August 13, 2012 by Whispering Smith
Henry Lee said, ‘The only gunfight I ever saw was right here in Halloran’s Saloon, right here in Dogbite in the summer of eighty-one. Do you recall that one, Dan?’’
Dan Crow shook his head, ‘No, I was up on the Muddy at that time punching cows for Old Bob Harrison and his one-eyed sister, didn’t get back till eighty-three and then some.’
The two elderly men sat across from each other at a round, age patinated bar table in the early evening, a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses between them, their whiskey and tobacco stained voices pitched low. They were deeply tanned with creased faces, long moustaches and battered, sweat-stained Stetsons, their range clothes faded and worn.
Lee asked, ‘Whatever happened to Old Bob, he never came back this way.?’
Crow considered his empty glass and recharged it. ‘Got snake-bit summer before I quit, lost his leg, they had to cut it off on account the gangrene setting in.’
‘Which snake or which leg? If’n it’s the snake I don’t know, all them rattlers all look alike to me.’
‘I meant which leg?’
Left one, what difference does that make?
Well, if was his left one he would find it hard to climb into a saddle so I guess he gave up ranching about then.’
‘Now that you mention it, I do believe he did. Moved back east with his wife they just about made one whole people between them.’
Lee smiled. ‘What was we talking about before Bob Harrison?’
‘The only gunfight you ever seen, me I never ever seen even one. I heard about them but was never there when it went down though. That must have been the same year as the Earps shot it out with the Clantons in Tombstone.’
Lee nodded, rolled a cigarette, licked the paper and fired with a table brick lit match courtesy of Halloran’s. ‘Hell no,’ he smiled, ‘I ain’t that old! It was about this time of the evening, Luke Cornwallis pulled on his cousin Newt and they blasted away at each other right across this room.’
‘What brought that on?’ Crow asked.
‘Some woman. They was arguing about her all evening back and forth across the room, likely a woman could care less about either of them, a couple of barnyard roosters crowing for all the world to hear. Eventually the shouting turned to insults and before anyone could say anything much Luke hauls out his Colt, throws down on Newt and shoots right across the room at him. Newt near to shits hisself but still pulls his piece and fires back.’
‘Must have been something to see, all that powder smoke in this narrow room.’
‘Yes, sir, you had better believe it. They was tall waddies though those Cornwallis boys, so, firing straight-armed as they were they were shooting over the heads of the folk still sitting and well clear of those hugging the sawdust. Newt fires then Luke fires then Newt fires again and then… well you get the picture, they keep banging away five rounds each on account of they both have an empty chamber under the hammer.’
‘Can you spare those makings?
‘Sure,’ Lee passed the Bull Durham sack across the table and Crow shook some of the tobacco onto a paper and drew the sack closed with his teeth.
‘Who hit who?’
‘That’s the weird part of it though, ten rounds and they clear missed each other. A sometime black jack dealer named Spiers, I believe, Bernie Spiers that was it, got a nicked ear and Newt put a round through that old green parrot Halloran kept in a gold coloured cage above the bar. Just a squawk and a cage full of green feathers.’
‘That was it, all of that shooting and no one got hit?’
‘Oh, and Wally Dade’s hat.’
‘You remember Wally Dade?’
‘The US Marshal Wally Dade?’
‘Same one only he was only a deputy marshal back then,’ Lee paused pulling back the memory, rolling away the years. ‘Well, he was in the bar at the time back there in the shadows, and one bullet sliced through the brim of his hat, a brand new black Boss of the Plains Stetson his wife just bought him. He was pissed I can tell you.’
‘What did he do about it?’
‘Nothing at the time, we was all in a kind of state of shock what with the powder smoke, our ears ringing and all. Luke drops his piece on the floor and rushes out of the front and mounts his pony on the run. Cousin Newt makes for the back, only he stops, turns to Halloran, tosses a dollar onto the bar, says it’s for the parrot and whoosh, he’s in the wind as well. Dade ran ‘em down and brought them both in a couple of days later on account he said his hat was federal property and they had damaged it some, they had to buy him a new one and they got a county fine for disturbing the peace’
‘That was it?’ Crow asked, ‘That was your gunfight, ten rounds, a nicked ear, a wounded hat and a dead fucking parrot?’
‘What did you want for Gods sake? This is Dogbite, what did you expect , Tombstone? The Ok Corral?
Copyright Chris Adam Smith 2012