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 Rattled by Ghislaine Emrys

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royannahuggins
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Posts : 419
Join date : 2013-10-13

20131028
PostRattled by Ghislaine Emrys

Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy



Glenn Ford as Asa Morgan


Donna Reed as Mrs. Morgan


James Keach as Gideon Brown


Stacy Keach as Luther Brown


Randolph Scott as Enoch Johnson


Jimmy Stewart as Sheriff Halsey


“I found one, Kid.” Heyes didn’t bother looking up when he spoke, though he did lay the local newspaper on the table, and was careful to keep his left index finger pointing to two lines of small type partway down the fourth page.

“Great. Can we order now? I’m hungry.” Curry didn’t bother to hide his irritation and he did look up, with annoyance, from reading the menu of the restaurant they were sitting in, at his partner, who grinned back at him.

“If we don’t find work pretty soon, you won’t be able to order anything after tomorrow.” Heyes glanced at his own menu. “I hope you weren’t planning on ordering the broiled beefsteak.”

Curry scowled. “’Course not!” he replied indignantly. “I know we need to conserve our funds for important stuff.” He glanced longingly at the third item listed on the menu and ordered the stewed beef instead.

Heyes smiled knowingly as Curry politely gave his order to the waitress, who brought them their food in short order.

“So what did you find, Heyes?” Curry was finally ready to listen to his partner, having eaten half his meal. He enviously eyed the table across the room that held the dessert offerings.

Heyes read the announcement. “Trappers needed. Twenty dollars a day. Bonus possible. Her-pet-ology experience preferred.”

Curry pondered, then pounced on the potential pitfall. “What’s her-pet-ology?”

“I don’t know, but it don’t matter. It says it’s preferred, not required. We’ll finesse it.”

“I don’t know, Heyes. What if it turns out to be somethin’ real hard on the back?”

“You got a better idea? I don’t see a whole lot of jobs just begging us to take them.” Heyes looked around the restaurant, as if he expected to find some jobs announcing themselves at the other tables.

“Funny, Heyes.” Curry sighed. “All right; we’ll check it out. But I’m warnin’ you, I don’t think I’m goin’ to like it.”

* * *

At nine o’clock the next morning, Heyes and Curry arrived at the Lazy S Ranch, located a few miles north of the town of Glory. Their look of respectability was only slightly spoiled by the gun belts each man wore, slung low and tied around their thighs.

Heyes knocked on the front door of the one-story building that was clearly the living quarters of the ranch owner. Another building, presumably a bunkhouse, was situated about a hundred yards away. A barn was located on the opposite side of the ranch house and next to it was a corral in which several horses placidly ate grass. Cows were visible in the distance.

“What kind of name is Lazy S?” Heyes grumbled, as they waited for someone to come to the door.

“The kind that’s goin’ to give us a job. You think.”

A tall man, whose dark hair was flecked with gray, opened the door a moment later. “Yes? Can I help you?” he asked warily.

Heyes turned on the charm. “We’re here about the job. The one in the newspaper, for trappers,” he clarified.

The man looked at him, at Curry, at their guns, and back at Heyes again. “You got any herpetology experience?” he asked skeptically. He came out onto the porch and closed the door behind him.

“No…” Heyes glossed over that rapidly, “But the announcement says it’s not required. We’re quick learners, and good workers, Mr...” Heyes waited for an introduction.

“Asa Morgan,” the man supplied. “I own the Lazy S.”

Curry spoke up. “Mr. Morgan, we’ve done some trappin’ before, so we have an idea of what’s involved.”

Morgan’s mouth twitched slightly. “You boys know what herpetology is?”

“It means it’s a job that pays a bonus if it’s done well,” Heyes replied smoothly.

Morgan started laughing. Curry looked at Heyes, who was a bit taken aback by the ranch owner’s response.

“Boys, I’ll hire you, but you may want to reconsider when you hear what you have to do,” Morgan warned them.

“Thank you, Mr. Morgan. I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s my partner, Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes introduced themselves. “So, what is it you need trapped?”

“Rattlers.”

Curry glared at Heyes. “Mr. Morgan, I’d like to speak to my partner for a moment, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.” Morgan walked to one end of the porch where he couldn’t overhear the heated conversation.

Curry whispered furiously. “Heyes, we are NOT takin’ this job!”

“Come on, Kid, how hard can it be?”

“That ain’t the point! The point is rattlers are ornery critters who don’t take kindly to bein’ caught!”

“Sounds kind of familiar, don’t it? Kid, we need the money and it can’t be worse than trapping cougars.”

Kid glowered at his friend. “I’m goin’ to say this just once, Heyes. Ifn you get bit, I ain’t suckin’ the venom out of you!”

“You mean you’d let me die of snakebite? What kind of partner is that?”

“No, Heyes, I’d shoot you first! And put me out of my misery!” Curry calmed himself. “Fine; we’ll take the job. I just hope you know what you’re doing, ‘cos trappin’ rattlesnakes ain’t my idea of stayin’ out of trouble!”

Heyes called over to the ranch owner. “Mr. Morgan, we’d still like to take the job. It ain’t more dangerous than trapping cougars, is it?”

“Well,” Morgan mused, “I’ve never had a problem with cougars. I couldn’t rightly say.”

“See, Thaddeus—You don’t have to worry about cougars none!” Heyes smiled brightly.

Curry rolled his eyes but made sure Morgan didn’t see. “Mr. Morgan, what exactly do you want us to do?”

“How about you come inside and I’ll explain,” Morgan said. “I expect you could use some refreshment.”

* * *

Morgan led Heyes and Curry into a parlor, pausing to ask a woman he introduced as his wife to bring them a pot of coffee and some slices of railroad cake, telling the men his wife was renowned in the county for her baked goods. Curry grimaced at the name but sat back in his chair contentedly after the first bite. Heyes smiled to himself as he observed Curry’s reaction.

After a suitable time to appreciate the food and drink, Morgan began to describe the job. “You will actually be participating in Glory’s annual rattlesnake round-up, but working for me while you compete.” He noted the startled looks on the men’s faces. “Didn’t you know about the round-up? There were signs in front of the town hall and the sheriff’s office. Surely you saw them?”

Curry and Heyes shook their heads. “No, sir. We checked into the hotel and went to the restaurant. Had no reason to go anywhere else since there’s no poker at the saloon until the weekend,” Heyes said, sadly.

“Well, every year I sponsor a few teams in the round-up. First of all, you’ll need to buy the right equipment.” He noted the glum looks that neither man was able to hide. “Don’t worry, it’s not expensive and you can probably recoup the cost by selling your gear when you’re done. All you need, each of you, is a long pole made of solid wood, with a hook on the end, and some canvas sacks.”

Heyes nodded but Curry asked, “How are we supposed to catch the snakes?”

“Rattlers like certain habitats. I’m sure you know that, right?” Morgan checked, and appeared satisfied when both men responded affirmatively. “You have to search for those places and when you find one where a rattler might be, stick the pole there and see if anything moves. If you see a snake, try to trap it with the hook, then use the pole to flip it high into the air. When it falls, the snake’ll curl into a ball and you’ll be able to prod it into your sack. Once it’s inside, the darkness will keep it calm and quiet. You can carry the sacks with the snakes inside them the whole day.”

Morgan continued his explanation. “At the end of every day, you bring your snakes to the weighing station. That’ll be in front of the sheriff’s office. There’s a $250 prize to the man who catches the longest rattler. Sheriff Halsey and Enoch Johnson will record how much each snake weighs and how long it is. Enoch Johnson holds the record for catching the longest rattlesnake. He’s retired now, but he still knows how to handle those snakes. That’s why he’s the one to weigh and measure them. And everyone in town trusts the sheriff to write it all down correctly. He’s real honest,” he assured Curry and Heyes.

“There’s just a few more things you need to know,” Morgan added. “First of all, as your sponsor, you’ll be required to wear my team shirt.” He picked up two long-sleeved shirts from a small table near his chair and passed one to each man.

Heyes unfolded the shirt and held it up to check the size. It looked like it would fit well enough. “That’s fine, Mr. Morgan.”

Curry noticed the lettering on the back of the shirt he’d been given, which Heyes, who’d only been looking at the front of his shirt, hadn’t seen. He read out loud, “Morgan’s Morsels. Mouthwatering Meals.” He made it sound like a question.

Heyes turned his shirt over and stared at the red letters. He raised an eyebrow and waited for Morgan to give an explanation.

“An added bonus in working for me is that you can eat all the snake meat you want, for free. Don’t worry; you don’t have to cook it yourselves! That’s the second thing you need to know. Catching the snakes is only part of the round-up. There’s also the cooking contest.”

Curry perked up. Heyes snuck a glance at his partner and grinned to himself.

“The men catch the snakes but the women get to cook them. Each day, they compete to see who can make the tastiest dish. So you have to bring in live snakes because the ladies need the freshest meat possible; otherwise, the meat might be spoiled by the time it gets to them. Anyone in town who wants to be a judge just has to pay the daily fee and then they can rate each entry. But as my employees, I’ll pay your fees for you.”

Heyes and Curry grinned at that piece of news.

“I should tell you that my wife has won the competition for the past two years,” the proud husband said. “But no one knows who cooks a particular dish. They’re only labeled with numbers. That’s to prevent fraud.”

The grins turned into frowns. “You mean we have to judge your wife’s cooking?” asked Curry unhappily.

“Your advertisement did mention a bonus,” Heyes reminded his employer quickly. “Was that it?” He kept his expression carefully neutral.

“No, of course not. I’ll pay you each a bonus of fifty dollars if you can rid my ranch of at least forty rattlers. There’s too many snakes on my land and I don’t like my livestock getting bit. Reduces my profit, you know.”

“I bet the hands don’t like getting bit either,” Heyes said, too softly for anyone but Curry to hear.

“Now, if that’s all clear, you can take these shirts and go on back to town to buy your equipment. You’ll find everything you need at the mercantile. The round-up officially starts tomorrow at ten in the morning. I want you back here a half hour before that so I can give you and my other teams some final instructions.” Morgan stood up.

Heyes also rose. “Just one more thing, Mr. Morgan. The pay is twenty dollars a day for each of us, right?” When Morgan nodded, Heyes asked, “So how long is the round-up for?”

“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t seen the announcements so you don’t know. The round-up lasts five days. Five days of the most fun this town has for the whole year! You’re going to have yourselves a real fine time, boys!”

* * *

Heyes and Curry went directly to the mercantile to buy their equipment. A stack of hooked poles was piled up against a wall and next to them were canvas bags in a variety of sizes. Heyes tried to negotiate the cost with the owner of the general store and although he was able to get the prices reduced marginally, Heyes suspected they had been inflated to start with, and said so, repeatedly, after they left the mercantile.

“Let it go, Heyes,” Curry said wearily. “You can make up for it by catching lots of snakes. That was the plan wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what? It ain’t like we had a choice. There wasn’t no other place to buy the stuff.”

“That’s the problem with these towns,” Heyes grumbled. “Everything’s a monopoly. Just like the banks and railroads. Someone ought to do something about it!”

“Like we used to? What? You want to rob the mercantile? You know that won’t change nothin’.”

“I know, but…”

“But what? You goin’ to hold a grudge against a man just doin’ his job?”

“Well, when you put it like that…”

“Just let it go, Heyes,” Curry reiterated. His stomach growled.

Heyes grunted and gave in. “I suppose you want to eat lunch now.” They deposited the poles, bags and shirts in their hotel room, then ate a frugal lunch in the restaurant, being even more careful with their money since they had yet to acquire additional funds.

Afterwards, they walked over to the town hall to read the announcement about the round-up. They stood at the back of the crowd and listened to the gossip that swirled around them. They eventually reached the entrance to the building and were able to read about the upcoming competition for themselves, then they returned to the hotel to discuss in private what they had learned.

Heyes stood, barefoot, at the window in their room, watching the town go by below him for a few minutes before moving over to the bed to put his boots on. “From what those people were saying, it don’t sound like it’s going to be too hard to catch those snakes. Did you hear that fella say how he caught ten rattlers in one day? We’ll earn that bonus real easy, Kid!”

“Did you miss the part when they also said no one but Hiram Butler, the fella who’s won the contest the past two years, had ever done that?” Curry asked irritably. “It ain’t gonna be as easy as you think, Heyes.”

“Well, we got a secret weapon nobody else has!”

“We do? What?”

“You!”

“Me? How’s that?” Kid was puzzled.

“Think about it, Kid! You’re probably the fastest gun of anyone in the round-up, right?” Heyes didn’t wait for Curry’s reluctant nod of assent. “I’ve seen you shoot rattlers. Instead of killing them, you just got to use those reflexes to catch them. Nothing to it!” he said confidently.

“Maybe,” Curry said doubtfully. “We’ll find out soon enough.”

“Let’s find out now. Come on!” Heyes strapped his gun belt back on and put his hat on his head. He walked over to the door, only then realizing Curry wasn’t right behind him.

He was still sitting in his chair. “Where, Heyes? I’m comfortable right here.”

“Let’s go find out how well you can catch rattlers.”

“Shouldn’t that be WE, Heyes? You’re catchin’ them, too, ain’t you?”

“’Course I am! But I figure you’ll catch more. ‘Cos, I got to admit, you’re faster than me,” Heyes said generously. “Hey! Want to make a wager?”

Suspicious, Curry asked, “What kind of wager?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Heyes replied, a little too nonchalantly. “How about… Whoever catches the most snakes gets to, uh, gets to have the bath first for the next month?”

Curry looked at his partner with narrowed eyes. “You mean the most snakes in a day or by the end of the round-up?”

“Up to you, Kid,” Heyes told him expansively.

After thinking for a few minutes, Curry still couldn’t find the catch. “All right,” he agreed with reluctance. “Whoever catches the most snakes by the end of the round-up gets to be the first one in the bath for a whole month.” Curry restated the wager in his own words to make sure he and Heyes understood each other.

Heyes sighed. “If that’s the way you want to do it, okay.”

Heyes’ words made Curry reconsider. He looked at his partner. “What are you trying to pull, Heyes?”

Innocent brown eyes looked back. “Kid,” Heyes tried to placate him, “Would I ever try and put one over on you?”

“All the time, Heyes. There’s this coin you got…”

Heyes laughed. “Nah. Have a little faith. You got a real good chance of winning the competition, not just beating me. Let’s go find out how good we both are.” He opened the door.

* * *

They found a field on what they thought was Morgan’s land a few miles out of Glory and unloaded their equipment. After tethering their horses to some shrubs, they picked up the poles and started poking the underbrush, trying to flush out any rattlesnakes.

For a while, they worked in silence. They used their poles to turn over rocks where rattlers might be resting, and pushed aside the sometimes-thick vegetation that covered the ground. Neither Heyes nor Curry saw any snakes but they did manage to disturb some lizards and birds.

“Heyes, I been thinking,” Curry began, about a half hour later. He dropped his pole on the ground and took a drink from his canteen.

The other man turned. “Now, Kid, we’ve talked about that.”

Curry ignored the warning. “I don’t think we should be doin’ this.”

“Huh? Why not?” Heyes was too surprised to continue teasing his partner.

“It don’t seem right. What if we do find a snake? What are we goin’ to do with it—put it back?”

“Well, yeah. We don’t want to capture it now. Then it won’t count.”

“Exactly! Don’t that seem like cheatin’ to you?” Curry asked seriously.

Heyes stared at him. “Kid, that ain’t cheating! It’s practicing! We need to practice so when the round-up starts, we’ll know what to do. That’s just common sense.”

“I don’t know, Heyes. It don’t seem right to me. I mean, if we find some snakes now and let them go, then we’ll know exactly where to find them again. Seems like that’d give us an unfair advantage.”

“Kid, you practice shooting your gun all the time. Does that give you an unfair advantage? No,” Heyes answered the question himself, “It just means you want to do your best when you have to. It’s the same thing here. We’re practicing so we can do our best when it really matters.”

“That does make sense,” Curry acknowledged, then added, “Leastways, no one’s seen us so no one’ll know where to find our rattlers!”

“That’s the spirit! You know, just ‘cos we’re going straight don’t mean we got to be shortsighted, too! Let’s look around, get the lay of the land some. We’re strangers here but everyone else is probably from this area. That gives them an unfair advantage over us, don’t you think? It ain’t cheating if it’s just evening the odds!” Heyes finished persuasively.

* * *

Asa Morgan gave his instructions to the six men standing before him. The others were hands on his ranch, and Morgan introduced them to Heyes and Curry.

“Boys, this here’s Gideon and Luther Brown,” he said, pointing to the competent-looking brothers who’d been sponsored by Morgan in previous years. “Last year, they came in second in the round-up, with a snake that measured five feet seven inches. They’re planning on coming in first this year, so you have your work cut out for you.” The Browns weren’t exactly hostile to Heyes and Curry but they weren’t particularly friendly, either. “And this team is Sam Watkins and Frank Miller,” Morgan said, gesturing to the other pair.

The rancher ended with an admonition. “Now, as you all know, there are plenty of rattlers on my land and each team has a sporting chance to win the competition. I expect gentlemanly behavior from each of you. Good luck.” Morgan went back inside his ranch.

The Brown brothers immediately got on their horses and rode south.

Watkins and Miller, with a friendly “be seein’ ya,” went to the bunkhouse to collect their equipment and the provisions they’d left in the ice box, then rode north.

Heyes and Curry remained in the sun in front of the ranch house to discuss what to do next.

“Think we should tag along after Miller and Watkins?” Curry asked. “Maybe they’ll give us a few pointers.”

“Or maybe they’ll point us in the wrong direction. How would we ever know?”

Curry laughed. “You got a suspicious mind, Heyes!”

“Yeah, and a good thing, too. One partner who believes everything he hears is enough!”

“Hey! Only when it comes to the ladies. And sometimes I’ve been right,” Curry added, pleased with those memories.

“Hmmph. Sometimes…more like, a few times. Maybe one out of ten times.”

“At least I don’t calculate the odds of it turning it out bad beforehand.”

“That’s ‘cos you don’t think beforehand! That’s the whole problem, Kid!”

Seeing the expression on Curry’s face, Heyes rapidly changed the subject. “I vote we head off on our own and see what we can do ourselves. We can always find the others later if we need to.”

“Fine.” Curry walked over to his horse and began loading his equipment.

Heyes joined him and got his own horse ready. “Aw, come on, Kid. You know I was only joking.”

“Sure, Heyes. Whatever you say.” Curry mounted and wheeled his horse around to face the other man. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh, Heyes followed.

* * *

Picking a direction the other men hadn’t taken, they rode west so they were equally in range of both teams.

When Heyes spotted a rocky outcrop that looked promising, he dismounted several yards away and tethered his horse. He motioned to Curry that he was going to move closer.

Curry laughed at his partner’s caution. “Heyes, rattlers can’t hear. It’s okay to talk.”

“When did you become the herpetology expert?” Heyes grumbled.

“It’s a well-known fact,” Curry smirked, not bothering to add that he’d heard someone say so at the town hall yesterday.

“Oh, well, then,” Heyes said, a little sheepishly, but then rallied as he focused on his objective. “There might be one here. You better stand back,” he warned Curry.

Heyes took his pole and crept forward. When he was about four feet away from the outcrop, he thrust the pole into a gap formed by two overlapping rocks and slowly wiggled it around. Hoping he’d trapped something, Heyes carefully but quickly raked his pole out of the space and, with both hands holding it tightly at the other end, levered the pole into the air and flung whatever he’d hooked up and away from him.

Curry walked over to where the snake had landed. “Heyes, you better see this.”

Heyes hurried over. “How big is it, Kid?” he asked eagerly, hope and pride both evident on his face.

“Oh, it’s big,” Curry assured him. “But it ain’t exactly what you think.” He casually picked it up, to Heyes’ immediate consternation.

“Kid, are you out of your mind? What if you get bit?”

“I don’t think that’s likely.” Curry held out a long, twisted tree branch and grinned. “Here’s your snake, Heyes.”

“No, it ain’t. That’s just a branch.” Heyes turned his eyes to the ground, searching for a rattler that had curled up and was lying in a defensive position.

“Exactly. That’s what you caught. I was watchin’ closely, Heyes. Trust me; that’s your snake.”

“Oh.” With a rueful shake of his head, and a chuckle to cover his embarrassment, Heyes made the best of the situation. “Well, at least now I know how to catch them!”

Curry couldn’t help himself and he started laughing. “Yeah, and now all you got to do is catch the real thing!”

* * *

Two and a half hours later, Heyes and Curry had tracked the Brown brothers and were watching them from behind a small rise in the landscape. Gideon and Luther Brown’s experience was clearly visible as they worked with an economy of movement and speech to capture a large number of rattlers. Heyes and Curry withdrew as silently as they had arrived and returned to the area they had staked out for themselves, having a much better idea of what they needed to do to trap the snakes.

Fifty minutes and a few unsuccessful attempts later, Curry caught their first rattler. He carefully pushed it into his canvas sack and tied the rope around the opening tight.

He grinned at his partner. “Your turn!”

“I’m waiting for a big one,” Heyes announced blithely.

Curry shot a look at his friend. “You just keep on thinkin’ that, Heyes, and I’ll just keep on catchin’ them.”

“That’s the spirit, Kid!”

But Heyes kept trying and shortly thereafter he caught his first snake. It wasn’t as big as Curry’s but it was a respectable three feet in length.

“Hey, Kid! I’m catching up to you!”

“Yeah? I reckon you got a ways to go before that happens. Not that I’m keepin’ track, mind. We’re partners, remember?”

“Sure. But you haven’t forgotten our wager, have you?”

“Nope!” And with that terse response, Curry rededicated himself to trapping rattlesnakes.

Heyes watched him for a moment before he also devoted himself to the job of winning the wager and the competition, and earning the much-desired and badly-needed bonus.

Curry glanced at the lowering sun. “What time you got?”

Heyes took out his pocket watch and answered, “It’s four-fifty. You reckon we should call it a day?”

“Morgan told us we have to check in between five and six to get our snakes counted, right?”

“Yeah. We sure can’t afford to be disqualified if we’re late. All right; let’s pack up and get back to town.”

* * *

Heyes and Curry nervously glanced at the crowd which had formed outside the sheriff’s office but no one was paying them any particular attention. They stood with a group of other trappers, all waiting to have their snakes officially weighed and measured.

All eyes were on the two men who stood in front of a large scale on a table. Enoch Johnson cautiously removed another snake from a sack, holding it at the tail with the forefinger and thumb of his left hand and, with his right forefinger, index finger, and thumb, grasping the rattler firmly behind its head to prevent it from twisting around and biting him. He stretched the snake out and Sheriff Halsey recorded the length on a large piece of foolscap so all the spectators could see it easily. The snake was then weighed and the pounds and ounces were written next to its length.

The man who’d brought the snakes in watched with interest as the rest of his catch was dealt with in a similar fashion. When Johnson and Halsey were finished, he collected his rattlers and made room for the next man in line.

Eventually, it was Heyes and Curry’s turn. They approached the table and Heyes gave his sack to Johnson. The sheriff wrote “J. Smith” under the name of the previous trapper and recorded the measurements as Johnson called them out. Heyes took back the sack with the two snakes he’d caught and stood aside for Curry, whose four snakes were weighed and measured in quick succession.

They were then directed to the location of the cooking competition and walked there with alacrity.

“Six ain’t bad for the first day but we got to catch more tomorrow if we’re going to have a chance at that bonus,” Heyes told Curry as they approached the tables set up for the women.

“Tomorrow we won’t be wastin’ half the day usin’ the poles the wrong way,” Curry told him. “We got the hang of it now, Heyes. We’ll get the bonus,” he reassured his partner.

After handing over their snakes to the women at the registration table for the cooking contest and receiving tickets that entitled them to judge the food entries as well as forms upon which to write their ratings, the two men wandered through the area, sampling the fare on offer and making appreciative comments about everything.

“What do you reckon we should try next, Heyes?”

“Well, the roasted rattlesnake tasted like something we eat on the trail when there’s nothing better around. The fried rattlesnake was real good with that spicy batter and you said the stew was even better than the beef stew in the restaurant, so you had seconds. Hard to believe you’re still hungry!”

Curry patted his stomach and grinned. “Let’s get something to drink. That stew was salty.”

They made their way over to the refreshment table and Curry took a glass from Mrs. Morgan, who along with another lady who was introduced as Mrs. Johnson, was handing out drinks to passersby.

“This sure tastes good!” Curry said, as he took a large swallow of the milky green liquid. “What is it?”

“Most of the ingredients are a secret but I can tell you the main one is snake bile,” Mrs. Morgan replied with a smile of her own.

“Huh?”

Reading from a card Heyes found tacked to the table, he stated, “Snake bile is a liquid produced in the gallbladder of snakes. It has medicinal value and is used to treat coughs and infections.”

Curry, who’d been about to swallow another mouthful of the sweet-tasting drink, choked instead and spat it out, grimacing with disgust.

“I think you should have another, Thaddeus,” Heyes recommended solicitously. “That cough don’t sound too good.”

His partner glared at him as he hastily put the glass back on the table. They moved off, with Heyes chuckling. Curry took a swig from his canteen, swilled the water around in his mouth, and expelled the liquid and the taste of the snake bile into a bush at his feet.

“I need a drink.”

“You just had one. Two, really.”

“I mean a real drink. Whiskey.”

“You mean you want to go back already? I thought you wanted to eat some more of this delicious food. You’ve only tasted…let’s see…half the entries. That’s not like you, Kid, passing up free food.”

“Heyes, I’m done eatin’ for today.”

“Well, all right. But I don’t want to hear you say you’re hungry half an hour from now!”

“Not a chance,” Curry muttered, and they both turned at the same moment in the direction of the saloon.

* * *

“How many we got so far?”

The sun was beginning to sink towards the horizon and Curry glanced at the two wiggling sacks on the ground nearby. “You know right well how many, Heyes, so stop pesterin’ me about it,” Curry grumbled.

“Just want to make sure we get that bonus, Kid.”

“We caught twenty-six snakes in the first three days. Every day we bring in more and more and we still got one day left. Seems like we’re in strikin’ distance to me.”

“Maybe for the bonus, yeah,” Heyes acknowledged. “But we got a ways to go to win the contest. Your longest snake was four feet ten inches but Gideon Brown got one that was just over five feet.”

“And your longest was only four feet three inches. Not very impressive, Heyes!” Curry laughed.

“Length ain’t everything, Kid! Mrs. Morgan said mine was one of the most delicious critters she’d ever eaten.”

“And you make fun of me for believin’ what the ladies say!”

“Width is just as important. Length times width,” intoned Heyes pedantically, “Equals the tastiest,” he finished with a smirk.

Curry snorted at his partner’s attempted display of mathematical prowess. “Sure, Heyes, you can believe that if you want. Right now I believe it’s time to go back to town.”

They fastened the sacks and equipment securely to their horses and started back to town, letting their horses canter for exercise after having been hobbled most of the day. Chatting about nothing in particular, they were enjoying the ride when Curry’s horse suddenly pulled up short. He tried unsuccessfully to nudge the animal into a walk and when that didn’t work, dismounted to see what was wrong. Lifting up each hoof, he discovered the horse had thrown a shoe.

Heyes lifted his left foot out of his stirrup. “Get up.”

Curry looked at his partner. “Sorry.”

“It ain’t your fault. But we don’t have a lot of time to spare,” Heyes told him, with a worried look at the lowering sun. “Let’s get going.”

Curry held the reins to his horse as, riding double, they tried to hurry back to Glory. They reached the sheriff’s office and quickly lined up behind the few men still there.

“It’s five-fifty, boys, thought you weren’t going to make it today,” Halsey told them.

Heyes smiled. “We were trapping so many rattlers, guess we just lost track of time.”

Heyes handed his sack over to Johnson. Opening it carefully, Johnson removed and measured first one and then another snake, calling out the numbers so Halsey could write them on the board.

“Five feet two and a half inches long!” An undercurrent of displeasure rippled through the watching crowd. Enoch Johnson looked just as surprised as Heyes and measured the snake again.

Suddenly, Johnson cried out. He held up his right hand, and inspected it as if seeing it for the first time. The sheriff yelled for someone to run and get the doctor, then he helped Johnson sit down on the boardwalk. It took but a moment for Heyes and Curry to realize the older man had been bitten.

Heyes grabbed the sack containing his snakes and, heedless of the danger to himself, shook it hard to make sure all the rattlers were completely inside before tying it tightly closed. He noticed some of the townsfolk give him angry glares, as if it were his fault Johnson had gotten bit.

By the time the doctor arrived, Johnson’s arm had begun to swell and he was looking pale. There was no shortage of volunteers to carry the injured man the short distance to the doctor’s surgery.

Heyes and Curry watched most of the men follow the doctor and his patient. There was nothing they could do so they left the weighing-in area but the accusatory glares followed them.

“I don’t like this, Heyes,” Curry said quietly, as they walked down the street to the cooking contestants’ area.

“Me neither, Kid. But it was an accident; people are upset now but they’ll see reason soon enough.”

They obtained their tickets and judging forms and started eating. Most of the gossip they heard was about what the secret ingredient in the soup by Entry #1 could be, and whether her soup or the rattlesnake and beans dish by Entry #9 would win that day’s competition. That had nothing to do with them, but they couldn’t help but notice the dubious glances cast in their direction as they walked past all the tables laden with rattlesnake delicacies. Clearly, news of the unfortunate mishap had already spread through Glory.

When Curry finished gorging himself and Heyes was also satiated, they retired to the saloon for their usual two shots of whiskey. They entered the crowded room and made their way to the bar. Leaning against the smooth wooden surface, they listened to the talk of the men next to them as they tossed back the first drink and then ordered their second.

“We’re being watched,” said Curry unnecessarily.

“I know.”

“Think we been recognized?”

“No. We wouldn’t still be walking around town if we had been. It’s only because of what happened to Johnson.”

Just then, a familiar voice was heard over the general noise of the saloon. Both men looked at the mirror instead of turning around, preferring to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Luther Brown was talking to his brother and he’d obviously had a few too many drinks. Gideon Brown was trying to calm him down but his half-hearted attempts had no effect. As Luther’s voice got louder and louder, the saloon became quieter and quieter, until everyone in the room could clearly hear his allegations.

“Them two are strangers hereabouts. Ain’t no way they could find rattlers that long on their own!”

“Luther, you can’t go around accusing people just because they might beat us!” Gideon made another feeble attempt to get his brother to stop talking. “Besides, you don’t have any proof they’re cheating.”

“Don’t need no proof. Know it in here,” Luther replied, jabbing his finger into his chest.

Nods and murmurs of agreement wafted over to Heyes and Curry from some of the tables. Heyes signaled his partner with his eyes that he wanted to stay a bit longer and hear more.

“And another thing,” Luther continued. “How come in all the years he been catching rattlers, Enoch Johnson never got bit, but only a few days after them two arrived, one of them critters up and got him on the finger? That ain’t a coincidence, if you ask me!”

More nods and mumbled agreement came from Luther’s friends, as his assertions found favor with the residents of the town.

“Oh, come on, Luther! That’s just an unfortunate accident! Enoch got a bit careless, is all. He is getting on in years, you know,” Gideon reminded everyone.

Luther wasn’t acceding anything. “I still think they had something to do with it,” he maintained.

“Heard enough?” Curry asked softly.

Heyes nodded and they retreated to their hotel room.

* * *

A knock on the door roused them from their gloom.

“Who is it?” Heyes asked, as Curry took his gun from his holster and cocked it.

“Sheriff Halsey.”

Curry tossed a questioning look to Heyes, who shrugged and opened the door after making sure Curry had put his gun away. “Yes?” Heyes looked beyond the sheriff to the hallway and, not seeing anyone else there, moved aside to allow the other man to enter the room.

“Enoch’s in a bad way. The doc says it’s too soon to tell if he’s going to make it.” Halsey paused. “Thought you’d want to know.”

“Thanks, Sheriff,” Curry said. “Appreciate your stoppin’ by.”

“But that’s not the only reason you’re here, is it, Sheriff?” Heyes shrewdly asked, his eyes searching the lawman’s face.

Halsey half smiled. “No, Mr. Smith, it’s not. I need to ask you boys some questions.”

“Now hold on a minute!” Curry began indignantly. “We didn’t have nothin’ to do with what happened to Johnson.”

“Well, the town’s pretty riled up right now and I need to investigate. You got to admit, it does look suspicious, you two being strangers and taking the lead like that.”

Neither Curry nor Heyes liked the penetrating stare the sheriff gave them as he spoke.

“Now, Sheriff, it was an accident, is all.” Heyes tried to placate him. “Like we told Mr. Morgan when he hired us, we’ve done some trapping before and we’re quick learners. We had nothing to do with it. Johnson could’ve been bit by any snake. It’s our bad luck it just happened to be one of ours.”

“Maybe. And maybe you saw an opportunity and decided to take it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Curry asked angrily.

“It means,” Halsey’s voice hardened, ”I want you two to come to my office so we can straighten this out.”

“Now?” Curry glanced at Heyes, who was as reluctant as he was.

“Now,” the sheriff said firmly. “And bring all your equipment with you, too.”

Continued in Part two...

_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.


Last edited by royannahuggins on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 12:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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Rattled by Ghislaine Emrys :: Comments

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Re: Rattled by Ghislaine Emrys
Post on Tue 04 Mar 2014, 12:05 am by CD Roberts
Penski
Rattled
Jan 30 2010, 5:05 PM EST
(clapping hands) Oh...that was an excellent episode! The bantering between the boys was wonderful and I loved the clever "snake" line ("snake got your tongue" and "charmed"). And the Bonus Feature is great...NOT that I'll be trying any of those recipes any time soon. Question - what's railroad cake? I never heard of it before. Again, thanks for the wonderful entertainment, Ghislaine!


GhislaineEmrys
1. RE: Rattled
Jan 31 2010, 4:15 AM EST
Glad you enjoyed the story! I added the recipe for "Railroad Cake." Perhaps you'll find that one more palatable!


2. RE: Rattled
Jan 31 2010, 8:07 AM EST
What a super-duper episode. Fancy the boys being put into protective custody. It's a lovely thought!! Love the banter between the boys - it really came alive for me. Thank you. By the way, I forgot to log on - it's Allegra. Smile.


3. RE: Rattled
Jan 31 2010, 11:00 AM EST
Ghislaine, I enjoyed the story and the bonus, too. Hmmmm, I've had armadillo chili but never rattler! Bet that roasted rattler tastes just like chicken! Ha!

Kudos from Kwiltn


4. RE: Rattled
Jan 31 2010, 11:38 PM EST

[Max here] Awww – the boys in sponsored shirts! Can I have one?
Love the snakebite banter, love them bickering over longest versest widest snake.
You bit – reverent dip in voice – Randolph Scott???!!!?! How could you?
Love the ‘you’ll get used to it’, ‘I am used to it’ jail banter.
Applause, clapping... could the extras slither forward to take a bow??


5. RE: Rattled
Jan 31 2010, 11:38 PM EST
Max here.... Awww – the boys in sponsored shirts! Can I have one?
Love the snakebite banter, love them bickering over longest versest widest snake.
You bit – reverent dip in voice – Randolph Scott???!!!?! How could you?
Love the ‘you’ll get used to it’, ‘I am used to it’ jail banter.
Applause, clapping... could the extras slither forward to take a bow??



6. RE: Rattled
Feb 3 2010, 1:35 AM EST
Wonderful episode. I've heard of rattlesnake roundups and it was great to see our outlaws participating. So many good bits - the herpetology dialogue, Heyes's faith in Kid's fast relflexes to catch instead of shooting rattlers, the team shirts, Kid's enthusiasm for the cooking contest (not planning on using the bonus feature recipes for an authentic ASJ experience), the casting and the protective custody to name a few. Thanks for the bonus features as well. Well Done!!! From nm131


GhislaineEmrys
7. RE: Rattled
Feb 6 2010, 10:05 AM EST
Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments about my story. Some of that banter just wrote itself! I, too, love the idea of the boys in protective custody--hey, I'll protect them any day! I think Kid was channeling me in his reaction to the snake bile drink--it IS vile! But I wouldn't mind trying some of those rattler recipes--I like snake meat--and armadillo chili sounds good, too--though I think I'd have an easier time baking railroad cake. As for the shirts--if anyone's a talented seamstress, well, shoot me an email... :-) I admit I had a hard time deciding if Randolph Scott or Jimmy Stewart should be Enoch Johnson. Thanks again for reading!


CattleAnnie
8. RE: Rattled
Mar 14 2010, 2:17 PM EDT
This episode really left me rattled... ha, ha, ha - okay, really that was amusing! I agree with Max, where can we get the sponsored shirts? I'll take mine in a dark blue. The bit about snake width was too much. Thanks so much for another ASJ episode.
avatar
Re: Rattled by Ghislaine Emrys
Post on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 12:14 am by royannahuggins
Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy


The story continues with Heyes and Curry in the sheriff's office.

“So what brought you to Glory?” The sheriff was sitting behind his desk. Curry and Heyes stood before him, trying to block the view of their wanted posters on the wall.

“We were just riding through, looking for work,” Heyes answered honestly. “Saw a job in the newspaper about trapping, decided to check it out. Mr. Morgan hired us and we’ve been catching rattlers on his land the past four days.”

“You ever trap rattlesnakes before?”

“No, but like we already said, we’ve done some trappin’ elsewhere,” Curry told the sheriff again.

“If this was your first time catching snakes, how is it you managed to catch the largest one of the round-up so far?”

Heyes grimaced at the accusatory tone in the sheriff’s voice. “Just lucky, I guess,” he said sourly. “If I’d known it was going to be bad luck, I wouldn’t have tried so hard.”

Halsey didn’t smile. He continued his interrogation. “Where’ve you been doing your trapping?”

“Look, Sheriff,” Curry responded. “We listened real careful to Mr. Morgan when he told us what to do, and we practiced some before the round-up started. We rode west from Morgan’s ranch the first day. We been out there four days now, wanderin’ all over his land.”

“What’s the size of the snake got to do with Johnson’s injury, anyway?” Heyes interjected.

“Bigger snakes have more venom,” said the sheriff flatly. “You’ve heard Luther Brown’s accusations, haven’t you?”

Warily, Heyes and Curry nodded.

“What have you got to say about it?”

“He’s wrong,” said Heyes. “I know he believes what he’s saying, but it’s not true. We have nothing against Johnson, and we’re not cheating.” Heyes smiled in a friendly fashion, hoping the sheriff would be convinced by the reasonableness of his words.

“Hmm.” Halsey was thoughtful. “Well, let me take a look at your equipment here.”

Curry and Heyes handed over their sacks and poles. The lawman examined each piece thoroughly, paying special attention to the sack that had contained Heyes’ snakes. He found nothing suspicious.

“Everything looks all right,” he acknowledged. “You can go, but I’ll be keeping an eye on you. And don’t leave town. Not until Enoch’s able to tell what happened.”

* * *

“Well, that’s a switch, huh, Kid?” Heyes was cheerful as they left the sheriff’s office and walked back to the hotel. “Usually people tell us to get out of town.”

Curry’s expression was not nearly as happy. “That’s ’cos the sheriff thinks we’re responsible, Heyes. It don’t matter what he said, it’s how he said it that counts.”

They made their way down the main street of Glory, doing their best to ignore the looks of the people they passed.

Inside their hotel room, they discussed what to do next.

“Kid, we need to go talk to Morgan. He’s bound to have heard by now and we have to tell him our side of what happened.”

“You think he’ll listen to us?”

Heyes nodded. “He’ll listen; don’t know if he’ll believe us. Got to try, though. Tomorrow’s the last day of the round-up and we have to make sure we get paid.”

“You want to go now? I don’t fancy riding out there and back in the dark.”

Heyes shrugged. “I suppose waiting till morning won’t do no harm.”

* * *

As the partners neared Morgan’s ranch, Curry’s eyes narrowed. “Ain’t those horses Gideon and Luther Brown’s? Maybe we should have come last night, Heyes.”

“Too late now. Come on, let’s go find out what Morgan’s thinking.”

Heyes knocked on the ranch house door and then stepped back to wait.

Mrs. Morgan opened the door. “Good morning, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones.”

“We’d like to speak to Mr. Morgan, ma’am, if he’s available,” Heyes requested.

She hesitated. “Let me check. Just a moment.” She closed the door without inviting them inside.

“This don’t look good, Heyes.”

“It’s okay; he’ll see us. He’ll want to hear our side,” Heyes said with confidence.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because he’s a fair man. Have some faith, Kid. You know I’m a good judge of character!”

“Character, maybe. Snake food, don’t think so!”

Just then the door opened to reveal Asa Morgan and Luther and Gideon Brown. The four trappers stared at each other in silence, none moving aside, and then the Brown brothers, Luther in the lead, pushed themselves between Heyes and Curry to descend the steps. Still without a word, they mounted their horses and rode off in a northerly direction.

Asa Morgan watched the whole scene with interest, then spoke to the two remaining men. “I’m glad you’re here. Come inside.”

In the parlor, Morgan waved Curry and Heyes to seats but didn’t offer them any food. He let them sit for a minute before he spoke again, quietly regarding them.

“I suppose you’re wondering if I’m going to fire you.”

Curry looked to Heyes, who half smiled. “That thought had crossed our minds.”

“Rest assured, boys. I’m not going to fire you. You’ve done good work for me and I still need you to help clear my land of rattlesnakes. I don’t think you had anything to do with Enoch getting hurt.”

“You must be the only one,” Curry muttered.

“Thank you, Mr. Morgan. We’re sorry Johnson got bit but we had nothing to do with that. We hope he recovers soon.” Heyes stood up. “We’ll get to work now.”

At the door, Morgan told them, “This’ll blow over, you’ll see. My wife likes you both and she’s never been wrong about a person. Just stay away from Gideon and Luther and things’ll be fine.”

“We sure do appreciate your confidence in us, Mr. Morgan,” Curry said.

Morgan smiled. “I’ll see you in town this evening. We’ll settle up then.”

* * *

They’d been working for several hours and had almost reached their quota, having caught six rattlers, which brought their total so far to thirty-eight snakes, when Curry spotted something moving in the distance. He patted Heyes’ arm to get his attention, and they looked at each other with concern when they could make out who was riding towards them.

“How’d they know where we were?” Heyes was not at all pleased to see the Brown brothers approaching.

“They’re trappers, Heyes; they tracked us.” Without even realizing it, Curry’s right hand dropped to his holster.

“What do you suppose they want?”

“Well, it ain’t a receipt for fried rattler they’re after, that’s for sure!”

Heyes grinned but sobered quickly. “Maybe they just want to talk.”

“Uh huh.” Curry rolled his eyes. “You go ahead and talk ‘em to death, Heyes, and I’ll be right behind you in case that don’t work.”

Scowling at his partner, Heyes turned and plastered a grin on his face as Gideon and Luther Brown stopped about fifteen feet away and dismounted. They stood there, side by side, but made no attempt to move closer.

“Howdy, boys! What can we do you for?” Heyes held up his canteen. “Need some water?”

“Need you to get outta town, Smith!” Luther called out.

“Now that’s more like the friendly townsfolk I’m used to,” Curry said, and Heyes barely smothered a laugh.

“Now why would we do that? We ain’t done nothing wrong!”

“Oh yeah? Enoch got bit because of you! He’s in a bad way because of you!”

“It wasn’t our fault, Luther. I don’t know how it happened but we’re not responsible. It could have been anyone’s snake that bit him. It’s just a coincidence that it was mine.” Heyes spoke in an even-tempered manner.

Gideon whispered to Luther and took his arm but Luther angrily shrugged him off.

Curry stiffened as Luther started walking in their direction.

“Wait, Kid.”

“I know.”

When Luther was five feet away, he shouted at them again. “If anything happens to Enoch, I’ll hunt you down and…”

“Luther!” Gideon interrupted him. He ran up to his brother. “Shut your mouth! If you threaten them, they can go complain to the sheriff. You don’t want that, do you?”

“He’s right, Luther,” Heyes called. “You don’t want us going to Sheriff Halsey and telling him what you just said.”

“I ain’t said nothin’ yet! You don’t scare me!” But Luther wouldn’t look Heyes in the eye.

Heyes’ demeanor subtly changed. When he spoke, it was in the voice of a man used to being obeyed. “Gideon, take your brother and go back to wherever you were working. My friend and I are going to forget about what he just said. But if anything should happen to us while we’re still in Glory, we’ll assume Luther was behind it and we’ll come looking for you.”

Gideon nodded gratefully. He looked at Curry, still standing with his hand just above the butt of his gun, eyes unwavering. “Come on, Luther, let’s go.” He practically dragged his brother back to their horses.

Curry watched them mount up and ride off. “Would we really go to the sheriff, Heyes?”

“I don’t know, Kid.” Heyes was thoughtful. “And I hope we don’t have to find out.”

* * *

“It’s five o’clock, Heyes. How many you got?”

“Enough for the bonus. I sure am glad we don’t have to come out here tomorrow!”

“You mean you don’t want to do this after we get the amnesty?” Kid shook his head sadly. “Just when you were gettin’ so good at it, too!”

Heyes grimaced. “I got other things I’d rather do than throw snakes into a sack all day long!”

“Really? Like what?” Kid asked with interest.

“Well, like…”

“And wasn’t it you who wanted this job in the first place?”

“Well, yeah, but…” Heyes stopped and waited for Curry to interrupt him again.

Curry obliged. “What’s the matter? Snake got your silver tongue?”

Heyes chuckled. “Come on, let’s get back to town and take care of business. We got a bonus coming to us!”

“And one more day of free food—don’t forget that, Heyes!”

“I don’t think my stomach will ever forget it! I’m about sick of the sight of rattlers, ain’t you?”

“Nope! Free food never makes me sick!”

“How charming,” said Heyes, as he finished tying his sack of snakes to his horse.

* * *

There was complete silence as Heyes and Curry waited in line at the weigh-in table. They both felt the change in atmosphere and anxiously looked at each other.

“Come with me, boys,” Sheriff Halsey ordered, as soon as they reached him at the front and gave him their sacks.

“Huh? Why?” Curry and Heyes asked, one after the other.

“You need to come with me,” the sheriff repeated. “Now.”

Communicating without a word, the two men acquiesced and followed Halsey to his office. Once inside, he locked the front door and then sat down behind his desk.

Heyes was nervous and could tell his partner was, too, though both hid it well. “What’s this all about, Sheriff?”

The hard stare that Halsey gave them began to bother Heyes. “Sheriff, what’s going on?” he asked again.

The lawman sighed deeply. “Enoch Johnson died this afternoon.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Heyes sympathized. “But what’s it got to do with us? I thought we’d already got things straight with you about that.”

The sheriff didn’t respond directly. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to lock you two up.”

“What? We haven’t had dinner yet!”

Heyes shot an annoyed look at his partner, who refused to back down.

“We have to vote in the cooking competition. How can we do that if we don’t eat the food? It’s the last night!”

“Thaddeus, we got a bigger problem than that.” Heyes addressed the lawman. “What’s the charge, Sheriff?”

“There is no charge. You didn’t let me finish,” he scolded them. “This is for your own good. I’m putting you in protective custody.”

Curry looked confused. “Huh?”

Halsey explained. “Enoch Johnson was well-liked in Glory. Everyone knew him and everyone knew he was real careful in handling rattlers. He always judged the round-up and nothing bad ever happened. Then you two come along and four days later, one of your snakes, Mr. Smith, bites him and he ends up dead. Now you tell me, how do you think the people in this town are going to feel about that? How are they going to feel about you?”

“Not real kindly,” Heyes conceded. “But like we told you before, we didn’t do anything. It’s not necessary to lock us up.”

“We can take care of ourselves,” Curry added.

The sheriff looked at the two men standing before him and then at their low-slung gun belts tied down. However, he said, “It may not be necessary but it is prudent. It’s my job to make sure nothing happens to you.”

“Then why don’t you just let us leave town?” Heyes asked.

Curry nodded his agreement with that idea.

“Can’t do that. Someone’ll just follow you and I can’t have you or them causing any trouble. Nope, surely you can see this is best?”

Halsey stood up, went over to the safe on the other side of the room and, shielding the knob with his left hand as he opened it, took out a set of keys. He walked over to the near cell and swung the door open. “Gentlemen.”

Heyes and Curry didn’t move.

The sheriff tried to reassure them. “Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s not like you’re criminals. I’ll let you out in the morning, when the townsfolk have had time to calm down." He smiled. "Now, if you really were criminals, then you’d have something to worry about!”

Curry and Heyes looked at each other, took deep breaths and entered the jail cell. The door clanged shut and the lawman returned the keys to the safe.

Curry called out to the sheriff. “Can we at least have something to eat?”

* * *

“What are we goin’ to do?” Curry lay on one of the cots with his hat over his face.

Heyes was pacing and didn’t stop as he answered. “You’re going to shut up and let me think!”

“Can you think a little faster? I don’t like bein’ in here.”

“Well, get used to it, ‘cos we staying here until the sheriff lets us out.”

“I AM used to it. That’s how I know I don’t like it!”

“Kid, how would it look if we escaped?” Heyes stopped pacing and faced his friend. “The sheriff might think we really did have something to hide, and he’d start looking into us a whole lot more than he has. You want that to happen?”

“No, but…” Curry stopped. He swung his legs onto the floor and started laughing. “It was real hard to keep a poker face when he said we weren’t criminals!”

“Yeah.” Heyes grinned. “If he only knew who he was protecting!”

“So what are we goin’ to do?”

Heyes sat down on the cot and sighed. “I don’t know. Wait and see, I guess.”

“That’s your plan? Heyes, you can come up with something better than that!”

Just then, there was a knock on the front door. Sheriff Halsey got up from his desk, where he’d been reading reports, and went to open it. Asa Morgan and his wife were there. Behind them was an angry crowd, led by Luther Brown.

“I have dinner for Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith,” said Mrs. Morgan, holding up a tray that was covered by a red-checked linen cloth.

“And I have business to settle with them,” added her husband.

“All right, come on in,” the sheriff responded.

The Morgans entered and Luther tried to follow. “Not you, Luther.” Halsey tried to close the door but Brown prevented him from doing that.

Heyes and Curry watched as their benefactors brought their meal inside, standing up as Mrs. Morgan passed them each a bowl filled with rattlesnake chili and a cup of coffee.

“Thank you, ma’am, sure do appreciate this,” Curry smiled and tipped his hat. Heyes echoed the sentiment and gesture. They sat on the cots and began to eat.

“We want justice!” Luther shouted, as he stood in the doorway. “They killed Enoch and they gotta pay!”

Sounds of agreement were heard from behind him. Several men, with Luther in the forefront, pushed themselves forward, muttering there was no way Enoch Johnson could’ve died accidentally and they knew it was the fault of Smith and Jones and they were goin’ to take care of them right now.

Asa Morgan cast a worried glance at the door. “Boys, I’m going to take Mrs. Morgan home now. Everyone knows you were working for me and it’s not safe in town. I’m sorry but we’ll have to settle up another time. Good night.” He quickly ushered his wife out the back door. Only the two men in the jail cell saw the withering look Mrs. Morgan gave her husband as she allowed herself to be escorted away.

The sheriff slowly and deliberately removed his weapon from his holster. He raised his arm, pointed the gun at the ceiling and cocked it. In the sudden silence that ensued, Halsey spoke. “That’s not how justice is served in this town and you all know it. Go home. Gideon, take your brother home and keep him there. I don’t want to see any of you,” he said firmly, ”Until tomorrow afternoon. Is that clear?”

There were a few shamefaced nods. Gideon took his brother by the arm and propelled him down the steps and away from the sheriff’s office. Once they were gone, the other men dispersed.

The sheriff holstered his gun and closed the door, locking it and double-checking that it was locked.

Shaken, Heyes and Curry sat in the jail cell, their meal forgotten.

Halsey returned to his two guests. “Still want to take your chances?” he inquired, with a lift of one eyebrow.

“No,” said Heyes, without looking at his partner. “No, I reckon we’ll stay here. But, Sheriff, what are you going to do about that mob? If Luther incites them again, there’s no telling what they might do.”

The sheriff nodded, then sighed. “I know. I’m going to have to investigate.” He went back to his desk and sat in his chair, thoughtfully contemplating.

“Well, you ain’t just goin’ to sit there and think about it, are you? You’re goin’ to go and talk to people, ain’t you?” Curry asked irritably.

“Mr. Jones, it’s late. People go to bed early in Glory. I’ll start first thing tomorrow morning. Besides,” the lawman said grimly, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to be stirring things up tonight, when Luther and Gideon might get word of it. Best to do it when they’re away working.”

Curry scowled. “That means we got to stay in here even longer, huh?”

“’Fraid so, but if it helps any, I’m staying here tonight as well.” The sheriff put his feet up on the desk and shifted in his chair. “I’ll be right here in case anything happens.”

“That’s a comfort,” Curry muttered sarcastically.

“Guess we might as well try and get some sleep, Thaddeus.” Heyes lay down on his cot.

* * *

About two hours later, the sound of snoring muffled the squeak of the cell door that was being slowly opened by Heyes. Curry closed the door behind them and they softly crept past the sleeping sheriff, picking up their gun belts from the desk before Heyes unlocked the front door, and then quietly walked outside.

“Now we leave, right, Heyes?”

“I already told you, Kid. We can’t leave.”

“Then what are we doin’ out here?”

“We’re getting answers.”

“You mean you do have a plan? Nice of you to share it with your partner, partner!”

“Calm, down, Kid. I only thought of it while you were sleeping.”

Curry looked expectantly at Heyes, who had just turned onto a side street and was waiting for his partner to follow. He stepped into the shadow of a tree and Curry joined him. “Well?”

“Kid, you remember how Mrs. Johnson was acting earlier, when we stopped by her table? She let Mrs. Morgan do all the talking and wouldn’t look at us.”

“She didn’t even give me a second helping! She always gave me seconds and I never even had to ask!”

“Right! So I think something happened, and we need to talk to her and find out what.”

Heyes resumed walking and when they reached a two-story clapboard building with white shutters and a flower garden in front, said, “That’s her house.”

“So…what now, Heyes? You goin’ to knock on the front door and just ask her why she’s actin’ strange-like all of a sudden? You really think wakin’ her up in the middle of the night is a good idea?”

The skepticism in Curry’s voice didn’t deter Heyes. “Yup. Being surprised will work to our advantage. She won’t have time to think of lying about what’s going on.”

Curry said no more as Heyes lifted the door knocker and let it fall back loudly. A short while later, they heard the sound of footsteps and then a voice asking who was there.

* * *

The sound of the front door being unlocked woke Heyes and Curry the next morning.

Heyes sat up and said, by way of greeting him, “How about some coffee, Sheriff?”

“Oh, good morning. I didn’t want to wake you.” He filled two cups from the pot on the stove and brought them back to Heyes and Curry in their cell. “I was just on my way out to talk to people.”

“We’ll be waiting right here when you get back!”

Curry looked at his partner with annoyance. Heyes grinned back wryly.

Not catching the look between them, the sheriff continued, “I’ll try not to be too long. I can imagine how honest folk like you feel about being in jail.”

“One night is more than enough!” Curry said emphatically.

Heyes added, “It’s definitely not our favorite place, Sheriff. We wouldn’t want to spend twenty years behind bars, that’s for sure.”

“Oh, I don’t think it’ll take me that long to get some answers, boys. You just try and relax until I get back.” Halsey smiled at them and then went out to do his job.

* * *

“What if she won’t talk to him, Heyes?” Curry was sitting disconsolately on his cot.

Heyes shrugged. “Halsey’s maybe not the smartest sheriff around but he’s not stupid. He’ll be able to find out what happened.”

“Maybe we should telegraph Lom. He can tell the sheriff we had nothin’ to do with it,” Curry said. “Or, I got a better idea! We ain’t too far away from Red Rock. We can tell him Big Mac’s a friend of ours. Mac’ll back us up.”

“And that’s why I do the thinking, remember? I don’t want Halsey thinking we had anything to do with it. And I certainly don’t want to use Mac’s name; no telling what he’ll want from us in return. You want to owe Mac a favor?” Heyes laughed at Curry’s frown. “I’d like to leave Lom out of it, too, if we can. Besides, if we leave now, we won’t get the money Morgan owes us. You did think of that, didn’t you?”

Curry gave in. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. Sure hope Halsey comes back by lunchtime, though.”

“On that, at least, I agree with you, Kid.”

* * *

An hour or so short of noon Halsey returned, grim-faced. Curry and Heyes looked at each other, concern reflected on both their faces.

“Sheriff…?”

Halsey approached them. “You’re in the clear, Mr. Smith. Both of you.” He unlocked the door and the two men hastily and with obvious relief exited the jail cell.

“So you found out what happened?” Heyes pressed.

The sheriff sat down heavily in his chair and when he looked up, Heyes was surprised to see sadness on his face.

“You goin’ to tell us or should we guess?” Curry asked impatiently.

“Thaddeus,” Heyes cautioned him. “I don’t think we’re going to like this, are we, Sheriff?”

“No, but it’s nothing to do with you. Sit yourselves down and I’ll fill you in.”

Heyes and Curry complied but the sheriff just sat there, making no effort to begin his explanation.

After waiting a couple minutes, Heyes prodded him again. “Sheriff…?”

The lawman focused his eyes on the men in front of him. “Sorry. It’s not a nice story. I don’t know how the town’s going to get over this.” He sat silently as if gathering his thoughts and then related what he had learned.

“I went out to the Morgan place first, just to make sure they got home all right, which they had. Mrs. Morgan told me something interesting while I was there. She said she and Edna Johnson, that’s Enoch’s widow, usually shared a table for their entries for the cooking competition. Well, Mrs. Morgan said that Mrs. Johnson seemed real flustered after the round-up began. She, Mrs. Morgan that is, asked her if anything was wrong but Mrs. Johnson wouldn’t say. So I decided to go have a little talk with Mrs. Johnson. At first, she refused to see me; said she was still too upset about Enoch’s passing. I told her we all were but there were some things that I had to clear up and she was the only one who could help with that. So finally she let me in and I got her talking.” Sheriff Halsey paused to catch his breath.

“Go on,” Heyes prompted.

“Mrs. Johnson told me that Enoch got real upset the third day of the round-up. He wouldn’t say what the matter was but she knew something was wrong. He refused to tell her what was going on. Late that night, she heard voices in the parlor and listened at the door. She couldn’t hear what they said, but she recognized Gideon Brown’s voice. When she asked Enoch the next day what Gideon wanted, Mrs. Johnson said Enoch lied and asked her what she was talking about, that no one had been there. She told him she’d heard them arguing. At that point, Enoch confessed.”

“Confessed?” Curry repeated.

“To what?” Heyes asked, getting the sheriff to repeat what Mrs. Johnson had told him and Curry only a few hours earlier.

“Enoch told her… He told her that Gideon had offered him money to make sure he won the competition for who caught the longest rattlesnake.” The sheriff sighed deeply. “Mrs. Johnson said her husband told her he took the money. He said there was no reason not to because it was a sure thing that either Luther or Gideon would come in first anyway.”

“Where’s Gideon Brown now?” Curry asked.

“I’d like to know if Luther knew what his brother was doing,” Heyes mused. “He sure was riled up against us. Maybe he knew and was protecting Gideon by trying to make us look guilty.”

“I went back to Morgan’s ranch and told him I needed to talk to Gideon and Luther Brown. He sent some men to find them and they finally did. That’s what took me so long getting back here,” he apologized. “Anyway, I talked to them and Gideon told me it was all his idea; his brother didn’t know what he’d been up to. From the look on Luther’s face, I’d say that was the truth.”

Heyes was curious. “Did Gideon say why he offered Johnson a bribe?”

“Luther was real angry and asked him. Gideon said he wanted to make sure they won this year, that he was tired of coming in second and felt they deserved to be first. But then you two came along and he knew, Gideon said, that you were a threat.”

“How could we be a threat?” Curry asked. “We never even trapped rattlers before.”

“Yeah, well, it seems the Brown brothers watched you the second day. After they saw you watching them the first day.” The sheriff noted the sheepish look Curry and Heyes exchanged. “I guess what they saw made them think you might take away their chance for first prize. So the next day Gideon decided to remind Enoch that he had taken his money and to make sure he or his brother came in first.”

“But then Enoch Johnson changed his mind. Did Gideon say why?” Heyes continued to lead the sheriff towards the conclusion that would completely clear him and Curry.

“Gideon said Enoch told him he’d lived all his life in Glory and the round-up was real important to the town. He said Enoch mumbled something about how he didn’t want to dishonor the reputation of the round-up, that if he did what Gideon wanted, he’d bring shame to his family and the town and he couldn’t let that happen. Gideon said Enoch seemed real agitated.”

Curry brought the discussion back to the crucial issue. “So what really happened to him, Sheriff?”

“Gideon swore he didn’t do anything…” The lawman nodded as Heyes snorted. “I know; he was the cause of it. It’s just speculation, but I’m guessing that when Enoch measured your snake and knew it was bigger than Gideon or Luther’s, he couldn’t lie about it in front of everyone who was watching. He probably figured someone would see his mistake and call him on it. So he let himself get bit instead. Maybe he thought that was the only honorable thing he could do.”

“But all he had to do was say Gideon was cheating by offering him money,” Curry said in a shocked voice.

“It wouldn’t have worked,” Heyes said regretfully. “Gideon would insist that Enoch took the money, and tell people to look for it. Eventually, they’d find it. And then they’d know Gideon was telling the truth.”

“Where are Gideon and Luther now?” Curry asked again.

“I’ve got them under guard at the Morgan ranch. Luther was fit to strangle Gideon, took a while to calm him down. You know how he is,” Halsey said with a flash of humor. “I’m going back to the Johnson house to look for the money and then I’m going to bring in the Brown brothers. When this gets out, the town is going to be in an uproar. Your horses are out back and I sent a deputy to your hotel room for your things. You’d best leave now, before I get back.”

“Uh, well…” Curry hesitated and gestured vaguely.

“It’s like this, Sheriff,” Heyes took over. “Last night, Mr. Morgan was so concerned about his wife that he didn’t pay us what he owes us.”

“We really don’t want to leave town without it,” Curry said.

“I’m sorry, boys, I plumb forgot!” Halsey took out a wad of money and handed it to Heyes. “Asa Morgan said to give this to you.”

Heyes counted it, then smiled. “This is what he owes us, yes. But what about the prize for the round-up? I did win, after all. My snake was the longest, right?”

The sheriff looked uncomfortable. “Well, it’s like this. The way I figure it, people’ll still blame you for what happened to Enoch. Oh, they’ll blame Gideon more, but if you hadn’t caught that snake, Mr. Smith, none of this would’ve happened.”

“That’s not fair and you know it!” Curry defended his partner.

The lawman smiled sadly. Heyes said, “He does know it. But like Luther said, we’re strangers here. It’s time to go, Thaddeus.”

“Wait a minute, Joshua.” Curry turned back to Halsey. “Who won the cooking contest?”

Heyes laughed and the sheriff looked surprised. “You know, what with everything else going on, I forgot to ask!”

* * *

As they rode out of town, Curry saw a sign in the window of the mercantile. He halted his horse for a closer look.

“What is it, Kid?”

“The results of the cooking competition. And a list of all the ingredients that can be bought at the store so people can cook the food themselves.”

Heyes heard a strange note in his friend’s voice. “What’s the matter? Your choice didn’t win?”

“No, that’s not it. Take a look.” He moved away so Heyes could read the results.

“Well, that’s real nice, don’t you think, Kid?” He added cynically, “I’m sure he’s selling all those ingredients at inflated prices!”

“Yeah. It says it was Mrs. Morgan’s idea to donate their prize money to Mrs. Johnson, that she got the ladies who came in second and third to agree to do it, too.”

“So what’s bothering you?”

“The women gave their winnings to Mrs. Johnson, and her husband was guilty. But the men, the sheriff anyway, wouldn’t give you your prize money, Heyes, and you were innocent.”

Heyes shrugged, acknowledging the point. “At least he let us leave. Anyway, we still have all the gear. We’ll sell it in the next town, get some of our money back.” He smiled wickedly. “And you owe me a month’s worth of clean bath water, remember?”

“I do not! I caught more snakes than you, Heyes, and you know it!”

“No, I don’t think you did, Kid.”

“You ain’t countin’ that fake snake are you?”

“Well, I…”

The partners were still arguing good-naturedly when they reached the town boundary and spurred their horses to a gallop, leaving Glory behind them.


<><><><><>====================================O

Bonus Features

This story was inspired by an article in The New York Times newspaper:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/07/sports/othersports/07snakes.html?sq=rattlesnake%20roundup&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=all




Rattlesnake Recipes from the Episode


Rattlesnake Chili
1 large onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can chili beans
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 lb. rattlesnake meat
juice from 1/2 lemon

Simmer rattlesnake in water and lemon juice for 1 hour, remove and separate meat from bones. Combine de-boned meat with the rest of the ingredients in a crockpot and slow-cook for 6-8 hours, or bring to boil in large cooking pot and simmer for 2 hours.

(From: http://www.rattlesnakerecipe.us/recipes.htm; retrieved 12/05/09)


Rattlesnake Stew
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bag baby carrots
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 white potatoes, chopped
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 15 oz. can whole tomatoes, punctured
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. thyme
1 can beef broth
2 tbsp. corn starch or flour
1 tsp. ketchup
1 tsp. steak sauce
2 lb. rattlesnake meat
juice from 1/2 lemon

Simmer rattlesnake in water and lemon juice for 1 hour, remove and separate meat from bones. Combine de-boned meat with the rest of the ingredients in a crockpot and slow-cook for 6-8 hours, or bring to boil in large cooking pot and simmer for 2 hours.

(From: http://www.rattlesnakerecipe.us/recipes.htm; retrieved 12/05/09)


Rattlesnake Cilantro Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, mince
6 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, minced
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. black pepper
3 bay leaves
3 cans chicken broth
4 cups water
1 cup rice
2 lb. rattlesnake meat
juice from 1/2 lemon

Simmer rattlesnake in water and lemon juice for 1 hour, remove and separate meat from bones. Combine de-boned meat with the rest of the ingredients except for rice in a crockpot and slow-cook for 6-8 hours, or bring to boil in large cooking pot and simmer for 2 hours. Add rice in last 3 hours of slow cooker or last 45 minutes of stove pot.

(From: http://www.rattlesnakerecipe.us/recipes.htm; retrieved 12/05/09)


Roasted Rattlesnake
Cut snake into 2 inch pieces. Place pieces on a skewer and roast over glowing coals, keeping the skewer constantly turning. When the meat quits sizzling, it is done.

(From: http://www.rattlesnakerecipe.us/recipes.htm; retrieved 12/05/09)


Baked Rattlesnake
1 large rattlesnake, cleaned
1 qt. water
Dash of tarragon
4 tbsp. salt
Dash of thyme
1/8 tsp. paprika
Oil
1 cup flour

Soak rattlesnake carcass for 2 hours in salt water. Rinse and dry meat well. Cut meat into chunks to fry. Coat each piece with mixture of flour, paprika, pepper, tarragon, and thyme. Fry chunks of prepared rattler in oil until golden brown.

(From: http://www.huntingsociety.org/rat2a.html; retrieved 12/05/09)


Rattlesnake and Beans
3 lbs. dry kidney or pinto beans, cooked OR 64 oz. canned beans
30 oz. stewed tomatoes, undrained
4 oz. canned diced japapenos, more or less to taste
1 large red onion, cut in chunks
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 ds. salt
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
½ lb. rattlesnake meat, in bite-sized pieces (can substitute quail, dove, chicken, rabbit, or pork)
browned broken tortilla chips, optional

Put cooked beans into large pot, add tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, salt, garlic, ground beef and rattlesnake (or other meat). Simmer 10 minutes to heat thoroughly. For chili pie put some broken tortilla chips in bottom of bowl and spoon beans over chips. Posted by Pamela Newton (VKBB14A) who said it came from the Phoenix Gazette by Dale Keyrouse).

(From: http://www.recipes.name/Beans_and_Grains/Recipe/Rattlesnake_and_Beans.htm; retrieved 12/05/09)


Recipe for Railroad Cake

Railroad Cake
One cup of sugar, one half of milk, one and a half of flour, two tablespoonfuls of butter, two eggs, one teaspoonful of cream of tartar, and one half of saleratus (ie, baking soda). Flavor with lemon, and bake in thin sheets. Put together as directed for plain cup cake (see below).

Plain Cup Cake
Half a cup of butter, one of sugar, three of flour, one of milk, three eggs, one teaspoonful of saleratus, two of cream of tartar, and lemon or nutmeg to taste. Beat the butter light, then add the sugar gradually, beating all the time until it is a cream, and then add the eggs, have been beaten light, and the milk; mix all these well together, and then stir in the flour, in which the saleratus and cream of tartar have been mixed. Flavor and bake either in loaves or sheets; when done, the place on top where it has cracked open will look well done. If baked in loaves, it will take forty minutes; in sheets, twenty. This quantity will make two small loaves.

(From: The Appledore Cook Book, by Miss Maria Parloa. 1881. Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books.)
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