There's many a tale I could tell about the Old West and the men that tamed its wild ways. But I reckon the strangest of all is the story of the day when all them little pieces of paper came aflutterin' down on the floor of McAran's Saloon.
[quoteright]In them days, Slick McAran's "Upper-Two Bar" was the only place a man could get a drink in Mensa Gulch -- so it was a favorite gatherin' place for Mensa members thereabouts. Of course, being Mensans we only drank wine. On the day I'm tellin' of, there was a typical crowd. First off there was Slick himself, greetin' customers in his mailorder suit and back-East boots. Never far away was Evabelle, his business partner and who-knows-what-else. She was the local SEXYG coordinator, and she an' her girls held regular meetings every evenin' in the rooms upstairs. Makin' eyes at her was Dan Whitley, professional gambler and ladies' man, but she wasn't havin' none of him. Then there was Kid Kirby, a desperado travelin' through town, who held a reputation for slingin' The Fastest Pun in the West.
Over in the corner a group of regulars was playin' the latest fantasy game, "Corrals and Coyotes." Watchin' them was Judge Cummins, our local proctor and club recruiter. Standin' tall at the bar was Len Rancher, the biggest cattleman in the region. He ran near to 3000 head in Mensa Gulch alone; since they was worth $30 apiece back in New York, that made him jest about our richest citizen. And servin' him was Old Toadwick, the bartender, who figures in my story as we shall see.
Well, we was havin' a pretty quiet afternoon of drinkin' and Mensa conversation when suddenly the swinging doors banged open and in stalked Turk Slimey and his gang.
"We're fixin' to git in the Hot Tub with all them pretty ladies," he snarled, walking right up to Evabelle. "We got money."
"Now boys, you know we don't fill the Hot Tub afore five o'clock," she replied. "Why don't you jest go along now, peaceable-like." But it was clear from the look on Turk's face that he was mindin' to have his way with her. About this time, Old Toadwick skittered out from behind the bar and went off to find the Sheriff.
I should mention that we had jest gotten a new Sheriff in town, a man named Ben, on account of the old one had gotten hisself shot up by the Darlton gang. They was the same varmints that had raided the newspaper office a month earlier. Keepin' sheriffs was hard in Mensa Gulch.
Old Toadwick hadn't been gone but a minute when Sheriff Ben walked in, slow and easy-like, and laid his white hat on the bar. Mebbee it was his calm manner or mebbee it was the way he hitched up his gunbelt as he walked through the door -- but as soon as Turk Slimey saw him he took his hands off of Evabelle, and he and his boys retreated to the back of the saloon. Slick McAran went up and shook Ben's hand. "Welcome to my saloon, Sheriff," he said; "I hope you're gonna like it here in Mensa Gulch. Word's goin' around that you're already kinda sweet on the schoolmarm, Miss Roberta."
"Well, Slick, I reckon a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," said he in that deep voice of his. "I aim to bring some peace and quiet to this town. Anybody with different ideas better git while the gittin's good," he added, with a significant look at Kid Kirby.
"Then your first job will be to find out who's been holdin' up the stagecoach," put in Judge Cummins. "For six months now, they've managed to git every shipment of testing fees we've tried to send back to New York. I slip the package confidentially to the driver here in the bar before he sets out, but every time they seem to know exactly which day we're sendin' off the money."
"Could be the Four Sigma gang," McAran suggested, "they're a mighty smart bunch. If you can outwit them, Sheriff, I'll buy drinks on the house."
"I'll jest take my drink now," said Kid Kirby, walking up to the bar. "Gimme three fingers of that Chateau Asilomar," he ordered, pointing to a bottle standin' on the back shelf.
"Sorry, Kid," said Old Toadwick, "that's the Boss's private bottle. You can have anythin' else but that."
"I'm athirstin' for Chateau Asilomar and I mean to have some." The Kid's voice had turned nasty. He was about to leap over the bar when suddenly the man from the Telegraph Office busted in.
"Word jest came in," he shouted, "They robbed the stagecoach agin this morning and got clean away!"
"Now ain't that a consarned coincidence," exclaimed Sheriff Ben. "The stagecoach gits held up and a few hours later Turk Slimey and his boys are in here wantin' to spend some money."
"Meanin' you're a-sayin' we did it! Sheriff, you're gonna eat them words!" Turk and his gang came out a-roarin' like animals, and in a minute the whole place was a mess of punchin', shootin', and broken furniture. In the middle of it all, Kid Kirby saw his chance and made a dive for the bottle of Chateau Asilomar.
He and Old Toadwick was a-grappling with the bottle, holdin' it up in the air, when a shot went wild and hit the bottle smack in the belly. It broke up into slivers -- but instead of wine comin' out, all of a sudden there was a million little pieces of paper in the air, jest like a snowstorm. It was so amazin' that everybody stopped fightin' to watch it.
Judge Cummins picked up one of the little paper slips. "These here are bank checks," he cried. "The missing testing fees!"
About this time, Slick McAran and Old Toadwick headed for the door. But the Sheriff was too quick for them, and he soon had 'em hog-tied on the floor. "So you watched the Judge send off the fees and always knew when to have your boys stop the stage," he growled. "Then Toadwick hid the loot in that there bottle. Slick McAran, your little game is finished!"
Later, after them two critters was safely locked up in jail, we was helping ourselves at the bar. "Well, boys," said the Judge, "Now that the testing fees are safely returned I guess we can afford to go ahead and fertilize the grass along Main Street."
'Yep... With Ben on the job, we're finally gonna have lawn ordure in Mensa Gulch!"
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