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Life After the Gun




There are more Forgotten Secrets than those found in the off-world adventures by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What happened to Texas Pete? Here's one possibility...

Bull and Diana got along so well after their marriage that the ranch prospered as quickly as a quarter-horse running down a brindle steer. Gosh, it was good workin' for a man who knew the range! Even better was workin' for that gal of his, who swelled up darn quick with their first young'n, and also 'cause the chow on the table each night was fit for a king — though I never has met me any kings or such.

Ever once't awhile Bull'd mosey down to the barracks to hear me spout that drivel most folks kindly call poetry, but which I call drivel of the worst sort. "You tell a tale in words," he'd say, sippin' a cup of coffee, which was all he'd drink these days.

"And ridin' out yonder, across the wild sage

"Came a red rider spouting words from a page

"That left it no doubt that he had some wee learnin'

"But asked any question just left him a-squirmin'!"

I stuck around for five more years before the itchy foot got so bad I had to ask for my time and leave. "We'll miss you, Texas Pete," Diana said, all awkward in kissing my cheek 'cause she was big with her second. I blushed all stupid like and stood with hat in hand while Idaho chortled from the hitchin' bar. I shot him a look that almost shut him up since I could out-draw him seven ways from Sunday.

"Take this," Diana said, handing me a neatly tied red-checkered napkin. "half a fried chicken, a dozen biscuits, a short side of bacon, and two slices of apple pie."

I treated that bundle like it was King Solomon's treasure as I tied it to the saddle. That Diana was a mighty good cook! Bull stuck out his calloused hand and we shook grim and steady. He was a changed man and I was glad of that, but that wild part of me missed that once wild part of him.

"Keep off the rise, raise no dust," Bull said, "and sit with your back to the wall."

"I'll do all of that — and maybe write a letter or two."

Bull grinned.

There was nothing for it so I jammed my dusty boot into the stirrup of the frisky gelding Bull made me take as part of my pay. It was a good horse with a lot of heart and I did appreciate the generosity. Doffing my hat to the missus, I put spurs to that animal and we streaked out of there before anyone could see the moisture in my eyes.

"He rode with no mission just glad of the days

"The sun was a-shinin' on high meadow glades

"And thinkin' of women in towns to be seen

"He rode with a vengeance in search of a queen."

I'm not a particularly lonesome man. I've known me a woman or two over the years, but I never did seem to hook up with one who would take me as I am. All of them wanted to change me, and I'm pretty durn set in my ways.

"Ridin' and ropin', and horsin' around

"No girl will get me, I'm single bound!

"No collar white, and no store-bought jeans

"I'm a man who'll stay single by any means!"

Well, that tune lasted up until I finally hit Californy down near San Francisco. I tried me a bit of the Barbary Coast but it was to barb-wiry for me who likes to avoid a tussle or muscle or using my six iron. And as much as I loved dice and poker and games of chance those dudes at the green felt tables made the Mississipi card sharks I'd knowed as a boy look like school marms!

"He headed south from the dens of Gomorrah

"Babbling to cactus: 'I'll play no morra!

"As bad as I am, I'm a dumb soft wee dolt

"And survived that pure hell by using my Colt!"

Mary Angeline Elizabeth MacKinney was her name — a woman my age, which made her tough as an old prarire hen. Her boarding house was the only one in that sleepy coastal town where for two bits a week a man could have clean sheets and a hearty chow each evening.

She raised her nose at my dusty clothes and down-at-the-heel boots. "You're a workin' man," she said, "but you ain't worked in a while. What put you to loafin', Texas Pete?"

I answered truthfully. "A good woman made a good man out of my best friend and ruint my life. I stuck it out for five years but he was gelded good and wouldn't bend back to my evil ways. So you see, I couldn't stay on since paddocks and pasture is pure death to a real man."

"A real man, ye say?" That blue-eyed look, topped by radish red hair shot here and there with a touch of gray, gave me the once't over so complete I felt a flush comin' on. And then she made it worse: "The barn out back needs a shovel. Ye'll do that for me, won't ye?"

Well, what could I say? "Yes'am."

On the wrong end of a shovel I pushed and shoved the worst part of a horse from one stall to another. "'A real man,' she says. 'You'll do that for me.' Why — "

I choked up a-somethin' fierce contemplating all the whys I could come up with!

"I rode against bandits, I rode in rainstorms

"I rode against Indians and stayed out of harm

"I rode in the army, and survived all that brass

"And end pitchin' hay for some lop-earred lass!"

I don't know why I stayed. That woman irritated me no end. Never have I met a more stubborn woman — I'd know'd me some mules easier to get along with! And with all that fetchin' I did for that goldanged woman my name should be Rover! Worse, that old gal made me stomp my boots clean a-fore comin' in the house and wouldn't let me sit to the table with my guns on! Can you imagine that?

Ever mornin' I'd get up and somehow that wash jug and basin had fresh hot water and there was a razor and cake of soap at hand. Being just plumb onery I ignored these things for a while — but then that old beard got to itchin' and I just had to whack those whiskers. The day I came downstairs shaved blue across the chin that Mary Angeline Elizabeth MacKinney put three extra eggs on my plate and piled on a dozen rashers of bacon. And five hot biscuits already buttered with a jar of honey close at hand.

"That wild Texas Pete had tore up some country

"From East Coast to Texas, and then Arizony

"No man did he fear, and many he'd killed

"But an old woman's bicuits made his feet still.


"Oh, Bull, if you saw him, you'd laugh out so silly

"To see ol' Tex Pete wrapped up by a filly

"The wild man is gone and his guns are hung up

"I suppose all with good heart will find their own luck!"