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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Sidewinder - 5. Chapter 5 Straight Shootin'

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.


Straight Shootin'



Boone blew out a long breath as they walked away from the Sheriff Willard’s office, chuckling when Coy did the same. Neither spoke as they hopped off the boardwalk and approached their horses. A few townsfolk were eyeing them curiously, as they would anyone seen coming from the jail. Not much got past the residents of Red Bluff. Boone returned the gunny sack to one of Coy’s saddlebags, and then quickly mounted his own red-roan Appaloosa.

Coy was on his mare just as fast. “Let’s get the heck out of here,” he muttered, reining Mouse out into the street.

“What about supplies?”

“Got enough for a few days, I reckon, and I’m sweating worse than a team of stagecoach horses. Don’t feel like getting stared at any longer than I have to.”

“Don’t care for it either... suspect word will travel fast,” Boone said as he noticed more turned heads. “Sheriff’s place is this way.”

There was no more conversation as they rode past the town buildings and headed up a small rise to the west. The house, off by itself, was stick-built like all the other buildings in town, with a good-sized fenced field behind it. The familiar horses could be seen from a distance away, and of course Blue’s big, white ears stood out like a fox trying to hide in a chicken coop.

The lawman sure had a good view of the town from his front door, and Boone figured it was why he didn’t miss much. He had clear sights on anyone coming or going, from either end. The house was small, but looked cared for, with an old rocking chair and two others sitting on the covered front porch. They rode past it, and the well, on the way to the back paddock. A small barn inside the fence, with doors open at both ends, provided good shade for the animals, and the water trough near the gate was mostly full.

“I was worried he was going to throw you in jail.”

Boone gave a nod, followed by a relieved snort as he dismounted. “He weren’t too happy I took my time coming in… but I think he understood my reasons.”

“I don’t know the law the way he does, but I sure wasn’t expecting anything like what happened back there. I reckon he tried to trap us with asking if we found the gold in Will’s tent afore he told us he’d already gone through it… and he searched ours to boot!”

“Yep, he’s a cagey one… but we should be glad he went in ours. That ways, he saw no reason to think we could be lying.”

“Maybe so, but I was plenty scared at the way he stared at us. I’m still shook up, truth be told, and I’m not sure about the gold. It feels like some kind of trap.” Coy leaned back and swung his right leg over the saddle horn in one of those typically agile moves he made look easy. Sliding to the ground, he was already facing Boone, and his distress was plain to see.

Turning his brother in had surely been hard on him, dead or not, and Boone tried to give his friend ease. “It’s not a trap, Coy, and I’m as sure of that as anything. Sheriff Willard said it’s what Wes and Lee would want, and I believe he’s seeing it right—after I thought about it some—and that’s why he told us to take it. He’s got three killings solved so there’s nothing more to be gained, and he’s a man who has things figured out in advance.”

“What do you mean? He didn’t even know we were coming.”

“Maybe… maybe not, but he’s quick to see the truth of things, and he sure as heck knew we had something to tell before we even got there… you heard him yourself. We’re good folk, and he knew that too.”

“But he hardly knows us at all! My brother was a troublemaker every time he went to town… and a lowdown, back-shooting murderer to boot.”

Boone felt bad for the pain in Coy’s voice. “But he trusted Wes and Lee’s opinion of us, and you are not Will, not by a long shot, and he can tell that with his own eyes. Heck, anyone can tell that. He’s seen you around enough, and he don’t miss much. You did the right thing.”

“Only because you talked me into it.”

“Not true at all. It was your decision, if you recall. I left it to you to turn around and go back to camp.”

“Only since you knew I couldn’t do that.”


Coy frowned, but it cleared quickly, and Boone saw a small twitch in one corner of his mouth. “So, you’re really fine with taking the gold they got shot dead for?”

Boone took a few seconds to wrap Daisy’s reins around the hitching post before answering. “I understand it’s hard to feel right about taking the gold… it is for me too, but what Sheriff Willard said made a lot of sense. It’s not tainted gold… it’s just gold. Will ruined a lot of things, hurt a lot of people, but that gold he stole was mined over years by hardworking, decent men who were our friends… the sheriff’s too… and I feel like they were the ones to decide who gets it. He was just their messenger.

“So, yep, I’m okay with it. I’d have been okay with leaving it right there on the desk too, but the sheriff didn’t see it that way. I don’t know, but maybe he saw it as improper for a lawman to keep the gold, even if they were his friends. We never stole it, Coy. It was given to us by a man who knew Wes and Lee even better than we did. And we need to honor those two.”

Coy sighed, and it was tough to tell the reason for it.

“What are you thinking?”

“Ah… mostly about my brother shooting another old man in the back. He wasn’t just a killer… he was a coward.”

Boone nodded, understanding the weight his friend was feeling. “You ain’t responsible for what he done. Only Will is, and he reaped what he sowed in the end. He’s not spending that trading post fellow’s money, and he’s got no chance to drink away our friends’ life savings. At least some good won out.”

“Not for Dan, it didn’t. Sounds like he talked to Wes and Lee a lot about you. About his caring for you.”

“I suspect he did.” He waited to see what else Coy would say, but the man turned away and wrapped Mouse’s reins next to Daisy’s.

“I’ll get the mare, and you can get Blue, seeing as how he likes you.” He turned his head back Boone’s way and smiled for the first time since they’d rode out of camp.

“Well, he does. We have an understanding ever since I rode him up the high trail.”

“You really think so?” Coy’s smile grew a little bit bigger. “I guess we’ll see about that.”


It took them a frustrating amount of time and a lot of circling before they could lead Blue away from his old pal. Boone figured he was feeling the loss of his owners and wasn’t liking all the changes. He was patient as he coaxed the animal farther and farther from the pen. What made it tougher, though, was Coy’s amusement… even though he truly enjoyed seeing him in better spirits. The laughing man’s presence behind the mule ended up serving no purpose. Blue moved when he wanted to, and didn’t care who was prodding him. The day was blistering hot, and Boone was about ready to give it a rest when the mule suddenly decided to cooperate. He up and followed Boone’s horse with ears forward while Coy led Lee’s mare.

“Looks like he’s made his choice. Probably cottoned on to us going back to camp. Still think he likes you?” Coy asked with a smirk.

“Not as much as he cares for the paint. He’s not used to so much change, but he knows he’s ours now.”

“Yours, and does he?”

“Sure hope so.” Boone smiled and then laughed. “To tell you the truth, I enjoyed that. I like working with animals.”

Coy nodded thoughtfully. “Better than panning, right?”

Boone held back a groan. Looked like the conversation he’d been dreading was going to happen. “I’m done with panning, Coy.”

“I know.”

“It’s not to do with the sheriff’s advice. My decision was already made.”

“I figured, but I thought Will’s death might change the set of your mind.”

“This isn’t about Will, not anymore.”


“Not him either, but… there are possibilities out there for someone like me, at least I got to hope there are.”

“Possibilities,” Coy muttered. “So your plans, they don’t include me… do they?”

“I don’t see how they can. For one thing, I want to farm, and you don’t.”

“I like farming.”

“No you don’t.”

“Sure I do. We could go back to my ma’s place. I guess it’s all mine now. We could get it going again.”

“Coy… that land is useless. It’s too dry there, and the land is worn out, and more of the dirt blows away every year. I don’t think anyone could make that farm work… not for very long, and I doubt you could find someone who’d pay you any money for it. All those farms around there were deserted long ago… and you couldn’t wait to leave after your ma was gone.”

“Another place then. We have enough gold to buy a couple of farms.”

“And that’s what we should do. Each of us buy the place we want.”

“Separate like?”

Boone nodded, his stomach dropping at the admittance. “We want different things… and you’ll always be the best friend I could have….”

“But you want someone made like you… someone who has it all figured out.”

“I get lonely, Coy. Don’t you get lonely?”

“No!” he answered strong enough it startled Boone, but then he softened his voice. “I don’t get to feeling lonely because I’ve always had you.”

“Don’t you want something more? Something more than going to Miss Patty’s.”

“Miss Patty’s? What’d you bring that place up for? I only went to Miss Patty’s two times, and only because Will drug me there.”

“But you partook, because that’s how you’re made. There’s no Miss Patty’s for someone like me.”

“No, I suppose there isn’t, but you can’t say how I’m made, Boone. I kissed you, didn’t I?”

“And then broke my nose and ran off, not once looking me in the eye for days and days.”

“I told you—”

“Don’t. You can’t be something you’re not… Lord knows I understand that. Somewhere, there’s a pretty girl waiting for you. You got the means to build a life that isn’t grimy and harsh… and you deserve something better.”

“There you go planning my life out for me.”

“Sorry… you’re a growed man, and a good one. Do whatever you want. I got to do what’s right for me, and it ain’t got nothing to do with gold, broken nose, or Will.”

“Or Dan?”

Why was he bringing Dan up so much? Boone sighed to himself. “No, not Dan either. You heard the sheriff. Dan had the fever, and I’m done with this life.”

“So what are you fixing to do?”

“I reckon I’m going to Larkspur, and I’m going to look for a piece of land that makes me feel like I’m home.”

“Larkspur? Where’s Larkspur, and what do you know about a place I ain’t never heard of?”

Boone felt the slap of the disappointment that rode across Coy’s face, but pushed ahead and told him what he’d heard while waiting for supplies. He was relieved to finally say his plans out loud. Coy’s expression became unreadable, but he listened until Boone finished talking.


“Yep, snow. I don’t know how much or how often, but winter isn’t like around here. The land’s higher up, and there’s plenty of water, what with rivers, lakes, and streams… and… and springs that bubble up out of the land. I at the least have to go see for myself. It’ll be hard work to clear land, and I can’t say I’ve done much of it, but I’m willing to give it a try.”

“Four weeks or more of solid riding… all by yourself, and you don’t want me to come with you? That must be, what? Nine hundred miles?”

“The man talking said it was maybe twelve hundred.”

“Twelve hundred miles? You can’t do that in a month!”

“I said about a month.”

“Still, that’s about forty miles a day through territory you don’t know.”

“I’m not going to push too hard, Coy, but I reckon if the going’s good I can do thirty-five if I ride from sunup to sundown. You know Daisy’s got good stamina.”

“That’s still a lot in a day, and she isn’t as fit as she was when she was working cattle.”

“I know, and if I have to slow up, I will. It’ll take as long as it takes.”

“What if something happens? You’ll be out there alone, and you know traveling can be dangerous.”

“I’ll be fine. Don’t imagine there’s too much to worry about so far north of the railroad, but the town’s big enough to have a bank, and that means a telegraph line most likely, and probably a stagecoach. We can keep in touch, and if you ever need me—”

“That’s a mite farther than a ride to Red Bluff,” Coy said with clear bitterness.

“It is, but that’s what I want. I never want to put up with dust again. Don’t like the feel of it, or the taste of it. What about you? You staying put?”

Coy made a scoffing sound. “Nothing for me here. Got no desire to pan anymore.”

“You sure?”

“Yep. Wouldn’t have said it if’n I wasn’t. I don’t have the fever either, and I knew it the first year we were here. Only reason I mined was because we was both doing it. I… I really believed you and me was going to buy a place together, like we always said.”

“So did I.”

“But now you don’t want to.”

“It’s not I don’t want to, but if we do that, I’m still going to be lonely.”

“I’ll make sure you’re not, Boone, I—”

“Coy, don’t! Let’s not do this again. No sense tying each other down… I know you don’t understand that, but I haven’t been of a good mind for a long time. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to go up like a stick of dynamite, and other times I feel so hopeless I don’t even want to get out of my bedroll, and I have to think some before I can recollect what I did the day before… cause they’re all the same.”

Coy’s eyebrows rose for a few seconds, and his head moved back as if he’d been slapped. “First I’m hearing this. Why didn’t you say something?”

“Weren’t no one’s concern but mine.”

Coy opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out before he closed it again, but Boone saw the hurt his words had caused before his friend turned away, clucking Mouse and Lee’s mare forward. They were soon loping well ahead of him, and he let the full weight of his guilt settle.

He shouldn’t have snapped at him that way… or gone as far in speaking his thoughts. Boone understood why Coy thought he was deserting him, because it kind of felt that way to him too. He continued walking to give his friend some time and space, miserable as hell, but relieved it was done.

Blue, though, up and decided he didn’t like being left behind and tried to bolt. Boone had a bit of a fight on his hands before the mule eventually unpinned his ears and eased up. “We got us some traveling to do, you old cuss, so you better start listening to me.” Blue had to get used to not having his friend around, and so did he.

As he got back to camp, he took a good look around. The horses were hobbled, but Coy was nowhere to be seen. He took care of his own stock and checked the tent before walking down to the river. Coy had said he was done panning, but Boone checked the shorelines anyway. Knowing the man had gone off to deal with the hurt he’d dealt him, Boone busied himself around camp, building a fire and putting together a stew of soaked pinto beans, crumbled dried beef, salt pork, fresh cattail roots, the last of their carrots, and a few wild leeks. He hung his trusty Dutch oven on the spit, well above the flames, before taking a walk, wondering if he should search out his friend.

He ended up back at the river, and peered across. His gut was telling him Coy would be sitting up there on the ridge, where the breeze was stronger, and the sounds of the river less. Hesitating, he looked back around camp, uncertain of whether to give the man his space.

A few minutes later he removed his boots and socks and waded across. Putting them back on, he worked his way through the brush while keeping an eye out for snakes in the loose rocky soil. When he broke through, he looked up to see Coy sitting against the tree that Will’s hidey hole had been under. His eyes were closed, but Boone was certain he’d heard his approach.

Once he got close enough, he spoke. “I got some supper on… the bean stew you like.”

The man’s eyes remained closed. “And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance for me.’”


Coy sighed, but kept his eyes closed. “Luke twenty-two, verse nineteen. My ma used to say it when we sat down to eat before one of us went off somewhere for a time… it’s about The Last Supper.”

“Oh, right. I could never keep all those sermons straight, but I think I remember that one.”

“They weren’t sermons, Boone, they were prayers. Ma said prayers the whole day long.”

“Sorry… that’s what I meant. You up here thinking about her?”

“Thinking about my family… about being the last Diamond still drawing breath.”

“I’m sorry, Coy.”

“Stop saying that!” His eyes finally opened, and the pain in them made Boone stop all movement. “Sorry don’t mean nothing. Everyone I’ve ever cared about is gone. My pa, Ethan, Duke and Ben, Ma, Will….”

“And now me?”

“Yes,” he whispered fiercely. “And you… you’re going your own way, and I’ve got to… I got some figuring to do.”

“I’m sor”—Boone caught himself—“anything I can do to help? We can talk about it, if’n—”

“No! No, I’ll do my figuring at the old farm.”

“You’re going back there? You going to try to farm it again after what we talked about earlier?”

“I need someplace to go, don’t I? I grew up there… you might think it’s a worthless piece of land, but my pa had a successful farm before he died.”

“I didn’t say it was worthless.”

“You said the land was useless.”

“Because the land has eroded from all the dust storms, and the floods, and there’s not a lot of water for most of the year, but that’s stuff you already know and we’ve already talked about.”

“Same thing as worthless, isn’t it?” he asked stubbornly.

“You’re right, and I shouldn’t have said it. I just don’t want—”

“Yep, I know… you’re looking after me cause it’s what you do. Stop worrying for me, Boone. Maybe I’ll just visit the family graves… tell them what happened to Will and where he’s buried, and then move on. Place is likely falling down now anyways.”

He looked so defeated, Boone wished he could take him in his arms and hold him. “If… maybe… if’n you want to come with me to Larkspur, we could….”

Cot sat up straighter. “You saying you’d still want us to get some land together?”

“Well, I’m thinking we could get land closer to one another… like we talked about, if you really want to farm? It’d be a mite easier to stay in touch.”

“Oh… I see… closer, but you don’t want to farm with me. I ain’t no dog you can throw a bone to. Don’t need your pity.”

“It’s not pity.”

“Isn’t it? I can look after myself, and you’ve already said I’ve been standing in your way, so I got no intention of doing so any longer.”

“I know you can look after yourself. And you ain’t been standing in my way. I just meant—”

“I know what you meant... you were pretty clear on not tying each other down." Coy took in a deep breath before blowing it out. When he spoke again, much of the raw emotion was gone from his voice. "You've been looking out for me a long time, but you can stop now. Just… could you leave me be? I want to sit here by myself a spell.”

Boone could have kicked his own rear for getting his friend’s hopes up just now… and for saying what he did about the Diamond farm. He’d sure done enough putting his foot in his mouth for one day. “Sure… I understand. Supper will be ready soon.” He waited for a response, but there was none. Coy’s eyes were closed again. Feeling as lost as Coy appeared to be, he turned and walked away, growing regret making him question everything he was doing.



Thanks for reading this story. Please share your thoughts, good or bad, long or short, or just an emoji. Comments and acknowledgements keep me motivated. :)  As well, thank you to my editor, Timothy M., for his hard work.
Copyright © 2020 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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20 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

see now i had forgotten all about that cavernous manhole. Now you got to bring back memories of his man stealing ass. Shame on you!!!

Ooops. My bad. I thought you might have missed the poor misunderstood fellow. :D  

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