Chapter 1- Introduction

Chapter 1- Introduction

A Chapter by Patricia Gayle

In a saloon on a dusty Sacramento street, three cowboys observe a mysterious old man and are suprised with a story.


          An orange glow fell through the bat wing doors and across the floor of the old saloon, indicating the close of another day.  Outside, the sounds of wagons and horses began to fade from the Sacramento streets as the town’s citizens headed home for the night. 

The doors squealed loudly on rusty hinges as an old man made his way in.  He stood tall in his scuffed cowhide boots, worn brown pants and tattered blue plaid shirt.  On top of his head sat a straw cowboy hat so beaten and misshapen it looked as though it had been trampled by a herd of buffalo, then half heartedly reshaped.  The old man was covered from head to toe in dust and dirt.  He walked with a slight limp up to the bar and took a seat on a rickety stool. 

The old man had come into this saloon every night for the past five years and if anyone in this town knew him it had to be Charlie.  Charlie was ready when he arrived and he placed a cloudy glass on the bar as he took his seat.  Neither spoke a word.  Charlie already knew the routine well.  He filled the old man’s glass and watched as he drank it down with the same old grimace as he did every time before.  He then sat it back on the bar and nodded for another. 

          In the far back corner of the saloon sat three men.  The oldest was, Joe Thomas, a small framed man of about thirty.  He sat with his back to the wall and when the old man came in he looked up to watch as he silently drank his whiskey, one shot after another. 

Boots McGraw sat next to Joe at the table.  Boots was only a few years younger than Joe, but three times his size.  He had earned his nickname well.  He stood six foot two in his custom sized boots.  Boots looked to the door as well when the old man stumbled in.  They both watched as he drank. 

Duke Gordon, the youngest of the three, sat with his back to the door.  Duke was a kid of only about seventeen years old.  He had met Boots in Carson City, Nevada.  Duke had gotten into trouble there and Boots took him back to California on a favor.  When Boots and Joe looked toward the door, he turned and looked over his shoulder to see what had their attention. 

The old man never noticed the three in the corner.  He just proceeded to the bar for his drinks. 

          “Right on time,” Joe remarked with a smile.  “You could just ‘bout set yer watch ta that ol’ man.”

          “Yep,” Boots chuckled.  “Same time ever’ day.”

         “Where you boys s’pose he come from?”  Duke asked turning back toward the other two.  He had heard vague stories about the old man since Boots had brought him to Sacramento and curiosity had finally gotten the best of him.

          “Don’t know.  Just showed up here one day an’ been ‘round ever since.”

          “Ain’t a feller ‘round knows much ‘bout him.  Course, everybody got their ideas,” Joe said smiling at the thought.

          Duke looked at Joe with curiosity, “What folks been claimin’?”

          “Well…I hear he’s got a whole load o’ gold stashed up in them mountains,” Boots whispered back.  He looked around to make sure no one else could hear him and then continued, “I hear he robbed some ol’ forty-niner blind and left him for dead up there.  Then he hid the gold some place so no one would find it.”

          “That ain’t the story I heard,” Joe said to Boots doubtfully, rubbing his whiskery chin.  He turned toward Duke and said, “I hear he’s runnin’ from the law.”

          “Well…if that’s so, he sure picked a hell of a place to run to,” Duke replied looking back over at the old man again.  The old man sat with his back to the men and continued to drink.

          “I heard he killed fifty men out in Texas,” continued Joe.  “Four or five of ‘em were Rangers tryin’ to arrest him.  A nice price was put on his head and a posse formed up to hunt him down and take him back to the capitol for a trial, but he still managed to get away.”

          “I reckon that’s cause he’s friends with them Injuns,” Boots replied with a nod.  “Ya know how them Injuns are.  I bet they taught him a thing or two ‘bout hidin’ out it in them woods and fightin’ and survivin’ out there.  They know all ‘bout that ya know.”

          “Yep, ya pro’ly right.”

          “He sure does look like a mean sucker, don’t he?”  Duke replied, digging in his shirt pocket and recovering his flint lighter.

          The three men watched as the old man finished off his drink and poured another.  He never flinched or looked back at the three in the corner.

          “Anybody ever just try askin’ him?”  Duke asked after a couple of minutes.  He turned back to Joe and Boots and started playing with his lighter.

          “Boy, ya don’t just go ‘round askin’ folks ‘bout their business,” Boots said to him sharply.  “Ya’d lose yer head if ya just started askin’ folks ‘bout stuff like that.”  Boots sighed loudly.  “Boy, what is wrong with ya.  Ya hit yer head or something.”  Then under his breath he mumbled, “sometimes I wonder ‘bout ya.”  He drank from the glass in front of him and then continued, “Would you just go ‘round tellin’ folks ‘bout that woman and babe ya left in Nevada? Or ‘bout all that trouble you and yer brother were in when I found ya there?”  Duke shook his head.  “Well then what makes ya think that ol’ man’s gonna tell us all ‘bout his troubles?”

          “I just thought…”

          “Well that’s what happens when ya go thinkin’ too hard.  I figured you’d already learned that much in Carson City.”

          Joe began to chuckle.  He was enjoying the show these two were putting on. 

          “What are you laughin’ ‘bout?”  Boots asked glaring at Joe.

          “Just listenin’ to you two,” he said laughing harder.  “Yall sound like a couple of bickerin’ hens.”

          Boots smiled and then began to laugh himself.  Duke joined in and soon all three were roaring with laughter.  The old man and Charlie turned to look at the men in the corner.  A moment later the laughter died and the old man returned to his drink.  Charlie went back to wiping down the counter. 

A dusty breeze blew into the saloon as more men made their way in for drinks.  The glow of the setting sun was beginning to disappear behind the General Store across the street casting the saloon in its shadow.  Charlie set to work lighting the lanterns that lined the inside of his bar.

The old man thought about what he had heard from the three men in the corner.  He had heard all the stories people were telling about him.  Not even Charlie knew who he was before he had come to Sacramento, yet everyone in the country thought they knew the story well.  He had overheard many conversations such as the one the three men in the corner were having amongst themselves, but for some reason this one hit him differently.  Perhaps it was the tall man’s respect for his privacy, or even more the little bits and pieces of the boy’s life that had been revealed.  He slowly rose to his feet, took one last drink, and walked to the back of the saloon where the men sat.  “You boys like stories?” he asked in a gruff voice.

The three looked around at each other, each with a look of surprise on their face by the old man’s inquiry.  They were unaware that their conversation had been overheard, let alone the subject of their discussion. 

Joe smiled, “Sure, ol’ man.  Ya got one fer us.”

“I reckon so,” he said flashing back a toothless smile.

“Well then pull up a chair and let’s hear it,” Duke replied, almost mockingly.

The old man did not notice Duke’s tone.  He carefully pulled a wobbly wooden chair up to their table and sat down.

“So ol’ man what’s yer story?”  Boots asked, with a crocked grin.

The old man wiped his mouth with a rough hand, thought a moment, then began, “My story begins in Boston… 

© 2010 Patricia Gayle

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oh crocked? grin.."crooked" you mean?

Posted 10 Years Ago

I spoke too soon this book is good...waiting to see how shameless is...ill follow it you bet.

Posted 10 Years Ago

You have a way with dialog that makes me want to read more of this story, which I am going to do shortly. As far as linking chapters/making them longer- I'd love to know what those three men look like above and beyond their small paragraph each. I don't mean anything too in depth, but just a quick something about their eyes, chin, mouth, scars, dirty hands. An appearance can tell you a lot about what kind of characters you've just introduced us to. I can say, I'm excited to read the next chapter. I want to know the man's story now. You've lured me in.

Posted 10 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on January 1, 2010
Last Updated on March 19, 2010
Tags: Sacramento, old west, cowboys

Burning Bridges


Patricia Gayle
Patricia Gayle

College Station, TX

I'm 25 and have been writing for close to 10 years now. Writing is my therapy. I've written and self published one book, a regional non-fiction I completed in the summer after highschoo.. more..