could. That was good, that and eating. I guess eating is my favorite hobby. We ate a lot of corn. Corn fritters, corn mush, corn cakes, corn pone, corn bread.”

The skunk yawned.

“Yeah, I know it’s boring but it’s all we could afford. It’s all you’d get too iffn’ you lived in the middle of the Kansas plains in a sod house. I guess that’s why I like to eat so many different foods nowadays.” He stopped as his stomach growled, and wished he had brought another biscuit.

The skunk looked at him with apparent interest.

“My pa taught me to shoot a rifle when I was nine, soon as I could lift it. I liked that much bettern’ school. We boys had a lot of fun going around shooting things. And it was important to learn how to shoot too. You didn‘t learn anything important in school.”

“Heyes didn’t like school much either; he said school was boring, or was it the teacher that he said was boring? He liked to read though and he did well, but I think the thing he liked best about school was making fun of the teacher. He was real good at pranks like letting frogs loose while the teacher was talking. Then the girls would all start screaming and we wouldn’t have to do math or English until things settled back down. And he was good at drawing interesting pictures of the teacher on the chalkboard. We’d sneak into the schoolroom after the teacher left and do that—and move all the chairs and desks around so things would be more interesting the next day. ‘Course we usually ended up getting birched the next day but it was worth it.”

The Kid paused as an ant crossed his path. He crushed it and continued.

“Anyway I became a good shooter, and Heyes became a good planner, and we ended up as successful outlaws, which is a hell of a lot better than being sod farmers. But it’s sometimes dangerous so we decided…”

At this dramatic climax the skunk turned around, lifted its tail… and walked off.

“I was right, all my friends are skunks,” the Kid said sourly. He set up his targets and blasted them into pieces.

The Kid walked back to the camp where Heyes was shuffling a pack of cards. Heyes looked up and grinned and the Kid smiled back.

“Blackjack, Kid?”

“Deal it. But you better watch out because I’m feeling lucky today.”

“Let’s just see how lucky you are; remember the odds are in favor of the house.”

“Not this time Heyes. I’ll bet a dollar. Go on deal.”

An hour later the Kid’s money had disappeared, and his smile along with it.

“Twenty-six? I don’t get it. I could have sworn you’d already dealt all the face cards. At least I thought you did. I was keeping track of them. I couldn’t have missed that jack.”

Heyes glanced down and then up again with a smile. “Looks like you did, Kid. And I did say the odds were in favor of the house. Unless, I’m playing against the house, that is. But if you wanna try and win some of your money back, I’m willing to bet against you cooking supper.”

“Forget it Heyes. I’ve lost enough for one day. We share the chores.”

After supper, the sun figured it had done its share of work and it was about time for the moon to stop being so lazy and quit lurking behind the clouds. Stars began to twinkle, and a delightful damp mist rose from the nearby stream bringing promises of colds and flu. The Kid took off his boots and hurriedly dropped onto his bedroll hoping Heyes would think he was asleep when he returned from the stream.

No such luck. Heyes crouched near the fire positioning a book close to it so he could read out loud to the Kid. The Kid sighed. Heyes never read to him when they stayed in a hotel room, which was fine with him. Why Heyes thought he wanted to hear him read when they were camped out was something he couldn’t fathom.

“OK Heyes, what is it this time? And it better not be Greek plays or that Walden junk. Or that Shakespeare fella who takes forever to say one simple thing,” he added, remembering the time Heyes tortured him with readings from Shakespeare after Harry Briscoe had almost bungled capturing that actor bank robber.

“Oh, you’ll like this one Kid. It’s real gory. I’m at the part where the king is being poisoned by accident by his own mother.”

“How could someone poison someone by accident? Sounds pretty stupid to me.”

“She put the poison on the pages of a hunting book that she gave to someone she wanted to kill. But the king borrowed the book, so when he licks his finger to turn the pages…”

“…he gets poisoned instead. I get it Heyes.”

“Right, and the poison is causing blood to come out of his pores.”

“This sounds good, Heyes,” the Kid said happily, “go on, read it.”

Heyes read from the book for almost ten minutes, stopping when he heard the Kid begin to snore. He looked at the Kid, who was now sleeping peacefully; head tilted back, mouth slightly ajar, and was pleased. Ten minutes! That was a record. He had never held the Kid’s attention for so long before while reading.

He bent the corner of the page he was on, and closed the book. They had decided to break camp tomorrow, and head to Ptomaine, so he decided he better get some sleep. They’d been to Ptomaine before. It was a small mining camp, and like all mining camps a gambler’s paradise. It was a lucrative spot to raise a little cash without strenuous labor. He smiled.

Both men were up at sunrise the following day, and were grumpily sharing the duties of fixing breakfast. The coffee pot was on the fire, having been placed there by the Kid who had nearly yanked off Heyes’ hand grabbing it from him. He wanted to make the coffee before his cousin had the opportunity to “louse it up.”

Heyes, eyes half-closed, was mumbling about the Kid under his breath, while he placed strips of what appeared to be fat more than bacon into a frying pan.

Two hours later the former outlaws broke camp, after eating enough bacon and biscuits to feel sated, and drinking enough coffee to induce their minds into a reasonable state of alertness.

They rode along a winding road that followed alongside the river, shaded by lichen covered aromatic trees. The air was damp but not uncomfortably cold as they entered the little town of Ptomaine, Colorado, population: approximately seventy-six men, all of them miners or retired miners. It was a pleasant town, made even more pleasant to Heyes and the Kid by the undeniable fact that a town so small had no need of the law.

They tethered their horses in front of a large tent with a sign on it reading ‘Dining Palace,’ and walked through doorway. Inside was a long wooden table along the wall to the right of the entry with a sign above it that had the words ‘we serv too meals, chicken or stew, 50 cents,’ and under that, ‘joice of coffee or water.’ Two men stood behind the table, one holding a ladle, and one holding a coffee pot. A line of men shuffled past the front of the table. Each man took a tin plate from the stack on the table, and a tin cup. The first stop was in front of the man with the ladle, and each man stopped long enough to have stew dropped on the plate he held. Next the hungry men moved on to the man with the coffee pot, and each man stopped long enough to have some thick murky brown liquid poured into the tin cup he held. Each miner then walked to one of the vacant seats at the various smaller tables placed tastefully around this ‘palace,’ took a fork from the empty coffee can located in the center of each table, and ‘set to.’

Heyes got in line and picked up a plate and tin mug followed by the Kid doing likewise.

“Not bad, Joshua. This plate is almost clean. That’s pretty good for a mining camp.”

“Doesn’t smell too bad either, Thaddeus. I guess someone knows how to cook.”

Stopping in front of the first server the Kid announced, “I’ll have the chicken.”

“No chicken today. Stew today.”

“Your sign says chicken or stew.”

“Yup. Every other day. Chicken on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sittturday. Beef stew on Mondays, Wednesendays, Friddays. This is Wednesenday. Beef stew.”

“Well, what’s that?” asked the Kid pointing to a plate of chicken, on the wooden table beside the pot of stew.

“Speecially reserved.”


“It were from yesterday, and I sit it aside fer someone who asked fer it special.”

“Better take the stew, partner.”

“Guess so, but I sure wish I could have had the chicken. Looks good.”

“Chicken tomorrow,” said the server plopping a ladle of stew on the Kid’s plate, “now move on, yer holding up the line.”

Stopping in front of the man serving the coffee Heyes asked, “where’s the water?”

“In this here barrel aside of me,” the server responded cheerfully, indicating an old filthy barrel to his left.

“Joshua, you weren’t gonna actually drink water, were you?” asked the Kid.

“Nope, just wanted to know, that’s all,” said Heyes smiling.

They walked to a table with four empty seats remaining, and sat down.

There was a newspaper on the table and Heyes picked it up. The date was two weeks prior so it was still current, and Heyes began to peruse its contents avidly. The Kid took all the forks out of the coffee can in the center of the table, and studied them carefully looking for the ones that were the cleanest. He finally settled on two, and then wiped each of them on his shirt. He handed one to Heyes as two other men arrived to claim the last seats available.

Heyes glanced up and smiled broadly. One man was a lanky, dirty-blond miner in his twenties and the other a neatly dressed miner in his forties wearing spectacles.

“Joe Bradshaw, Will Johnston, how are you, and what are you doing here in Ptomaine? Is all the gold gone in Beaver City?” Heyes held his hand out to Joe who shook it eagerly before sitting down. Will Johnston gulped at seeing ‘Smith’ holding his hand out to him in turn, but the superstitious miner bravely took it, then sat down. His jaw dropped in awe at the site of ‘Jones.’

“No, no. Plenty of gold left there. Will and I thought we could use a change of scenery, so we decided to try our luck here.”

While Joe was speaking and Will gaping, the Kid stared at Will’s plate.

“The chicken, you have the chicken!”

“Wha…oh yeah, I asked fer it special. I really like chicken.”

“Me too. Well enjoy it.”

Will looked at his chicken and then at the Kid. “Jones, if you want my chicken, I’ll be right glad to switch meals with you.” Will was in awe of the Kid ever since their first meeting in Beaver City. Not only was the Kid the fastest draw he had ever seen, but he was a ‘genuwine oracle.’

“That’s right friendly of you Will, don’t mind if I do.” The men exchanged plates.

“Are those two gentlemen friends of yours Joe?” asked a nattily dressed miner, with slightly graying sideburns, and a well-waxed moustache.

“I was going to get to the introductions, Jeff. Mister Thaddeus Jones, Mister Joshua Smith, I’d like you to meet another friend of me and Will, Mister Geoffrey Wellington Nelson Snaderly the Third. Jeff is the descendent of an actual English member of the peer-age, and a relative of an actual living earl in that same country. Jones here, he’s an actual oracle,” and with the formalities completed, Joe sat back to listen to the conversation between these two important men.

“Nice to meet ya, Jeff. I don’t think I’ve met an actual relative of an actual earl before,” said the Kid hoping to focus the conversation on the earl, and as far away from his talents as an oracle as possible. “You don’t mind if me and my partner, here call you Jeff, do you? You gotta admit your full name is a bit of a mouthful.”

“Not at all my dear man,” Snaderly replied, assuming a modest manner, eager to partake of this opportunity to talk of his great connections.

“My family,” he began, stopping to clear his throat, “my family traces its origins in England back to the great days of the Norman conquest. You have heard of that, of course?”

The Kid nodded, not having the foggiest idea what the man was talking about, history being a subject he had routinely slept through.

“My ancestor Robert Snaderly came over with the great William in the position of royal wine and grog taster. A most important position; he was a prominent member of the court.”

“Did he taste the wine and grog to see if it was poisoned?” asked Heyes thinking of the novel he was currently reading.

“No, not at all. He had a most delicate palate, and he tasted for flavor. A most pleasant task, one thinks, although one would imagine he spent his days in a state of constant inebriation.”

“One would think so,” replied Heyes grinning.

“Damned drunken English,” grumbled a miner with an amazingly craggy visage from the end of the table.

“What was that you said Andy?” asked Joe, winking at his friends.

“You heard me. Don’t see why you all get all impressed over this fella’s English or-i-gin. We fought the English, twice for our free-dom, and only a fool ain’t aware of that. Fought ‘em, and trounced ‘em, that’s what we did.”

“Jones, Smith, meet Andrew Jackson Dobbs,” said Joe.

“Named fer the great gen-er-al and pres-i-dent. My granddaddy fought with him at the great battle and vic-tor-y at New Or-leans. And tha’s a lot better than bein’ related to some Eng-lish Earel who don’t matter none anyhow.” And with that pronouncement he licked his plate, rose and left the tent.

“Obviously that misguided man is unaware that the battle of New Orleans was fought after the war had ended. As I was saying, my family is a most distinguished one. The current Earl of Bathouse, resides in a pleasant manor close to the quaint, I have no doubt it is quaint, village of Stepping-on-Towes, in the general vicinity of The Potteries, which I have been assured by those who have been fortunate enough to travel to our mother country, is one of the most delightful countryside regions ever trod on by mortal man. One can picture the current earl riding through his estates over hill and dale, or perhaps fishing for trout, I assume they have trout in England, in the rivulet of Towes. One can also picture the elevated society the earl socializes with. Gentry all and members of the peerage, one imagines. My dream gentlemen, is to visit my distinguished relation and strike up a convivial association with him. I have written him numerous times, but alas, he has not yet responded. One must assume that he has mistaken one for a fortune hunter. My hope is to dig up enough golden bounty that one may present oneself as an independently wealthy gentleman.”

Geoffrey Wellington Nelson Snaderly then stuffed an oversize mouthful of stew between his teeth, and chewed, dribbling sauce down his chin which he carefully wiped with the sleeve of his shirt.

Later that day Heyes and the Kid walked from Joe and Will’s tent where they deposited their saddle bags and gear. Joe and Will had debated whether or not to invite Smith and Jones to stay with them. They came to the conclusion that any bad luck from Smith would be outweighed by good luck from Jones, and offered the men accommodations.

The two friends were walking through the mining town in search of the most profitable poker games.

“Kid, I read something in the news that might interest you?”

“Oh yeah Heyes, what?”

“Young Master Thomas Williams and a fellow named Harry Roscoe died of rabies recently. Seems one was bit by a raccoon, and one by a mad dog. Looks like a general outbreak of rabies in the area.”

“Yeah, so what does that have to do with me?”

“You were bit by that skunk weren’t you? Gives you something to think about don’t it?”

“You know Heyes, that’s not funny.”

“Just thought I’d point it out Kid. One should be more careful, shouldn’t one?”

“Mebbe one should be more careful of what one says, Heyes,” responded the Kid with a smile.

“One’ll consider that.”

They walked on, and took in the entire town which didn’t take too long, as it consisted mostly of the tents that the miners lived in. These were scattered about preventing any semblance of a main street from developing. But because there was a lack of much available in the way of recreational activity, gambling was much in evidence. Heyes and the Kid grinned at each other conspiratorially. The pickings were going to be even better than they imagined. They joined one game playing until dinner, and managed not to win too heavily; they would save the big winnings for later. They didn’t want to scare off their sources of income too early in the game.

After eating they planned to participate in a second game, but on the way over the Kid stopped and clutched his stomach.

“Kid, you ok?” asked Heyes concerned.

The Kid paused for a moment. “I’m not sure. Boy that hurt.” He straightened up. “I think I’m ok now.”

A few more steps and the Kid stopped again. “Heyes, I am definitely not ok.”

“What’s the matter?”

“My stomach; it’s all in knots.”

“Must have been that chicken.”

“It was only a day old. Oooh.” His face contorted with pain. “I’ll meet you back at the tent.” The Kid ran off.

“Smith, what’s the matter with Jones there?”

“Hmm, oh hey Joe. That chicken Thaddeus ate must’a gone bad.”

“That’s too bad. Seemed fine though.”

“Yeah. He didn’t say it tasted off or anything.”

Joe stretched his right arm around the back of his neck and scratched his left ear.

“No one ever got sick from the ‘Dining Palace’s’ cooking afore.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything, I suppose. Guess I’d better go back to the tent and see to him.”

“I’ll go with you.”

They walked slowly towards the tent. On entering they found the Kid prostrate on his unfolded bed roll, groaning.

“How ya feelin’ Thaddeus? You get any of that outta your system?”

“Joshua, I feel like death warmed over.” He gave a loud groan. Will Johnston entered the tent as the Kid moaned loudly.

“What’s the matter with Jones?” asked Will.

“The chicken was bad. That could have been you Will.”

“Boy, guess I sure was lucky.”

The Kid looked up and glared at Will.

“Oh, I didn’t mean…but…”

“It’s Ok Will,” said Heyes. “We understand what you mean.”

“We do?” asked the Kid.

“Thaddeus you just lie back and sleep it off.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna be as easy to do as it is to say, Joshua.”

Unfortunately the Kid was right. None of the men got much sleep as the quiet of the night was punctuated with groans and moans from the Kid. He tossed and turned, thrashing his legs. Towards morning instead of improving, he appeared to be getting worse. Heyes came over and felt his forehead.

“You’re getting a fever Thaddeus. That chicken must have been real bad,” he said with emphasis.

“Joshua it was the chicken wasn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“What you read yesterday, about the raccoon bites and the rabies. You don’t think…”

“Thaddeus, you were bit two days ago.”


“So it can’t be rabies. Don’t you know anything? That would take time. I’m not sure, maybe a few weeks. Come to think of it, you could still get rabies.” The Kid gave him a sour look. “But this isn’t anything so exotic. Plain old food poisoning I’m afraid. ‘Course people sometimes die from that.”

“Thanks Joshua,” muttered the Kid.

“Glad to be of help,” responded Heyes cheerfully.

Will crept towards the two men.

“Did I hear you say you were bit by a raccoon Jones?” His eyes widened. “Why cain’t he have rabies?” He looked at Heyes.

“Like I said that takes time…”

“You a doctor?”

“Well, no I’m not a doctor.”

“Well, then how do you know? He’s sicker than anyone I ever seen from bad food.”

“What’s the matter?” asked Joe.

“It’s Jones. He were bit by a raccoon. He’s maybe got the rabies.”

“Look, as I’ve already said…” began Heyes.

“A raccoon bite. You don’t say. Well that’s serious now.”

“Stop!” commanded the Kid, as loudly as he could which wasn’t that loud in his weakened state. “I don’t have rabies. And I wasn’t bit by a raccoon. I was bit by a skunk.”

“Fascinating, I’ve never heard of anyone being bit by a skunk before, my good man,” said a voice from the entrance of the tent.

“A skunk is a wild animal and it can bite just like any other wild animal, and where did you come from Snaderly?” asked Heyes in an exasperated voice.

“From outdoors, obviously. I was passing your tent on this glorious morning, and heard the commotion within its confines. I decided I should investigate. So,” he said turning his attention to the Kid, “you were bit by a skunk. Most unusual that. Generally that particular animal will merely turn its tail and spray one.”

“This one didn’t. This one bit me. For a piece of apple.”

“Apple? I wasn’t aware skunks ate apples. How very peculiar.”

“Maybe it was mad,” gasped Will.

Heyes rolled his eyes. “What do you mean maybe it was mad?”

“That’s it,” Joe contributed, “it was a mad skunk. That would explain its behavior.”

“You may have something there, Joseph. A skunk that doesn’t spray yet approaches one and bites one.”

“Poor Jones,” said Will shaking his head in sorrow. His voice choked. “Jones I’m gonna miss you.”

“Well I’m not gonna miss you,” the Kid said angrily, “get out.”


“Will, why don’t you, Joe and Snaderly here just leave and let my friend sleep some so he can get better, ok?”

“If you say so Smith,” Joe said pushing his spectacles up the bridge of his nose, face filled with concern. “You call us Smith if, well you know what I mean…”

“Joe, just leave for awhile.”

Joe and the others turned to leave.

“Gentlemen I suggest we check back in two hours. It is possible that Smith may require our assistance at that time.”

“How come?”

“Will, I will say, and I am certain Joe is aware of this as well, that as rabies develops insanity also develops. Men become raving lunatics. It may be necessary to restrain Jones so that he cannot bite Smith or anyone else, thus preventing the spread of this horrible and incurable disease.”

Snaderley’s voice faded into the distance.

“Heyes, if I weren’t so sick I’d shoot all three of those idiots.”

Heyes nodded in sympathy.

Heyes spent the morning in the tent with the Kid, leaving only to bring back some breakfast, which the Kid couldn’t eat, although he did manage to keep down some coffee. Then the Kid slept while Heyes read the paper he had brought from the diner, keeping half an eye on his friend. Midday the Kid stirred opening first one eye groggily and then the other.

‘How ya feeling, Kid?”

“I’ve been better.”

“Think you can eat something now? It’s time for lunch. I figured I’d go to the diner and pick us up some food.”

“Heyes, I don’t think I could eat anything right now, especially more of that chicken. It IS chicken today, isn’t it?”

“Guess you’re right about that Kid. But it’s fresh today. Sure you don’t want any?”


“Ok Ok. But you don’t mind if I go get something to eat, do you? Tell you what, if they have anything sort of like soup I’ll bring some back, you should be able to handle that.”

“Sort of like soup? What does that mean?”

Snaderly walked in.

“I have come to check on our invalid. How is the unfortunate doing?”

“Well, he doesn’t look much better, but then he doesn’t look much worse either. I’m gonna go get something to eat. Coming Snaderly?”

“Surely you are not thinking of leaving your suffering friend on his own in his condition?”

“Don’t see why not? It’s only food poisoning. You’ll be alright for an hour won’t you Thaddeus?”

“Sure, and if it’s quiet in here, maybe I can get more sleep,” the Kid growled.

As Heyes rose to leave Snaderly pulled him to one side, and whispered to him in range of the Kid’s hearing, “the poor man. I understand that you desire to keep up this deception of his illness being that of food poisoning. After all where there is life, there is hope…”


“No no, my good man. I fully understand. I will remain with Thaddeus, I am certain you do not mind if I call him Thaddeus and yourself Joshua, whilst you procure some much needed sustenance for yourself. This tragedy must weigh heavily on your shoulders, but I will maintain an eagle-eye, and shall inform you immediately if he worsens, or perhaps I should say when he worsens. You can count on Snaderly. Now go and refresh yourself.”

“Suit yourself.” Heyes glanced at the Kid and shrugged.

“Joshua, wait. I’ve reconsidered. Don’t leave me with…”

But Heyes was already outside the tent. He stretched, scratched his lower back with his thumb, and ambled over to the diner.

Snaderly walked to the Kid’s side, and sat down next to him. The man was uncomfortably close the Kid thought. This wasn’t fair. It was bad enough being sick, but being stuck alone with Snaderly without the option of getting up and leaving just wasn’t right.

“My dear man, what can I do to make you more comfortable?”

“Well for a start, you can lea..”

“Ah I know. I shall discuss the many varied adventures of my life. I am generally considered a superb orator. In this manner I shall assist you in thinking about matters other than your own dreadful illness.”

The Kid groaned, and rolled over.

Heyes enjoyed his break. He had a tasty chicken lunch, and arranged for one of the cooks to make some soup from the leftover chicken for a small fee. He decided his time would be better spent playing cards than returning to the tent while waiting for the soup so he walked over to the nearest game.

“Hey fellas. Do you have room for one more?”

“Afternoon Smith. Boys, this here is Joshua Smith. Joshua this here is George Washington Dullard and Taylor Tyler.” Joe Bradshaw introduced the other players present while Will edged away from Heyes. The men shook hands as Heyes sat down.

“Whadderya doin’ here?” asked Will.

“Well I thought I’d join you boys in the card game,” said Heyes with an amused smile.

“No, I mean why ain’t you with Thaddeus?”

“Ah, I left the task to Snaderly, at his insistence. Nothing to be worried about, Will, Thaddeus is in good hands.”

“Good man, Snaderly,” said Joe.

“Yes, I rather think he thinks so,” replied Heyes.

“Well, it don’t seem right, you leaving your bestest, closestest friend like this to play cards while he’s so ill.”

“Is that the fella who’s adyin’ of them rabies you all is talkin’ ‘bout?” asked Dullard.

“He’s not exactly dying…” began Heyes.

“Yep, that’s the man. Me and Will, here have known him and Joshua for a long time now. So it’s a sad thing and we’ll all miss him. It’s gonna be hard taking the news back to Beaver City, and telling all them good folks.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to…”

“Joshyera, ‘scuz me fer interuptin’ you,” said Taylor doing just that, “but what kind of a friend is yer, jes up an’ leavin’ yer friend like that to die?”

“He’s not dying.”

“That’s not what’s ben said by everone all up and down the town. How kin you be sure?”

Heyes looked at Taylor Tyler and then at the other men at the table. He glanced down at his hands and then up again.

“Would you care to place a bet on that? A sporting proposition.”

Taylor scrunched his face in thought. “You mean you is willin’ to bet on yer friend’s alivin’ or adyin’? Is that what you is sayin’?”

“That is it in a nutshell.”

“It don’t seem right somehow, bettin’ on Thaddeus’ life like that,” said Will.

“Why not?” asked Heyes. “He’s only got food poisoning. If you fellas are so certain he’s got rabies…”

“You really believe that, don’t you Joshua?” Joe turned to Will. “He really believes Jones is gonna be OK,” and he shook his head sadly.

George Washington Dullard who had been turning his head from one man to the next during the conversation spoke up. “Well I’m in; I know a good thing when I sees it. Seems like it’s a sure bet to me.”

“Ya know I thinks you is right,” added Taylor. “Guess I’s in too.”

“It don’t seem right,” said Will.

Joe pondered the matter thoughtfully. He scratched his head and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose intently.

“It would be a pity to pass up a bet like that. I must say I feel for you Joshua, and for Thaddeus, but you sound like you are making this bet fair and square.”

“Oh I am.”

“Well, in that case, I wouldn’t wanna miss out. I’m in.”

Odds were determined and the three men placed their bets. Heyes, feeling particularly pleased with such a sure deal, and the easy profit it would bring, bought a round of beers for the table. He sat back with his and sipped in satisfaction.

“Will, what about you? You ain’t said nuthin’ nor made yer bet yit,” Woodrow observed bring the men’s attention back to the blond miner.

Will squirmed, uncomfortable under their stares. “I like Thaddeus.” He paused. After a full minute of concentrated thought he continued. “I’m in.”

Heyes returned with the soup a couple of hours later. The Kid was lying on his stomach with his blanket pulled over his head, hands covering the spots where his ears presumably were.

Snaderly was talking enthusiastically. “When I reached the tender age of my majority, twenty one years on this orb, this earth, this source of all our worldly woes, I had the misfortune to meet a personage who inclined to the profession of inventor. Young man, if you should by some miracle survive, I strongly, nay, emphatically, advise you never to invest your income to those men of such a nature, however well-intentioned they may seem.”

The blanket groaned.

“Sadly I invested heavily in such a one, and the result was of a dire consequence to myself. I am, indeed, the proverbial poorer yet wiser man. I…”

“Heya Thaddeus, I’ve brought back some soup for you. Snaderly, I’ll take over from here.”

“Are you certain? Thaddeus seems most unwell.”

“I’ll give him the soup that should pick him up.”

“If you say so,” replied Snaderly in an unconvinced voice.

The Kid sat up somewhat morosely.

“What took you so long, Heyes? I’ve had to spend hours listening to Snaderly.”

“Sorry Kid, but I’ve been out performing good works.”

“Good works? For who?”

“For us. You know, the news about you having rabies has spread like wildfire throughout Ptomaine.”


“So, I can’t think of a more gullible group of men than a group of miners. Or a group of men with more empty time on their hands, and lots of money with nothing to spend it on.” Heyes grinned.

“Ok Heyes,” the Kid smiled in return, “what have you been up to?”

“Kid,” said Heyes with an innocent face, “I’ve been accepting bets on your survival.”


“Kid, the odds are incredible. Everyone figures you have rabies, so they all expect you to die.”

“Heyes, you are betting on my life.”

Heyes shot the Kid a mock puzzled look. “Kid, I am betting on a sure thing. You wouldn’t want me to pass up something like that. We are going to clean up.”

He smiled broadly, and slowly the Kid’s mouth widened into a broad grin.

“How much money so you think we’re gonna get?”

“Kid, the way the men in this town are placing bets, we’re gonna clear at least one thousand.”

“Oh ho, Heyes that is great. I’m feeling better already. Give me that soup.”

“Sure Kid. Just don’t get well too soon.”

“Why not?’

“I haven’t collected all the bets yet.”

The mood of the men in the tent that night was a mixture of uneasiness and guilt. That is to say that was the mood of Will, Joe and of Snaderly, who was visiting. Snaderly had placed a small wager as well, being unable to resist the odds, and was now feeling the pangs of conscience.

The Kid was sleeping, or trying to, although it seemed as if every time he began to nod off and one of his legs would twitch with the beginnings of a dream, one of the men would speak. What was more annoying is that the topic always seemed to be that of his imminent demise.

Heyes, who was not feeling any pangs of conscience, was absorbed in reading holding his book close to the gas lamp.

“Hey Thaddeus, are you clutching your stomach in agonies of tormented guilt?”

“No I am not Joshua, why are you asking that?”

“It’s in the book I’m reading. The King, on top of being poisoned, is tormented by ordering all the…” here Heyes slowed down to decipher the pronunciation, “Hughgonuts to be slaughtered.”

“Sounds like a real pleasant book, Joshua.”

“It’s the same one I was reading to you before. You liked it then.”

“I wasn’t trying to sleep before.”

“Hey fellas, I just thought of something.”

“What’s that Will?” asked Heyes.

“I sort of thought of a silver lining to all this,” Will said slightly embarrassed.

“Really, you mean besides my friend dying and you collecting the money on your bet?”

“I don’t mean that! I wished I’d never made that bet. No I mean that plaque we had made back home, we can get some use out of it now.”

“Plaque?” asked the Kid.

“Sure you remember, the Oracle Jones the Second Outhouse Memorial Plaque. We’ll be able to put it up, and this time it’ll really mean something, ain’t that right Joe?”

“You know Will, I had done gone and forgotten all about that plaque, but you are right. I’ll send a wire home tomorrow and tell the boys to get it out and all polished up.”

“Thanks Joe, Will,” said the Kid as Heyes grunted.

“You Beaverton gentlemen made a plaque for Thaddeus?”

“A genuwine brass plaque all the way from back east when we thought Thaddeus had died before, and that’s Beaver City Snaderly, not Beaverton.”

“Please accept my apologies Will. I understand how upsetting my having mistaken the name of your town may be. Pride in one’s hometown is …”

“Will you all just shut up so I can sleep?”

“Kind of proddy aren’t you Thaddeus? Everyone here has your best interests at heart I’m sure.” Heyes turned the page without looking up.

The following day the Kid ate a small breakfast, but still feeling uncomfortable and weak from stomach cramps remained in the tent to rest. This was fine with Hannibal Heyes who collected on more bets when he stepped out of the tent and walked through the town. Will’s dejection and Snaderly’s unyielding belief in an unfortunate outcome for the Kid, at which he discussed at length and in great detail to whoever would listen, influenced the miners of Ptomaine, and eventually every man in town had placed a bet against the Kid’s survival except for Andy Jackson Dobbs.

“It ain’t that I’s so sure he’ll live, it’s jus’ that I ain’t gonna place a bet ‘long side that durn Englander. It’s a matter of princeepal.”

“But Andy, Snaderly ain’t English, he’s just related to some English feller somewheres,” explained Thomas Jefferson Jones.

“Don’t matter. He’s un-American, and I ain’t gonna place my money long side his.”

“Weel, ya gotta admire someone who sticks to his princeepals, doncha think so fellas? After all he’s gonna be out a lot of money on this deal.”

Thomas Jefferson Jones, John Quincy Murphy, and One-eyed Jimmy Madison Madison looked at their friend with admiration.

“Andrew Jackson Dobbs, I would appreciate it if you would indulge one with a word in private,” said Geoffrey Snaderly as he approached.

“Ah hell, here’s that durned idiot now. What is it you want Snaderly?”

“A matter of business which I think you will find most interesting.”

“Go on then.”

Snaderly raised his eyebrows, “I believe I said in private,” and he pivoted around waving a hand for Andrew Jackson Dobbs to follow him.

“See ya later fellas,” said Dobbs and he walked after Snaderly.

A rider dressed in a black suit approached the remaining men. He stopped beside them, and his horse bent its head to drink from a puddle.

“Could one of you fella’s tell me where to find…” he looked down at a piece of paper in his hand, “…where to find Joe Bradshaw?”

“Sure. He’s in that tent over thar. But you’d better be kerful, there’s a real sick fella in there, and he’s got them rabies, and you maybe shouldn’t get to close to him, and you shouldn’t maybe let him bite you. I mean iffn’ I was you I wouldn’t do that, if you see what I mean,” John Quincy Murphy responded helpfully.

“Rabies? The telegram didn’t say that.”

“Telegram? You got a telegram? Who’d you get a telegram from?”

The man in black looked at the men in disgust, turned, and rode to the tent John Quincy Murphy had indicated.

He dismounted, and walked inside.

“Bradshaw, are you here?” he asked looking around the tent as his eyes adjusted to the dim light.

“Reverend Barton.” Joe jumped up and grabbed Barton by the hand. “I’m glad you made it here in time,” he said in a loud hiss. “Jones is bad but he ain’t gone yet. He’ll require your services.”

Curry looked up. “What are you doing here?”

“I was requested by this fella here to come to Ptomaine. Brother, I am here to ask if you are sure of your final resting place when you pass on.”


“Well, you are the sick man, aren’t you? I don’t see anyone else in this tent that looks remotely ill,” began Barton in an exasperated voice, “and I traveled two days to get here so it better be worth my while. Now lay back man so I can read some passages to you.” He took a pocket bible out of his frock coat, and began to flip through its pages.

“Worth your while! I am not dying, and if I was I wouldn’t ask for you.”

Barton snapped the book shut. “If I have been brought here on a wild goose chase…” he said ominously.

“No, listen,” and Will and Joe pulled Barton away from the Kid. “He don’t think he’s got rabies. It’s his friend’s fault, got him thinkin’ it’s just food poisoning, and he’s gonna be OK. His friend’s even been placing bets on it.”

“Bets?” asked Barton with sudden interest.

Heyes walked into the tent. He and Barton looked at each other.

“You,” they said at the same time, “what are you doing here?”

“Well I’m here because my friend is here,’ said Heyes pointing to the Kid, “and you?”

“I’m here because your friend here is ill. I have been asked to determine the status of his salvation.”

Heyes opened his eyes wide. “Not by him.”

“No, not by him. By Bradshaw here, and as I’ve said to these men, I rode two days to get here, so your friend had better be dying.”

“Bradshaw, you wired for a preacher?”

“Someone had to Joshua, and well, it was obvious you weren’t going to.”

“Well of course I wasn’t going to. There’s nothing wrong with Thaddeus except food poisoning.”

Barton approached the Kid, squatted down and looked at him intently.

“He doesn’t look like he’s dying to me.”

“What?” exclaimed Joe and Will.

“I said he doesn’t look like he is dying to me. In fact he doesn’t look much worse than you Bradshaw. You’ve brought me here for no reason. I suppose I’ll have to spend the night here. You owe me for four days of service, Bradshaw.”

“Four days! Whaddya mean for four days?”

“You wasted my time, two days to get here and two days to return. You’re lucky I’m not charging you any extra for hiring me under false pretenses.”

“I don’t have that kind of money. If he’s gonna get well I just lost my money on that bet!”

“Well, what about you?” Burton asked turning to Will.

“Me neither. I lost my money too. I guess everyone in town lost in that bet. Everyone ‘cept for Smith here, and Andy Jackson Dobbs that is.”

Burton turned to Heyes who smiled and shook his head. “Oh no…don’t look at me. I didn’t ask you to come here.”

Burton sputtered, “he’s your friend. So you’ve got to pay me.” He looked around at the men in the tent. “Well, somebody has to.”

“Smith, you’ve got all the money, and well, it ain’t gonna look good you not paying a reverend and all. I mean maybe Joe made a mistake, but Jones is your friend.”

“That’s right Smith,” added Joe. “I mean I didn’t want it to turn out this way, I wait I don’t mean that Thaddeus, it’s just that I, oh heck I cain’t pay him, you’ve got all the money.”

“Joshua, I think mebbe they have a point. After all there’s a lot of them that lost this bet. It’s not gonna look very good if the preacher doesn’t get paid, and we are outnumbered. Plus I’m still feeling weak…”

“Ok Ok. How much?”

“Let me see, that’s thirty dollars a day plus expenses for four days…One hundred sixty dollars…a nice round number I think.”

“That’s highway robbery,” complained Heyes.

“That’s the price,” responded Barton.

Heyes spent the afternoon collecting the bets now that it had become obvious the Kid’s condition had improved. Some of the men were reluctant to pay initially, but with Will and Joe attesting to Kid’s health, they dug into their pockets and made good their debts. More of the miners were impressed with Heyes’ good fortune on the wager than with the Kid surviving rabies. Far from being disgruntled, they respected him the more for being so favored by lady luck.

“Thaddeus, I’m beginning to regret your hasty decision to pay Barton,” he said as they walked to the Dining Palace the next morning followed by Will, Joe and some admiring miners. “These fellows appreciate my intelligence and perspicacity. I don’t think they would have held it against me at all if I didn’t pay for a reverend I didn’t ask for.”

“You can’t be sure of that Joshua. Its one thing to win a bet fair and square, it’s another not to pay a preacher. Folks might not have appreciated that.”

They got into line.

“Joshua, what’s perspi perspi , what ever you said?”

“Well Thaddeus that’s when…Thaddeus look at that. Snaderly and Dobbs are sitting together, and they look like they are actually enjoying each other’s company.”

“Yeah, I wonder what is up.”

They got their breakfasts and joined Snaderly and Dobbs at the table. Barton was at the same table sipping coffee with an empty plate in front of him. Will and Joe sat down as well.

“You two look pretty friendly today. Care to let the rest of us know the reason?” asked Heyes as the Kid searched through the forks.

“Mister Dobbs and I have embarked on a business partnership. I have discovered a most promising section of land to mine, and after showing it to Mister Dobbs he has concurred with my opinion that the prospects are outstanding. I explained to him that I greatly admire his abilities as a miner and would appreciate his knowledge and experience. We expect to make our fortunes, gentlemen, and after reaping the rewards will travel to the mother country together.”

“Hey, wait a minute. I didn’t agree to go to England. You wouldn’t catch me dead there.”

“Andrew Jackson Dobbs, it will be the trip of a lifetime.”

“Yeah, your lifetime, ‘cause I ain’t goin’.”

“Oh I don’t know, Dobbs,” said Heyes grinning, “think of all the Englishmen you could insult there.”
“The trip will be educational for my friend and partner. He is far too parochial, and this will enlarge his horizons, one is certain. He will discover much that is good in our British forebears, and…”

“How much money did you fellas win on that bet?” asked Will cutting off Snaderly’s verbal onslaught.

“Just under one thousand dollars,” the Kid answered happily, still searching through the forks.

“Nine hundred sixty eight dollars to be exact,” said Heyes.

“Excellent,” said Barton, holding out his hand.

“Oh come now, it’s not so bad,” he said as Heyes counted out one hundred sixty dollars, “you still have eight hundred forty eight remaining.”

“That’s eight hundred eight remaining, Barton.” Heyes grabbed two forks, took one and handed the other to the Kid. The Kid looked at his in dismay, spat on it and wiped it off.

“Perhaps you would be interested in doubling that.”

“Reverend, we are always interested in doubling our money. As long as it don’t require work that’s hard on the back that is.”

“And as long as it’s not illegal. What do you have in mind?”

“There’s a big Revival down in Johnson City in a few days. That’s where I’m headed. I could use a couple of assistants.”

“A Revival? You mean a religious revival?” asked the Kid.

“Uh, I don’t think that is in our line of work, Barton,” added Heyes.

“I think you are mistaken. A big religious revival attracts crowds of believers…and brings many non-believers as well. They come along with family members—husbands with wives. Well the point is they don’t generally spend much time in the tent; you would be amazed at the amount of ahem gambling and other ungodly acts the men outside the tent engage in. A smart man, two smart men could earn a considerable amount of money.”

“Reverend, aren’t you supposed to be preaching against those ‘ungodly acts’?”

“And I do, Thaddeus, I do. In side the tent. Outside the tent I recognize that we are mere mortal men and fallible. I try to be understanding of my fellow man and his weaknesses.”

The Kid and Heyes looked at each other.

“Come now men, you do realize that if I preached fire and brimstone outside the tent I would drive those men away. My job is to save them.”

“You have an interesting method of doing that.”

“Smith, they are grown men and make their own decisions.” He sat back, mug in hand. “Well, what do you say? It’s quite lucrative.”

“Why do you need our assistance?”

“I’ll explain that on the ride.”

“Look, Barton…” began the Kid.

“You don’t have to take the job. Come along for the ride, let me explain it and then make your decisions. If nothing else, you are certain to find the Revival interesting.”

“Thaddeus, we’re not doing anything else.”


“Barton says we could double our money, and it’s not illegal, right Barton?”

“That’s correct.”

“What do we have to lose?"
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