Vaquero de Alta California
- Jan 20, 2018
- Reaction score
It's the first day of summer and the sun's been up for hours already, but still a rooster crows over on the east side of town, like as not from a small farm plot attached to a house 'round back of Sour Lemmon's livery stable. A newly arrived stagecoach kicks up dust as it pulls up in front of the Wells Fargo at the north end of town. Across the way, a couple of Mexican kids are grooming horses at Lemmon's place while Sour himself stands in the stable doorway and squints to see who the new arrivals are, on the lookout in particular for womenfolk, pretty or otherwise.
Marshal Bud Clary sits on a stool out front of his office, his hat slung down over his eyes to block the hot eastern sun as he chews on a straw and sporadically listens to Doc Haney drone on about some particular medical condition or other. Doc Haney sips at a flask that he swears contains a medicinal concoction but everybody else knows is just sour mash whiskey.
Townsfolk head into the Wagon Wheel General Store to acquire their goods and sundries and odds and ends from Lonnie Parsons or his wife Sarah, on credit if they're of a known character, cash on the barrel head otherwise. That latter applies to you and your trail compadres.
Grizzled old prospector Cougar Rydell walks alongside a stone-boat pulled by his mule. Whatever he's got on the stone-boat is covered by a moth-eaten old Confederate Army blanket, but he seems a mite troubled by suspicion as he glances around furtively before dragging to a stop out front of the assayer's office.
They say Gin Blossom Jenkins used to be a hand before he took to drink, but now he just loafs about on the boardwalk in front of the Yellow Rose Saloon, clumsily plaiting rawhide to make a riata he'll like as not never use but for to trade away for drinkin' money. You've heard that he makes up for his lack of dexterity by way of sheer tenacity, the result being that his finished products are among the best lassos you'll ever see.
Each of you, together or separately, for reasons of your own, is at the Yellow Rose Saloon, which everybody knows isn't just a place to belt a few beers but is also a clearinghouse for information and a place to do business. The big stir in town this morning is that someone killed Cookie McCabe, the cook up at Big Jim Wayne's Big J Ranch. Tied up at the hitching post out front of the saloon are a half-dozen horses wearing the J-Bar brand, as well as some from the Double A, the Circle Star, and the Lazy K. The bar at the Yellow Rose Saloon runs across two-thirds of the north end of the room, just inside from the bat-wing entrance doors. Aside from the bar, there are about a dozen tables and a piano on the east side of the room which no one is presently playing and bears up under a thick layer of dust that may just mean no one has ever played it. Whether it's in tune, who knows. Up at the bar the riders of the J-Bar brand are having a powwow and looking a mite fierce and quick to anger. Nobody expects Marshal Clary will do much about the killin'. Hands from the other ranches don't seem to give a tinker's dam. Over in a corner near the door a couple of gussied-up waitresses, pretty little Mexican gals, murmur about the upcoming 4th of July celebration and speculate as to whether there'll be music and dancin'.
One of the hands from the Big J, a balding, broad-faced galoot, already half-drunk, approaches your table and announces in a general way, "If'n any o' you boys knows how t' cook up good vittles, we's a-hirin' up at the Big J. Somebody done up and kilt Cookie McCabe. Can't say as I blame 'em--haw! haw! haw!--as Cookie never done much but give me the runs. Any o' you huntin' work?"