Ride tall hang high, p.1
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       Ride Tall, Hang High, p.1

           Chet Cunningham
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Ride Tall, Hang High

  Ride Tall, Hang High


  Chet Cunningham

  © Copyright 2013 Chet Cunningham (as revised)

  Wolfpack Publishing

  48 Rock Creek Road

  Clinton, Montana 59825

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher, other than brief quotes for reviews.

  ISBN: 978-1-62918-072-4

  Table of Contents:

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter ONE

  July 14, 1869: Oak Park, Texas:

  Willy Boy sat on the bottom bunk and spoke sharply to the huge man who sat beside him in the Oak Park jail cell.

  "Damn right it’ll work, Gunner. Would I tell you it would work if it wouldn’t? Hell, no! When I go into my act and pretend I’ve hung myself, you yell your head off and call for the deputy. Can’t be more than one out there in the office now. You scream and yell and when he comes in do what he says, then I’ll grab his gun and we’ll be out of here damn quick. "

  Gunner was six-four, a solid, big man who weighed 250 hard muscled pounds. His dark eyes peered at Willy Boy from a face that had been described as simple but Gunner wasn’t slow witted, he was just a little confused at times.

  Willy Boy put the noose around his neck. He had made it from his spare shirt, and tied one end on the double deck bunk frame over his head. He tested it, let the knot pull tight around his throat, pushed his tongue out so it lolled over his cheek. Then he winked and nodded at Gunner.

  "Now, Gunner, call him now!" Willy Boy wheezed.

  Gunner screamed for the deputy. He took off his boot and pounded on the bars with it.

  "Deputy! Deputy, come quick! Willy Boy back here’s in trouble. Dear God come quick, deputy!"

  Across the aisle between the two rows of cells, two more men woke up and bellowed in anger at the noise. Soon the whole cell area was roaring with sound and five men were shaking their cell bars and screaming.

  Deputy Sheriff Seth Matthews opened the door into the cell block cautiously. He looked in and checked to see that everyone was in a cell, then he pushed his six- gun back in his holster.

  "What the hell’s going on?" he bellowed over the roar.

  Gunner bellowed just as loud. "Willy Boy . . . he’s hung himself!"

  Deputy Matthews took half a dozen steps between the cells and stared at Willy Boy. His face was blue, his tongue lolling out, the whole weight of his body was on a shirt noose around his neck. He had slid off the bottom bunk and by-god was hanging himself.

  "Little bastard! Should just let you die!" Deputy Matthews yelled. "We been having nothing but trouble from you, Willy Boy, since you came here two weeks ago. Hell, you claim you’re only seventeen but you been charged with murder. " Deputy Matthews stared at him. "Then, you bastard, you laughed and bragged about the killing. "

  Deputy Matthews swore. "You little shit, Willy Boy. I can’t let you die on me during my guard duty shift.

  You don’t get off that easy!"

  Deputy Matthews moved over to the cell door. "Stand back, Gunner!" he barked.

  Matthews took the key ring from his pocket and turned the big lock with one hand as he pulled his six gun with the other. "Gunner, you lay down flat on your face on the floor over there. Move!"

  Gunner did. He didn’t like Matthews.

  When Gunner was down, Matthews pushed the cell door inward and stepped toward Willy Boy. "Damn, his face is blue already, must be dead. "

  He knew he had to lift Willy Boy up to the bottom bunk or he’d never get the noose off his head. He tried pushing him, but it didn’t work. At last he bellied up to him, put his arms around the youth’s waist and hoisted him up.

  As he did he felt something, a slight movement. Then he realized it was his piece. He dropped Willy Boy but already the inmate had yanked the deputy’s six-gun out and lifted it to his head. Deputy Matthews saw only a flash of Willy Boy’s face as he grinned and fired the .45 at point blank range.

  Deputy Seth Matthews slammed backward against the outside of the cell and slid to the floor. Willy looped the shirt sleeve off his neck grinning.

  "Damn! Gunner, told you it would work!" His eyes looked around the cell, then at Gunner. "Come on, Gunner. We’re getting out of this damn crackerbox of a jail. Get his keys and open the other cell doors. All of them. "

  "Six of us in here. Six is a lot harder to hunt down than just two. We get guns at the door and nobody can stop us. "

  "Okay, you bastards, we’re making a jailbreak. We’ve got one gun, and there are half a dozen more in the office out front. Gunner’s gonna open up them cells, so get on your boots and get ready to travel. "

  "Get me a gun and I’m with you," the Professor said. Willy Boy laughed. "No damn time to argue. We’ll get a dozen guns. " He went to the end of the cells. "Open them, Gunner. Everybody steps out with boots on and we all go to the front office. Either go with us or I shoot you in the head right here. Make up your mind. "

  He glared at the end cell where a small Mexican man sat. "Come on Juan, moving time or dead time. " Juan hesitated. "I want no part in killing lawmen," he said.

  "Good, then you’re dead. " Willy Boy lifted the revolver and thumbed back the hammer. Juan shrugged, stepped into the aisle and walked toward the door.

  The Professor was already waiting there. Willy Boy looked at Eagle who sat on his bunk. "Come on, Chief, we can use you to help us live off the land. You damn Indians are good at that. "

  Eagle, a full blooded Comanche, laughed softly. "I dream of getting out of jail, but not by killing a guard. If I go with you I’ll be wanted for murder. "

  "So what?" Willy snorted. "You stay and you’re one more dead Indian. Decide. " Willy Boy lifted the revolver.

  Eagle jumped off the bunk and darted down the hall to the door that had not been opened yet.

  Johnny Joe Williams was out of his cell as soon as the door opened. He waited at the door. Willy Boy crowded past them and tested the door. Not locked. He opened it an inch. It came inward. He could hear nothing past it. He pulled it inward another foot and listened, then looked out.

  No sounds came from the next room. He remembered it was a kind of questioning room, with a long table and chairs. Beyond that was the front office. It had windows.

  He opened the next door and looked out. No one was there. He checked again, then ran through the open door to the gun rack on the far wall. It had a chain through the rifle and shotgun trigger guards.

  Willy Boy grabbed the key ring and hunted for the right one but didn’t find it. He shrugged, lifted the deputy’s .45 and shot twice at the chain at the side of the cabinet. It broke. There were three shotguns and three rifles. They took them all.

  He opened drawers until he found boxes of shells. He gave each man a box of both kinds. In another drawer he found four handguns that had been confiscated. There were .44 and .45’s. Willy Boy handed them around and saw that the men loaded them.

  The Professor found more pistol ammunition, and handed out boxes of it.

  "Company!" Johnny Joe Williams said pointing toward the outside door that led to the street.

  Almost at the same time a man came through the door into the office. He wore a tin star and saw the inmate
s. In a half second, his right hand darted to his hip where it clawed for his revolver.

  Willy Boy already had his six-gun up and shot the deputy through the heart.

  "Grab his gunbelt and pistola," Willy Boy shouted. "Damn, I got me two lawmen already and the day is just starting!"

  They looked around the office, saw nothing else they could use and moved over to the door.

  "We get outside, find horses and then stay together. We can fight off a damn posse this way," Willy Boy had told them this three or four times before he let anyone outside. Then he went first and told them to drift out one at a time.

  Willy Boy carried a loaded shotgun as he walked out of the jail house door. Across the street a saloon was dark and quiet. From around a comer three stores down on the far side of the street, the third deputy on duty was checking store doors.

  He saw one man leave the jail door in the shadows, then a second. He ran forward, his six-gun out.

  Beside Willy Boy, Gunner brought up his shotgun and triggered it. One barrel of 10 gauge double-ought buck blasted forward and hit the man who was now less than 20 feet from them. The shot nearly cut him in half.

  Willy Boy laughed. "Great shot, Gunner. Knew you had the right name. We get horses off the street. Check in front of saloons. "

  Willy Boy heard a door slam and a window close.

  "Go back to sleep, you bastards!" he screamed.

  Another window closed quickly. Willy Boy laughed.

  Now all six of them were out of the jail. They ran down Main Street, and soon found six horses that had been left on the street in front of saloons or hotels. Drunks who forgot them, or late arrivals at the hotel who were too tired to put the mounts in the livery.

  They mounted and rode out of town to the west.

  "We stick together or we die singly," Willy Boy yelled at them again. "Anybody know this area? Are there any farms or ranches out this way?"

  "A ranch about three, four miles out," Juan Romera said. "I worked there one summer. "

  "Good, let’s pay them a visit. We need some food and better horses if they got them. Hey, you guys, you’re free. No more hangman hovering there in the background waiting to stretch your necks, right?"

  He fired the pistol in the air once and laughed again, then they rode west down the stage road. When it turned north they kept going west on a wagon track.

  The Professor rode up beside Willy Boy. The Professor was the oldest one of the six. He was twenty-four and had once gone to college for a year and taught school for two years in Illinois. He was five-eleven, slender and dressed well when he could afford it. He preferred fancy gambler type vests and ruffled shirts.

  "Willy Boy, I’ve known you for only a week, but I must admit you do have a forceful personality. However, even you can’t keep these six men together against their wills. Don’t you think it would be better, strategically, if we let the Indian and the Mexican go on their way? Then any posse would have to split its forces to follow the three different trails. "

  "You talk all pretty and proper, but your ideas ain’t worth shit, Professor. You ever been chased by a posse? Bunch of damn civilians who don’t know one end of a rifle from the other. This damn sheriff is gonna be waking men up soon as he hears we blasted three of his deputies. He’ll be mad and do crazy things trying to find us.

  "Six of us fighting together can outgun him and rattle him more than one or two of us. That way we send him home without even sniffing our backsides. Besides, he might not even get out of bed until daylight. Depends on who reports the gunfire on the streets. We got some

  time. "

  Johnny Joe Williams slid into place riding on the other side of Willy Boy. The seventeen year old self appointed leader of the fugitives looked at him. "Johnny Joe, what the hell you think about what the Professor said?""He’s right, but so are you. Right now I vote with you. You had the nerve and the guts to get us out. How did you make your face turn blue that way?"

  "Held my breath. Been doing that since I was a kid. Damn fool deputy. Where you from, Johnny Joe? Never knew much about you. "

  "Missouri. Been making my living with the pasteboards. I’ve traveled most of the west since a quick job as a lawman. They tried to hang me for murder. " Willy Boy chuckled. "I think I’ve heard of you, Johnny Joe. Don’t you have something of a reputation as a gunfighter?"

  "I’ve been known to take up a revolver now and again. But it’s a 50/50 bet and that goes against my religion. When it comes to winning, I’m highly religious. " Willy Boy roared with laughter.

  He looked around, spotted the Indian close behind. "Eagle, how far can we go west this way before we run into a whole passel of Indians?"

  "Fifty miles. No camps around this area. "

  Willy Boy frowned at the red man. "Hear you was in jail for cutting up one of the deputies. You kill some white eyes or you just hurt him bad?"

  Eagle snorted. "I didn’t even start to hurt the sheriff when three more of them arrived. This town had too many deputies. But it don’t have quite so many now. " Willy Boy laughed again.

  Juan Romero rode up and motioned for them to turn to the left. "The ranch is about half a mile down this trail. I don’t even know if anyone is living there now. ""Romero, you were waiting trial for knifing some cowboy. I hear he started it and it was a fair fight and he cut you, but you’re the one they arrested. "

  "Si. I made the mistake of cutting the mayor’s drunken son and the mayor charged me. "

  Willy Boy nodded. "Happens, Juan. The law just ain’t equal to everybody, especially Mexicans in Texas. That’s why the six of us is gonna even it up a little here and there and around the edges. You know how lawmen are always killing the bad guys? Well, tonight the bad guys evened it up a little with three sheriffs deputies down and dead. "

  They could see the outlines of the ranch ahead. There were no lights. Ten minutes later they found that the place was deserted. Inside the small ranch house they discovered an old cook stove and two beds that had been left behind with some other furniture. Somebody had left in a rush.

  Willy Boy looked over the house. It was sturdily built. Rifle bullets wouldn’t go through the wooden sides. Two windows were already broken out.

  "Let’s park it here for the rest of the night. I’ll be on guard until daylight, then I want a volunteer as the rest of us get some sleep. "

  Eagle held up his hand.

  Willy Boy watched him a minute.

  "Maybe this is a good time to say it. I got you all out of jail. Wasn’t for me and my little act and my gun, every one of you would be back there still. I saved some of you from getting hung or at least 20 years in prison. Nobody leaves this bunch until I say so. Anybody leaves,

  I track him down and blow his damn head off. Everybody got that straight? Now is the time to talk it out. "

  He waited a minute. No one said anything. "Good. Now, let’s get our horses put away in the bam out there, but leave them saddled. We might have to leave sudden. Then the rest of you get some sleep. "

  He grinned. "Don’t worry, Willy Boy is here to take care of you all. "

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