The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
Part 19 of 20
The Nick of Time
The Starshine Kid and Clifford Connors faded in and out of consciousness over the next couple of hours, their faces scorched in the rays of the desert sun.
The two buried sufferers continued to drift in and out of reality, not knowing if they were awake, dreaming, or simply hallucinating. When the coolness of water rushed over their heads and into their parched mouths, hope returned like a rushing river in a long dry arroyo after a fresh summer rain.
“The name’s Parsons, Nick Parsons. It’ll be alright fellas.” Nick wore a wide-brimmed, slate-colored rancher’s hat. His voice and mannerisms were prepossessing.
After being released from their sandy graves and filled with enough water to regain enough of their senses to function, another man on horseback rode swiftly into sight… Anton.
“Well, now, this just ain’t the type of romantic reunion I had in mind when I told you to meet Della at Iron Creek,” Anton jested. “How did you go and mess that meetin’ up like this, Marshal Adam King? Or should I call you the Starshine Kid…or maybe the Sand King?”
“Very funny, I guess I should thank you two for savin’ our dried out hides,” Adam replied, coughing slightly.
Clifford Connors remained quiet.
“Yeah,” Nick answered, “We thought about waitin’ a spell and maybe using them hides of yours to make some new saddlebags, but—”
“Ok, ok, now,” Starshine interrupted, “lets dispense with the funnin’ for the time bein’.”
“How’d you two find us?” Adam questioned.
“We’ve been followin’ your trail for a spell… just in case. Couldn’t let my sister’s man get himself into trouble now, could I?” Anton laughed. “I picked up Nick not long after leavin’ Iron Creek after I got patched up. My wounds weren’t so bad after all.”
“I bet they’d have to tie you down before you’d admit to any wounds bein’ bad enough to keep you from ramblin’ on with life,” a smiling Marshal King commented.
“What shall we be doin’ with the likes of him?” Nick motioned toward Clifford Connors. “He be the outlaw you’ve been after, Marshal?”
The Starshine Kid took another long swig of water from a canteen fed to him by the friendly rancher, then answered, “It’s a long story, but he’ll be standin’ trial and I promised to put in a word or two for him.” Once free from their pits of sand, Adam’s and Clifford’s spirits perked up and their strengths returned.
The group discussed Anton’s wounds, Marshal King’s graze wound, burial in sand and how Anton had hunted down the renegade Indians, including the remaining Brave that tended to the marshal and Connors, and convinced them to return to the lands where they came from.
Anton clarified some supporting facts, “It seems those foreign Indians were on some sort of expedition for hidden Spanish gold. They spoke a mix of their dialect and Spanish, but I am fairly certain that’s what they was a doin’. Someone up and stole their spare horses and some cattle they had recently traded for, so they just hunted them outlaws down to recover their own property.”
The Starshine Kid added, “Looks like they ain’t no fonder of outlaws than we are.”
Anton laughed, “Reckon not, and they sure ain’t soft on crime.”
Clifford Connors only listened in remorse.
The group decided to camp for the night at the halfway point to Iron Creek, the four trail riders settled in next to a small spring located in a grove of willow trees. Jerky was all that was on the menu for the evening, along with coffee strong enough to strip imported paint off of a twenty-year-old steam locomotive.
Nick was a strong and sometimes stubborn man. He was close to six feet in height, of medium build, chestnut hair, sandy mustache, light eyebrows, and possessed piercing pale slate-blue eyes. As a self-made wealthy rancher he knew the value of a long, hard day’s work. As the men sat around the fire Nick told the tale of the legendary folk icon Grady Debuer…
This be the tale of Grady Debuer,
A gun fightin’ man he was for sure,
With pistols ablaze and bullets a flight,
Grady was one who liked a good fight.
He stood tall and true, lean, strong and tough,
Being good against Grady was not good enough…
The old songster went on for almost fifteen minutes with his oratory ballad. More tree branches graced the fire and hot coffee filled the group’s tired tummies. The tough-as-nails rancher never paused for one moment before finishing…
…Then one morn it came for Grady’s doom day,
Not a whisper, not a word, only those silent did pray,
The bullets flew fast and right on their mark,
Only now it was Grady who’d lay down in the dark.
On a grassy green hill they laid Grady to rest,
Down in the ground with the worst and the best,
But his story lingers on as trail tales do,
Told around campfires to me and to you!
“At that I reckon I’ll be turnin’ in,” Marshal King announced. “It has been one long couple of days.”
All four men agreed on the matter then fell asleep under the night’s open sky, each staring at heaven’s stars, rolled out like a blanket of light from one end of the horizon to the other.
Nick rode on alone in the morning, returning to his ranch in the foothills to the west, while the remainder of the group rode on into Iron Creek.
The ride back to Iron Creek gave the Starshine Kid the time he needed to continue with his thinking and ponderings. He was not getting any younger and the years of being a lawman were beginning to show. Oh, he was still as fast as lightning when it came to handling his guns, but that deep down burning desire to be out on the trail hunting outlaws was nowhere near as big a flame as it had been in the past. Maybe it was Della and his desire to have a life with her and raise a family, maybe it was only the dimming of the lawman’s eye’s spark, or maybe it was just time for a change. He knew what he wanted, but had a hard time admitting it to himself after years of trail riding freedom and being that special hero that a town, any town, needed from time to time.
“What’s on your mind, Marshal?” a curious Clifford Connors inquired of the preoccupied lawman. “You thinkin’ or just all burned out like a church candle after Christmas Eve services?”
“Yeah,” Anton agreed, “you look like your thinkin’ took a long trip back east or somethin’.”
“Just thinkin’ ‘bout life and all. I’ve had a mighty fine one at that.”
Connors straightened up in his saddle and said, “I bet you got a tale or two in you from your many years of bein’ a lawman, I’d bet my grandmother’s favorite knittin’ on that.”
Marshal King responded, “Your grandmother’s knittin’?”
The trio laughed long and hard on that saying.
* Stay Tuned *
Part 20: A New Beginning
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