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 A Word to the Wise

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PostSubject: A Word to the Wise   A Word to the Wise EmptySat Aug 31, 2013 7:20 pm

A Word to the Wise

A word to the wise ain’t necessary…it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.”  Bill Cosby

The increasingly loud argument at the counter disturbed Kid Curry’s contemplation of the bullet selection.  Ignoring it, he chose and walked up to the counter to pay, winking at the embarrassed eleven- or twelve-year old boy standing beside his arguing parents.

“Could this man be right?  Maybe we should wait for more wagons, but I want to get to our new home,” the woman shrilled.

“Eulalie, we are not staying in this one-horse town for a week,” shouted the man, turning red.  “This is just another attempt to take our money.  We’ll be fine; we have plenty of supplies and know the route out to the ranch.  Why in three days we can be there.”

“Mister.”  The store-keeper tried again.  “It ain’t like Ohio out here.  You don’t want to be traipsin’ around the country-side all by yourself.  There’s raiders here.  At least hire a guard to go with you.”

“Man’s right, you need a guard.”  Kid Curry slapped the boxes of bullets on the counter.  “How much I owe you?” he asked the store-keeper.

“That’ll be one dollar.”  

Kid Curry placed a dollar on the counter.

The husband and wife looked him up and down, noting how young he was and how he carried his gun tied down.

“And I suppose you think we should hire a boy like you to guard us?” the man asked.  “Just how big a fool do you take me for?  You and this man are in it together, trying to con money by scaring the easterners.  No, thank you.  I can take care of my own.  Come on, Eulalie, Joe, let’s pack up.”

The Kid’s eyes narrowed and turned cold.  “Mister, you couldn’t pay me enough to work for you.”

The husband looked into a pair of icy eyes and shivered.  For the first time, he doubted the wisdom of traveling alone to their new home.  He shook himself and hefted the sack of flour he’d bought, handed the other purchases to the boy and woman, and headed out the door to their wagon.  The boy looked back then turned and followed his parents.

“Greenhorns,” the store-keeper sighed, watching them leave.  “Can’t tell such fools a darned thing; going to get themselves killed.”

“Yeah,” agreed Kid Curry, his eyes following the boy.


Kid Curry stood at the bar.  Money was low so he drank slowly to make the beer last as long as possible.  As he drank, he watched four men walk in, order whiskey, and join two others already sitting at a table.  His mouth turned down as he realized that they were joining Ringo Larkin, and that they, like Larkin, exuded the arrogance of men eager to use the guns they carried on their hips.  The Kid walked over and took a seat at a nearby table, but with his back to them.

“Hey, Ringo, you wouldn’t believe what’s out there – a nice little family heading out of town to their new home in a wagon all by their lonesome.  Wagon’s piled high; woman’s pretty enough, too.  Heck, she’s a woman, ain’t she,” laughed one of the newcomers as he pulled out a chair and straddled it.

“Yeah?” asked Ringo.  “They got anything worth having?”

“Well, I couldn’t get a good look, but they seemed plenty prosperous, and the woman would fetch a fair price across the border.”

“Might be worth investigating.”

The others murmured agreement.

“Drink up, boys.  Sounds like we got work to do.  We can catch them at that dry creek bed about a day’s wagon drive from here.  Folks shouldn’t be wandering around alone in these parts, let’s give them an escort.”  He laughed.  “It’s only neighborly, and maybe they’ll share their good fortune with us.”

Kid Curry turned his head, watching them leave.  He thought about the odds – six to one.  Larkin and his gang were rumored to be vicious killers, and there were more than those six available if Larkin needed them.  He didn’t need Larkin’s gang gunning for him, not while he was on this own, that was sure.  He remembered how rude the father had been.  He didn’t owe that family anything; they had made it clear they didn’t want any help from him.  Still, that boy wasn’t much older than he and Heyes had been when they lost their families.  Maybe if someone had helped their families…

Once again he wished Heyes were here to talk things over.  Heyes would have come up with a plan.  But he hadn’t seen Heyes in a long time.  He sighed.  That parting had sure seemed necessary at the time, but now the reasons were beginning to seem pretty unimportant, and he missed having Heyes beside him.  Still, they’d parted company and nothing could change that.

The bartender brought him a second beer.  He drank it slowly, thinking about Heyes, wondering where he was, and deciding what he should do now.  Finally, he decided.  He took the last swallow of beer and headed out.


At first he followed their tracks, but once he was certain of the spot where the raiders planned to attack, he took off across country, angling towards that spot, hoping to get there in time.


The wagon had stopped, and father and son were trying to fix the wheel that had come off.  They hadn’t reached the creek bed.  Curry hoped he could make them turn back before the raiders came looking.  There wasn’t much time.

He raced towards them

The man straightened up and stared incredulously at the boy racing into his camp.  “You!” he exclaimed angrily.  “You probably did this, loosened the wheel, just so we’d hire you!”

“Mister,” snapped the Kid.  “You have no time; you have to turn back.  Raiders followed you; they’re plannin’ to ambush you a little ways up ahead.  Just take the animals and get back to town.  You can get what’s left of your wagon later.”

The man reddened, glared at the Kid, then marched to the back of the wagon and pulled out a shotgun.  The Kid relaxed slightly; the man was finally beginning to see sense.  The man turned and pointed the shotgun at the Kid.

“I am telling you for the last time, leave my family alone.  We are not going to be taken in by your tricks.  There are no raiders.  We…”

A shot rang ou.  The man fell to his knees.  There was yelling and cursing, and the raiders were upon them.  The young boy ran to his father’s side and snatched up the shotgun.  He, too, fell as the bullets began flying from the men riding up to them.

Curry grabbed the woman and flung her under the wagon, then used the team hauling the wagon to protect his position.  He was firing as quickly as he could.  He dropped one raider, then another – ducked down and reloaded – then jumped up and managed to injure a raider who was trying to get in close to the wagon to snatch the woman.  The raider screamed and fell from his horse, clutching his shoulder.  The other three men spun around and took off towards town.  The Kid fired a few more shots after them to ensure they kept going, before moving from his position.

The woman ran over to her husband and son, screaming her son’s name. Crying and shrieking, she sank to the ground, cradling her son’s body, ignoring Curry.

Kid Curry checked the men he’d shot.  His face tightened – mouth in a grim line, eyes shadowed – as he realized two were dead.  The third man, although wounded, would probably live, so the Kid moved the man’s gun out of reach and left him some water.  He glanced at the family, then turned to the wagon and began to hunt through the contents.

“Leave that alone,” the woman screamed.  “My husband died for us; you have no right to take anything.”

The Kid stared at her then resumed rummaging.  Suddenly, hearing a noise he whirled around.  Seeing a lone rider approaching, he whipped out his gun and pointed it at the stranger, who stopped and put up his hands.

“Easy, boy.  I mean you no harm.  I saw the fighting and came to see if I could help.”

The Kid looked closely at the stranger, who seemed to be in his late twenties.  He was tall, mustached, and there was an air about him that made the Kid think this was not the most honest man he’d ever met – probably had a price on his head – somewhere.  Nevertheless, he did not appear threatening at the moment.  The Kid lowered his gun and nodded.  The stranger dismounted and went to the woman.  The Kid continued packing up what they could carry.

“Ma’am,” the Kid said, walking back to her.  “Ma’am, we can’t stay here.  The raiders will be back.  We need to leave right now.”

“No!” she screamed.  “No.  I can’t leave them.”

The stranger gently raised her from her position, putting her dead son back down.  “Ma’am, he’s right.  We’ll just bury your kin here…”

“No,” the Kid interrupted.  “There’s no time.  The raiders will be back and in bigger numbers.  We have to leave now.  Take what you can carry, and I’ll get you to a safe town where you can catch a train home.”

The woman continued crying, making no move to leave.

Finally, the Kid picked her up.  She began beating her fists against him.  He ignored her efforts and placed her on one of the raiders’ horses.  When she tried to jump down, he grabbed her firmly and held her in place.

“I said the raiders will be back soon.  We have to go,” he enunciated, at the end of his patience.  His head throbbed, and he did not want to look at, or think about, the men he had killed.  “I told you; we are leavin’ now.  We don’t have time to bury your menfolk who are dead through your husband’s own fool stubbornness – refusin’ to listen to good advice.  I’m tellin’ you, it won’t matter to your husband or son if they’re buried; they’ll still be dead.”  He pulled out his gun and pointed it at her.  “Now come with me right now, or I’ll kill you where you sit.  You do not want those raiders to get you.  You’re better off comin’ with me, or dyin’ right here.”

His outburst stunned her into submission.

He let go and swung up onto his horse.

“Hey,” the stranger called.  “No cause to be like that boy.  The woman just lost her family for pity’s sake.”

The Kid turned and pointed his gun at him.  “You got two choices, mister.  You can come with me, or you can stay and hold off the raiders for as long as possible.  We are leavin’.”  He holstered his gun again, grabbed the reins of the woman’s horse, and headed off.

The stranger gulped, looked after them and around the wagon, then swung up on his horse and joined them.


They rode for several hours.  Throughout the ride, the woman occasionally wept, but never said a word.  The stranger rode between the two looking as if he’d like to say something, but thought better of it.

The Kid was grateful for the silence and confined his talking to the minimum – giving directions as he and the stranger muddled their trail to confuse anyone following them.  He wished the woman would stop crying.  He hated the sound, and it reminded him of how he’d failed the son.

Finally, the stranger looked at the Kid and said, “Boy, I’m pretty sure we have lost them by now.  Let’s find a place to make camp.  I don’t think she can ride any further tonight.”

The Kid looked over.  In the light of the setting sun, he saw that the woman looked spent and was swaying as she clung to the horn to stay on.  He nodded and pointed to a small grove of trees.  “There’s water over there: we can stay there for the night.  No fire and you and I will split the watches.”

Soon they had reached the grove and set up camp.  The three sat down, and the Kid handed around some jerky.

“Maybe we should introduce ourselves,” the stranger said.  “I’m Wheat Carlson, and, ma’am, you are?”

“What?  Oh.  Mrs… Mrs… I’m Eulalie Berenson,” the woman said then began to cry quietly again.  She turned away from the two men.

“Name’s Curry.”

Wheat’s eyes widened.  “I heard of you.  You got some reputation with that gun.  After today, I believe it.”  He looked at the Kid more closely, seeing just how young he appeared.  “No wonder they call you Kid,” he muttered.  He glanced over.  “No offense meant.”

“None taken.”


After Eulalie had cried herself to sleep, Wheat turned to the Kid.  “I got some whiskey.  You want a drink?”


“Here.  That was some fancy shooting back there.”  Wheat took a big gulp then poured himself another.

The Kid stared in the distance and sipped his.

“I’ve seen shooting before, but that, that was something special.”  Wheat took another large gulp, and one more.

“You any good with that gun you’re wearin’?”

“Oh, sure.  Back in in Wyoming, I ride with a gang – or I used to.”  Wheat glanced at the Kid to see his reaction but couldn’t tell from his face.

“Why’d you leave?”

“Oh, Big Jim brought in this upstart – Heyes – just Heyes.  Supposedly he rode with a couple of other outfits before.  Anyways, he thinks he knows everything, and Big Jim’s thinking he doesn’t need me anymore.  I saw which way the wind was blowing.”  He took another gulp.  “Yeah, this Heyes thinks he knows everything, always making ‘suggestions’ on how to do stuff.  Shoot, I got better ideas than him, but Big Jim don’t ask my opinion hardly ever anymore.  So I figured I’d be better elsewhere.”

The Kid shot him a quick glance then looked down at his cup.  “Said you rode in Wyoming.  Guess you’ve killed some, too,” the Kid probed.

“No.  I can handle a gun just fine, so don’t be thinking of trying anything, but we don’t shoot ‘less we have to.  Shooting just makes the posses real determined.  We do okay though.  Big Jim’s a good leader.”  He paused a moment to take a drink, then mused, “Funny, the Hole – that’s our hide-out, Devil’s Hole – ain’t much, but it kind’a seems like home.”  He looked off.  “Well, if we’re going to take turns standing watch, I’ll take first watch.”

The Kid walked over to his bedroll.  “Wake me in two hours.”

But when Wheat went to wake him, he was already awake, lying there staring at the stars.


It was mid-day before they could see the outskirts of a town.

The Kid halted the three of them.  “That’s Santiago.”  He pointed.  “They have a train there.  I won’t go with you.  Some folks there’re lookin’ for me.  Wheat, you take Mrs. Berenson on in.  She can report what happened to the sheriff, and he’ll see she gets back to family.”  He handed Eulalie the money he had found hidden in the wagon, minus a ten-dollar fee, then rode off.


Some months later…

“… eighty, one-hundred, one-twenty.  That’s your share Curry.  You sure you won’t stay?  We’d be happy to have you, permanent-like.”

“Thanks, Red, but no,” the Kid responded.  “I’ve got to look up an old friend.”

“Old friend, huh?  Must be important to leave this.”

“He is.”

“Where you heading?”


“Watch your back up there.  If it gets too cold, you’re welcome here anytime.”

“Thanks, Red.  Bye men, good luck.”

The Kid tucked away his share of the loot, cinched his horse’s girth, mounted, and headed north.

Last edited by riders57 on Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A Word to the Wise   A Word to the Wise EmptySun Sep 01, 2013 3:09 am

Riders - I think this is one of my all time favourites of your stories.  The Devil's Hole Gang were always so wary around the Kid and cautious of pushing him too far, and that doesn't come from only being fast.  This catches the ruthless streak which gave them pause so well and does it without making the Kid unsympathetic.  Very clever writing which stays with you. applause
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PostSubject: Re: A Word to the Wise   A Word to the Wise EmptySat Oct 26, 2013 7:44 pm

Thanks for the story behind Just What They Needed. It was a good one.
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