The manager of the bank seemed compliant, but that was merely a ruse. He worked the larger levers of the vault slowly and allowed me to enter only to grab a doubled barreled shotgun. Black powder clouded the air for a bit before he was bleeding out in the lobby. Poor man, he only needed to open the vault. I was not going to take more of my needs.
The road has been hard and I have pressing westward for years now. Not always a man of violence. My father was a violent man tempered wound up tightly, to me he was kind, but the stresses of keeping it under wraps gave him a stroke I suppose. He fought under a few fellows who are now famous in that Mexican war. Now the world is heading straight back to fire. I keep to myself.
The woman for whom I loved died in Philadelphia long ago. She had the walking sickness. I was lucky I suppose. Then I had a job digging coal for the fella’, I can’t remember- it was so long ago. I think one other bought out the mine and laid off all the others. They had a church there and then the people would all say their prayers blessing the goodness of the church and their jobs.
Not sure when I became the man I am today. I think it was after she died but long afterwards. I had worked on a farm for a year or two, upstate in Pennsylvania. It was a hard job but I kept mostly quiet. A gang came through and I joined up with them. Mostly doing odd jobs, some for the state, but others for themselves. There was not anybody to stop us then but there was not much work for us then. New York City is where most of them boys headed off to. Some got real honest work. Others just did the same thing. I went to Tennessee where my family once lived.
The life as a bandit was a smooth transition. There is no certain date but I am certain now that I am nothing but a bandit. I have no problems with it overall. It simply is. This was not the first bank I robbed nor the first man I shot. I do not take any pleasure in killing a man, but I fail to hesitate anymore.
Sheriff, I am telling you lower your weapon. You simply are out gunned here. I have the draw on you. You simply will not last- you will not be the last man here. You are best served putting that down.
Traveling with a caravan, for a few months all through Minnesota, before the winter really set in, he was still on the run, but making the most honest living he could. Henri Blanchot had hired him mostly as security for the caravans thinking he was dodging the war. Blanchot always said he would have joined the Union if he was young. At least that what it seem like he said because Blanchot had no one language, his French was leaving him, and filling in the holes was English, Spanish, Pawnee, and even Cree. Though he could not join the war because he was a nomad with no language and no country.
It made sense to avoid the war he exclaimed, “Combat is combat, and killing is killing. I can’t go back because you know why.”
“You cour’ing nothi special, ous will be counting your coup no matter. Non?”
“I think they’ed hang me before I could join. You know that.”
The frost came backwards, not from the north and the west but the from the south and the east. The slow falls of snow thick impenetrable and unyielding flurried visibly on the horizon, the blizzard seem almost out runnable if they kept their pace. Though it was impossible either way.
The two options they had were terrible; either continue or camp. The Iroquois could come by, but unlikely no matter how strong they were this weather should hold anyone abide. Staying here is a risk of hunger and perhaps frost, keep moving was the threat of hunger and frost for a chance for a shorter time. There were no good choices here but the war effort had slowed the pace of the caravan. He bought a nice repeating rifle though. Money always exchanged but nothing worth spending any of it if you cannot really hold on to it.
The trip was hard going and they were forced to stop. Several of the men were running minor ailments but the man and Blanchot had severe fevers. They would sweat and soon after it would freeze glistening to their for heads. The gloves were frozen to mitts fixed on the reigns. He and Blanchot suffered but suspected no one else on the caravan would mind. That was until old Blanchot passed out and could not be reawakened. The men had a surprised panic trying to get him through, or at least awake. They stopped all the horses and made camp. It seem like minutes to him but it more than half of a day.
In his tent he feverish dreamed of the young woman lost him, stuck forever in Philadelphia. Her curls of blonde hair became infinite as he noticed them. Her smile was always beaming back at him. It was simulacrum of their first date. The folds of their conversation tended to no logic at all of the actual evening. The banker and the lawman were there. Then there were gangs and his parents. He noticed the up tight man biting his nails. “Keep good son, keep good,” the man said to him. The trails of Tennessee gave way to the great western orange hued landscapes with purplish hues in the skies. The man had his revolver on him, kept it tightly held, and woke up.
Blanchot pulled through, but barely, the man seemed well enough to travel himself. The great storm covered the landscape in white. The horses’ feet and the wheels crunched right through the ice into the deep snow. It was uncertain how deep it was.
A man rode up on a horse, looked to be either a healthy forty-year old man or a really healthy sixty, to another weathered man by a fire. It was early evening yet far from too early to call it a night. It was west Texas about thirty to forty miles outside of Odessa off toward Goliad.
“You mind sir,” the healthy man said.
“Set down if you wanna,”
“Why are you in Texas?” The healthy man asked.
“Working for the cattle company, I am making my way north soon,” the old man said.
“I suppose there is work for you there,” the other man thought. “There is still work here to.”
“You know I am working here,” the other man said. “It is a good place to settle down.
“I suppose so,” the man said. “I have not been much for settling.”
“Neither have I,” the other man said. “ I have been wandering all over since the war, or really before the war.”
“I was up in Kentucky, met old Wild Bill,” the old man said. “He seemed like he would kill me, but I was not afraid. He thought I cheated in cards I suppose. I don’t why that came up in my mind.”
“Wild Bill, hmm, I have heard of him. Oh those gun slingers and out-laws are something special to our country.”
“The American landscape slowly being tamed, not by men of arms. It is sad sort of, but of rail and steal. For my part I see no difference as of yet. Though it is something special too see the way things have shifted. I killed perhaps twenty men that I could name. A few more that I cannot. I shot a few in the back, in the front, and always dead on. It was never speed, but I always got it. In the war I would go out thinking about one thing. I knew I was going to survive. Men like me survive. You know what I mean. I was burning down houses and fields. I shot uncountable soldiers. After the war I fought a few outlaws. I collected enough bounties.”
“Sounds mighty impressive.” The man said.
“You could at least give me a fight. Been hunting you since before the war. You still have that bounty for killing the Sheriff out near Memphis. Yet you know me. You are not evening drawing.”
“Guess not.” The man said. “If you must, then you must. I lived my life. Sure enough.”
The shot rang clear.