THE OL' COWPOKE
Once an ol’ cowpoke finally sidled outta town. Why he’d ever been invited into town to begin with was a question few could answer. And fewer still were willin’ to admit later they’d been on the invitation committee for this rootin’-tootin’, gun-happy hayseed who liked to pronounce himself a “Sidekick to the Savior” but turned out to be somethin’ closer to a tinhorn Inquisitor instead. But he did have a big shiny belt buckle he’d flash like a badge at anybody he thought might be an evildoer, plus a willin’ posse of greenhorns that rode ’round in ten-gallon hats slidin’ down over half-pint heads. For a surprisin’ number of years, that had been enough for more than a surprisin’ number of folks. Whenever voices of doubt had been raised, they were generally dismissed by those who saw themselves as pillars of the community or else shouted down by those who clearly weren’t but who could make the moral boast of bein’ lifetime members of “Vigilantes for the Right and therefore the Good.” An’ so it might have continued were it not for the day the snake oil finally ran out and the whole shebang showed itself nothin’ more than a two-bit fraud. The ol’ cowpoke’s bowlegged swagger was as much a bluff as his arms-half-cocked stance, the spittin’ image of a dude-ranch poser about to get the drop on shootin’-gallery cutouts at a state fair. Not that he had the aim even for such stunts, it turned out, instead sending everybody within range of his wild draw and misaimed bluster scramblin’ for whatever cover was at hand. Even then, so long as he didn’t actually hit anybody, the dangers of allowin’ this ol’ coot out in public, let alone permittin’ him to remain in charge a the place, could be downplayed. “Let ’im get the hang of it,” the pillars of the community and the vigilantes agreed, “then you’ll see some real shootin’.” Which everybody did see, unfortunately, when his trigger-happy shenanigans began cuttin’ down community pillars and vigilante supporters alike, sparin’ no part of society, top to bottom, while a passel of snickerin’ desperados made off behind him with all the loot they could carry. Only when this calamitous sham threatened to destroy an entire way of life lock, stock, and barrel and enough folks were willin’ to admit they’d been hornswoggled did calls to “string ’im up!” ring out loud and clear. But others argued the ol’ cowpoke was just too big, despite all the evidence of his genuine smallness, to get that kind of comeuppance, and so a compromise was worked out that allowed him to escape punishment if he’d just ride off into the sunset pronto and never show his danged face ’round those parts again. Or at least that was the hope.
Copyright © 2009 by Geoffrey Grosshans