The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande - Part 3 of 20
Cresting the Horizon
The smell of sagebrush permeated the cool evening’s desert air. It was gracefully accompanied by the nightly orchestra of valley crickets in the background. The Starshine Kid threw another manzanita branch on the crackling campfire before laying his head against his well-worn saddle.
A mother badger with its two cubs waged its head back and forth in the near distance, analyzing this human stranger who had invaded its territory. Ascertaining the man with his head against a saddle was of no immediate threat, the family of omnivores scurried along into the shadowy darkness of the dense underbrush.
By a nearby stream Sheriff Adam King’s horse whinnied between bites of fresh plains grass. As the Kid lay staring into the night sky watching the heavenly stars appear one by one like new homesteads across the prairie, he reflected back upon the day’s events. From the small morning lizard bobbing up and down on a warm desert rock to his delivery of the renegade Apache known only by the name 'Scorpion' to a U.S. Marshal, his thoughts rested upon the simple fact that this long day was now over and tomorrow was soon to creep up over the horizon. The thin crescent moon overhead smiled gently down as the sheriff drifted off into sleep, dreaming of his distant love, Della, whose smile stretched wider than the Rio Grande.
The sheriff spent the next few weeks researching and accumulating every telegram, newspaper article and eye witness account, both east and west of the Mississippi, related to the infamous outlaw brother of his love, Antonio from Antonio, a.k.a. Anton Madarász, son of Michael and Katherine Madarász, brother of Della Madarász, presumed dead, but as much alive as a stepped on rattlesnake.
The name Antonio was placed upon Anton like a misspelled name carved into a tombstone… permanent, but wrong. The outlaw was involved in a shootout in San Antonio some years back with a local gunslinger. A misunderstanding of some sort led to the new name and the name took faster than paint on old dried wood.
The sheriff’s recent endeavors only revealed what Della had believed and told her love in confidence, that Anton had only killed men that were no more than hired guns. Legal outlaws the wealthy aristocracy held in their over-stuffed back pockets. Since the end of the Civil War the leadership and control of many of the new land’s enterprises, political realms, and just about anything else they could get their greedy selfish fingers on, had shifted from ‘We the People’ to the more lucrative interested parties who devalue humanity to a position below the gain of their own temporal possessions. It was apparent that Della’s brother was only defending himself.
Why did one or more of these men want Anton dead? the sheriff had asked himself a thousand times. Why?
After delivering another local cattle rustler to the sheriff a two days ride away and spending the night sleeping under the stars, Sheriff King rose early in the morning hours, prior to dawn’s wakening call, and cleared his campsite. He saddled up his faithful steed and rode out, heading back to the place he called home for now. Come about noon the fiery sun beat down on his neck like a military drummer entering battle and his coal-black hair dripped with sweat. He drenched his neckerchief in what precious little water he had left in his canteen, saving only a few treasured drops.
Trail beaten and solar scorched the Starshine Kid rode into town, his sun-parched mouth dryer than a week dead prairie dog. Flicking a shiny coin to one of the local livery boys, he said, “Take care of my steed, son.”
The boy happily replied, “I sure will Sheriff. Looks like you took care of that business with the outlaw well enough. That is, ya came back alive.”
Smiling at the lad, he replied, “Sure did, son. I sure did.”
Starshine’s Mustang had been a gift from a former Civil War Confederate captain and current Creek Indian Nation Chief and Adam treasured the animal almost as much as he treasured life, maybe more.
The floorboards creaked as he entered his office and its cool musty smell was a welcome odor. After courting the washbowl for a spell he sat down at his desk only to have the telegraph operator interrupt him abruptly.
“Sheriff,” the out of breath man blurted, “this just came in over the wire for you.”
“Thanks, Tim,” he replied as he looked it over quickly. The operator exited as quickly as he had arrived and without another word.
Bad news always comes at the wrong time, he thought. But, I guess bad news is always at the wrong time since no one in their right state of mind ever wants it anyhow.
The Scorpion had escaped en route to his trial, but not without having first put two slugs into his escorting U.S. Marshal’s belly. A three hour ride in the sun to the nearest town with a telegraph office and local doctor had saved the Marshal’s life. It felt like only yesterday that the Starshine Kid had officially handed over that sole-clinging refuse of a man to a US Marshal and now all of that effort was lost in the swirling desert winds of yesterday.
A peculiar sentence suffixed the telegram, “Scorpion en route to Iron Creek to meet Antonio from Antonio. Stop.”
How in the world did this marshal come to this conclusion? he wondered. Obviously, the Scorpion must have informed the lawman in one way or another.
Adam continued pondering all of these things that crested his mental horizons. He asked himself a serious question, I’ve been a Town Marshal, County Sheriff and a Bounty Hunter throughout the years, what if I was to swear in and wear the star of a bona fide U.S. Marshal? Imagine that!
The familiar telegraph operator’s head popped back in the door, “Sheriff, I forgot to tell ya that you got a package waitin’ for ya. And it’s from a far…,” he drug out the word ‘far’ longer than a howl from a lonely coyote, “… away.”
After retrieving the mysterious box and returning to his office, Adam saw that the package was from Della. Well, I’ll be! he mumbled to the captive audience of an empty room, unoccupied cells and vacant chairs.
He slowly opened the letter attached to the top and read to himself, Dearest, Adam….
The letter informed the Starshine Kid that Della’s mother needed a change of scenery after the death of her husband and an opportunity arose to travel to Tasmania, formerly named Van Diemen's Land, to live with long-time friends of the family for a spell. The family friends had recently opened a hat factory there and Della thought it appropriate, under the circumstances of her absence, to send her love a hat, not just any hat, mind you, but a prototype of a unique cowboy hat she was sure no one else in the Americas possessed.
‘Ain’t nobody but nobody got a hat like this over there in them parts, ma’am,’ the family friend’s patriarchal male figure had assured Della as they sealed the package for mailing to the sheriff.
The letter went on to say that the family was working on a machine for refining rabbit hair used in making the hats. Della was not sure yet how long she would be remaining there with her mother, but she would 'be back as soon as can be’. She also wrote, ‘Write soon, or I’ll be as mad as a she-bear fightin’ for her cubs!’
Adam opened his desk drawer revealing his dearly prized .44 caliber revolver. The 1848 Colt Dragoon was gifted to him many years before. It held the secrets of untold memories and actions from life long past; he set the weapon aside and carefully removed a small box containing a treasured memento. Turquoise and silver and bearing a five-point star… the memento was hand-made by his great grandmother, Nampeyo, in memory of his late mother, Gentle Fawn, who died giving him birth. No one knew of his precious mother or her ancestry, Adam hoped that no one ever would. Placing the Dragoon securely back in its place and his new black hat on his head, he proudly exited his office and walked to the telegraph station to send Della a telegram. Thanking Della for the gift was not the only important message within the text, the words bore a decisiveness that would either fill Della with joy, honor and pride, or scare her out of her sweet and gentile mind… “I’m taking a job as a U.S. Marshal. Contact the U.S. Marshal’s office to locate me when you return. I miss you. Adam.”
* * * Stay Tuned for Part Four: The Stars Above * * *
The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
By Royce A Ratterman © 2012
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art & Illustrations by Erlend Evensen
The characters, locales, enterprises, entities, and events herein are entirely fictional and intended for educational and entertainment purposes. Content portrayals do not reflect any actual events, locales, entities, or any individuals living or deceased.
Dedicated to all of those who lost their lives establishing peace, safety, and harmony in the days of the Old West