The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
Part 12 of 20
Pursuit of Happiness
“Hold on now Marshal… the answer be rustlin’ around in my thinkin’ like a mountain rattler in a cluster of ninebark shrubs,” Joe replied. “The place the Connors be stayin’ be just a spell up the way like I said, but there’s an old mine about a mile into the hills to the east of the spread. I be bettin’ they would be holdin’ up there.”
The Starshine Kid looked the humble man in the eyes and said, “Much obliged, Joe,”
Joe took a long look at the two lawmen. He removed his hat to wipe away the sweat from his brow with his neckerchief before saying, “You two fellas go with God and get some justice, ya hear!”
The Starshine Kid and Anton mounted their horses and with dust flying, their two steeds reared up high like the noon sun, whinnied, and galloped toward the blazing horizon; old Joe went about the business of laying the dead to rest.
“Nice hat,” Anton shouted as the gritty taste of dust filled the two lawmen’s mouths.
“A gift from your sister. Some sort of prototype cowboy hat, I reckon.”
“I thought as much. It suits you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I won’t. I ain’t got a mind to be eatin’ all this dust just to talk a spell.”
Anton smiled slyly and the two rode onward. It was almost as if he’d planned to make the Starshine Kid eat some dust just for the pleasure of the experience itself.
As Joe had speculated, the Connors’ tracks led up into the foothills to the east of their appropriated spread. The horse with the distinctive hoof mark, slightly crooked and leaning to its left, had led the way.
“Let’s scout the area before dark and see what ideas we can muster up,” Marshal King stated.
The two remained within sight of each other, their guns cool to the touch and ready for action.
Anton motioned for Marshal King to come to where he squatted to examine something.
Making his way carefully and quietly to the spot where Adam had noticed tracks, Marshal King indicated, “Looks like their trail heads up that way.”
Anton glanced up the incline and commented, “Nine horses, including that one with the distinctive shoe track.”
Adam Henry King studied the dust-ridden evidence carefully. Either the outlaw brothers stopped to gather a couple of extra steeds for their journey, or….
“It’s almost dusk,” Anton said as he examined the horses’ tracks more closely.
Knowing what his friend meant, Adam replied, “Yes, once this light diminishes we can use the greyness effect it produces and trail these tracks that must go to that mine Joe mentioned.”
“About fifteen to twenty minutes I surmise.”
“Let’s hide the horses, Anton.”
With their horses hidden and secured, and the evening sky darkening, the two human hunters made their way carefully up a shallow arroyo bordering the trail heading toward the area of the mine.
“I hear somet—”
Before the words of warning left Marshal King’s mouth, shots echoed and ricochets skimmed the area like gravel thrown up from a passing stagecoach.
“Dang,” the Starshine Kid heard the mumble of his companion, “I been hit… twice, well, I’ll be dry-gulched and blind bushwhacked. They knew we were comin’ so they all hid outside of the mine and just waited for us.”
The two lawmen lay flat to the ground, only a desert-dried, long-dead rabbit could have lain any lower.
Anton replied, “Not so bad,” not wishing to worry Adam, even though blood was flowing swiftly from one of the wounds.
“Ready when you are.”
With the boldness of wolves on a hunt, the two stood and ran across the area near each side of the mine’s entrance with their guns blazing. With only the cover of a small boulder and an old tree stump, the lawmen managed to pick off their attackers like metal targets at a shooting gallery. One by one the Connors clan kissed the dirt with their dying lips, until four bodies lay dead in the tailings surrounding the once productive mine.
Suspecting one Connors brother may be lurking in the area, the lawmen took cover. A lone horse with its rider, later identified as Clifford Connors, could be heard racing off in the distant darkness of night.
As things often turn out with outlaws who walk on the wrong side of the fence of life’s bountiful prairie, Calvin Paul and Clifford had not made the trip as far south as everyone, including their own brothers, believed. After only a two day’s ride, the brothers came upon a band of Indians and a small herd of cattle that they assumed were stolen by the Indians. They waited until a lone Brave remained to watch the stock while the other Indians hunted for food, they overpowered the Brave and helped themselves to the spoil, never thinking of the possible ramifications that might occur as a result of their actions.
Seeing how much blood dampened Anton’s shirt, Adam recommended that Anton should return to Joe and have the old man patch him up. “I’ll run down this last varmint while you get healed up.”
“Yeah, I think you are right about that. One thing though,” Anton smiled slyly, even though the pain he felt would have made a normal man double over.
After a long pause the Starshine Kid responded, “I’m listenin’.”
“I wanted to surprise you, but—” Anton lost his breath for a moment due to the pain of his stomach wound.
“Hey, you better get goin’, Anton,” Adam commanded. “We can talk about things later.”
Catching his breath, the wounded brother of Della said, “No, not later. I just wanted to surprise you, so I been savin’ this info. My sister will be back any day now, and I told her to make her way to Iron Creek… she’ll meet you there.”
Adam was shocked as well as surprised. Iron Creek, he thought, well. I’ll be.
“So, don’t get shot up, ok.”
“I won’t, at least I ain’t got plans in that direction.”
The Starshine Kid helped Anton back down the trail to their horses. Once mounted, Marshal King asked Anton to have Joe bury the remaining dead outlaws, adding, “He’ll be compensated for the task from the US Marshal’s office once this is all sorted out.”
Puffs of dust rose into the night sky as the two friends rode off in different directions under the swiftly appearing expanse of stars overhead.
* Stay Tuned *
Part 13: Long and Far
The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
By Royce A Ratterman
© 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