The Lessons of the Gun

Inspired by News From Poughkeepsie – Day 117

Bobby Joe believed in The Gun. He had met other Marshals, men and women who appeared pious, but who threw aside the Lessons of The Gun as it suited them. To them, wielding the gun was about power. To Bobby Joe, however, it was about salvation. Out here in the Wild, it had to be.

Bobby Joe said a prayer for every bullet as he loaded his weapon. He thought about about the two marauder gangs outside his door, ready for war. He though about the town they were about to tear apart as scratched at each other. And he thought about the Lessons of The Gun.

“This about salvation,” he said, walking into the streets. “This is about salvation…”

Preacher looked out the window of the Constantinople and swore under his breath. That fool kid was going to mess with the wrong people one day and get his head shot clean off. Today wouldn’t be the day if he had anything to say about it though. His fingers checked to ensure that all of the Elements were present.

The hardware was all old so he still carried percussion caps, loose powder, and lead balls. While he didn’t hold with some of his brethren that the new cartridges and double action revolvers were sacrilege there was something to be said for the old ways. Loading the gun was meditative and allowed him to recite the Prayer.

“The Gun is is my Protector, I shall not Fear. It makes the crooked path straight and levels the field. It rights wrongs and commands respect. Yeah though I walk through the valley of darkness I will not quaver. Its metal and its fire will save me. I shall not use The Gun to wrong others and will protect and avenge those wronged. Surely Justice and Respect will follow us so long as we keep to these. And may I dwell not as the cowards do. Amen.”

His weathered hands settled on the ivory butts of the two six shooters and he moved through the bat wing doors. A broad brimmed hat, as much a part of his uniform as the rust colored serape, kept the sun out of his eyes. Down the windblown street he could see Bobby Joe step into the Circle. He was actually going to call someone out.

A barely used double action hung heavy from the ginger haired lad’s belt. The new leather and shiny metal cartridge casings shone in the sun. His jaw was set with determination and Preacher could see his lips moving even from here. The man was old, but his eyesight was the envy of eagles. He had trained Bobby Jo Morales in the Way only after two years of begging. Finally he relented after realizing that the boy might go on ahead and teach himself. That way lay certain death.

Unfortunately, Bobby Jo turned out to be something of a zealot. There was a place for that, certainly. Zeal needed to be tempered with some good sense though and there was a shortage of that in these parts. The zeal bore skill though. Bobby was fast, damn fast. His hands danced and his aim was true as any acolyte could ask for. His brain soaked up all the knowledge of the workings of the Gun and all of the traditions. There was talk that he would be going out further into the Wild next year. Most of that talk came from Bobby Jo.

Now the Wild had come to them in the form of the the Cowboys and the Oklahombres. The two groups controlled most of the territory for a month’s ride in any given direction. They were here to see if combining their resources could expand their power base. A treaty between the two gangs would be bad news indeed and no one official would stop them. The Marshals in these parts were every bit as corrupt as Bobby Jo believed and had done and would do nothing about it.

Preacher felt no small amount of shame at the state of the Marshals. As a Ranger it was his job to train new recruits and feed the machine that the Order had become. All of that guilt needed to be left behind for now though. Arkansas Tom and John Ringo broke off from their groups and began the slow amble towards the Circle and that was Bobby Jo’s death warrant. Either man by himself was enough, but the two together represented a challenge that only the most talented and experienced could face.

“Well, well, let’s see what we have here.” Ringo drawled. “Looks like this boy wants somethin’.” The tall man walked with crossed arms. His fingers weren’t far from the sawed off shotgun on his left hip or the horse pistol on his right. Either one could be out an blazing death in a heartbeat. The red sash of the Cowboys seemed to almost connect the two weapons across his narrow waist.

Arkansas Tom nodded, his long dirty dishwater hair moving as a mass. Preacher could see that his forty-five hogleg was in a swivel holster. The gun didn’t even need to come out to be used. Dirty trick. “Looks like. You issuing a formal challenge boy? Or you just drawing water?” He jutted his chin towards the well behind Bobby Jo.

Bobby Jo stood his ground. “I hereby challenge the leaders of the Cowboys and the Oklahombres to a draw down. Losers goes to Boot Hill, winner gets control of the two gangs.” His voice was rock solid, though barely into its adult register.

Preacher nodded. That would be the only way. That was if there were any chance in Hell of the leaders of the two gangs honoring such an agreement, assuming they accepted it and assuming Bobby Jo won.

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