35 Attack on the Bar T

Attack on the Bar T
Part 35 of the Ranch Days series
By Maz McCoy

“Soldiers,” Bill Napier announced and Jeff Collins looked up from his seat on the porch.
The ranch foreman did his best to suppress a grimace as he eased himself to his feet. He squinted at the approaching horses. Down at the corral other men stopped what they were doing and looked up as the column of cavalry soldiers rode into the Bar T, their mounts creating a cloud of dust as they drew to a halt in front of the bunkhouse. The officer in charge kicked his horse forward and saluted. “Mister Collins.”
Collins smiled. “William, I didn’t know you were back.”
“Been back a month or so, sir.”
“Is that a new stripe?”
William smiled. “Yes, sir.”
“Congratulations.”
“Thank you.”
“So, what can we do for ya?”
“You heard about the renegades?”
“Yeah. My brother took an arrow from one of them.”
“Your brother?”
Jeff smiled. “You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
William Brody removed his hat and scratched his blond hair. “I guess I have.” His expression turned serious and he replaced the hat. “Are the Culvers here?”
“Not at the moment. They’re in San Francisco.”
William nodded as he processed the information. “Mister Collins, you need to get the women into town. The renegades attacked the Hamilton place last night. They didn’t leave anyone alive.”
Collins exchanged a glance with Bill. “What about their kids?”
The young soldier shook his head. “We found them all there.”
“Oh God.” Bill’s hands tightened around the porch rail.
“Do you have any idea which way they’re headed?” Jeff asked.
“No, but we’re warning all the ranchers and farmers. You really should get the ladies into town, sir.”
“We will.”
“I’ll leave a couple of my men to act as escorts.”
“’ppreciate it.”
“We’d best be going. There are still a few places we haven’t warned yet.” He turned his horse away.
“William.” The young cavalry officer turned back. “You take care.”
“Yes, sir. You too.”
They watched as the soldiers rode away and before the dust had settled Jeff started shouting orders. “Reno! Get you rifle and get up on the bunkhouse roof. You see anyone headed this way you fire off a shot. Marty! Heyes! Get up here!” He turned to Bill. “Find Nathan.”

***

“How many do they think there are?” Jed Curry asked as he carefully carried several rifles across the yard towards the men stationed at the corral.
“Does it matter?” Heyes struggled not to drop the ammunition belts he’d been entrusted with.
“D’you reckon they’re the same ones that attacked Bobby?”
“Jeff thinks so.”
“Heyes.”
Recognising the seriousness in his friend’s tone Heyes stopped walking. “What?”
“D’you think you could kill one? I mean, kill an injun?”
“If I had to.” Heyes studied Jed. “How ‘bout you?”
“Sure. If I had to.” Jed sounded convinced but Heyes wasn’t so sure about himself. Before he could ponder on how that made him feel, Jed asked, “Did you say William got promoted?”
“Yeah.”
“Bet Emily will like that.”
“I thought you’d got over her.”
“I have. Just reckon she’ll be pleased about William.”
“I reckon she will.” They walked on but Heyes didn’t miss the thoughtful glance Jed cast towards the main house.

***

“But I don’t want to go to town,” Annabelle protested as Nathan helped her up onto the buckboard. “I can fire a weapon.”
“I know but, you’re going anyway,” he placed her bag in the back.
“I’d be safer here. We’d be safer here. We could be attacked on the road.”
“The renegades were last seen on the Hamilton ranch. That’s in the opposite direction to town.” Annabelle opened her mouth to object but he held up a hand silencing her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You will be safer in town and you will go! Now scoot over.” He climbed up beside her and grabbed hold of the reins. “You might have noticed we also have two troopers to guard us. Besides, it’ll be a good opportunity for you to see the doctor. Confirm you really are expecting my son and get a check-up at the same time.”
His wife scoffed. “What makes you think I’d have a boy?”
Nathan smiled. “A man knows these things.” Annabelle made a derogatory sound as he flicked the reins and they headed towards the main house.

***

“Nathan get the women away okay?” Bill asked as he directed the hands pulling a wagon across the corral.
“Yeah,” Jeff surveyed the preparations they had made so far. “He took all the ladies from the main house, although I think Annabelle caused him the most problems.”
Bill chuckled. “I don’t envy him that ride into town. She can be one feisty lady. ‘Course you’re gonna be getting a feisty wife of your own real soon. You sure you’re up to the challenge?”
Jeff smiled. “I reckon I’m ready.”
“I bet Rosalind has a view about that.”
“I bet she does.”
Bill realised where the hands had left the wagon. “NOT THERE! I said pull it over there!” He pointed. “You hafta be able to get behind it if they attack.”
Collins placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll leave them to you.”
“Thanks.” But he sure didn’t sound pleased.
“If you need me I’ll be with Marty checking the ammo.”
“We got enough?”
“That’s what I want to find out.” Jeff turned away and headed towards the barn.

***
“You ever been in an injun attack?” Jed Curry asked as Marty laid boxes of bullets and cartridges on the table in front of him.
“Once or twice.” The older man returned to the shelf where he stored the bullets and stood with his back to the boy.
“I only saw them ridin’ away.” Jed placed one box on top of the others.
“Be glad that’s all you saw.” Marty ran his fingers along the row of boxes, counting. “Two, three, four, five….”
“I got off a couple of shots but they were out of range.” Another box increased the height of Jed’s makeshift tower.
“Probably just as well. Three, four, five…”
“You didn’t want me to shoot any of ‘em?”
“No, I jus’…” Marty turned and saw the tower of ammo boxes. He let out a patient sigh. “These aren’t building blocks.”
“I know, I was just – passing the time.”
“Well, pass it by helping me count the darn things.”
“You need help countin’ boxes?”
“No, I…”
“Kid giving you trouble?” a familiar voice asked and they turned to see Jeff Collins standing in the doorway.
“Don’t he always?” Marty asked. He waved a hand at the boxes. “Take what you need. I reckon we got enough but I’ll be able to tell you just how many we have when I get a bit of peace and quiet to finish my countin’.” He narrowed his eyes on the kid.
Jed looked aggrieved but didn’t say anything.
“Kid, take a couple of boxes to Reno. He’s up on the roof on look out.” The boy picked up the bullets. “Why don’t you relieve him for a while?”
“Me?” The blond boy was startled.
“Sure. Just keep your eyes open and if you see anything let off a shot.”
A broad grin broke out on Jed’s face. “Yes, sir!” He headed out the door at a run.
“Kid!”
Jed turned back. “Boss?”
“If you do have to fire your gun make sure you don’t hit anyone.”
Jed was about to object when Jeff smiled. “Okay, I’ll aim in Heyes’ direction.” He chuckled as he left the barn.
Jeff looked up to see Marry studying him. “What? You don’t think I should have done that?”
“No. I can’t think of a better place for him right now. I just hope he doesn’t fall off the roof from excitement.”
Jeff’s smile faded. “So how much ammo do we really have?”

***
“What you doing up there?” Heyes called as he shielded his eyes against the sun’s glare. A blond figure peered over the edge of the bunkhouse roof.
“I’m on watch.”
“Since when?”
“Jeff sent me up here. Needed someone he could trust to keep his eyes open.”
“So why’d he ask you?” Heyes mumbled.
“What?”
“Nothing.”
“I’ll let you know if you should take cover.”
“I don’t need you to tell me that.”
“You want anythin’ else, ‘cos I got important work to do and it looks like Bill wants you?” Kid stepped away from the edge and continued scouring the horizon for anything that moved.
Heyes shook his head in bemusement then turned to see Bill beckoning him and he ran across the yard to see what he wanted.

***

“See anything?” Jeff asked Louisiana. He, like Reno, had only been at the ranch for a couple of weeks.
“S’all quiet, Boss.” The young man leaned on the side of the wagon, rifle in his hands, eyes fixed on the horizon.
“The men treating you okay?”
“Sure thing.” Louisiana turned to face Jeff and grinned. “Henry even offered to cook me ‘gator if anyone could find one.”
“You’re honoured.”
“S’what Bill said.”
“Hopefully you won’t need to use that rifle.”
The man patted the weapon. “I’m ready if I do.”
“Good to know.” He placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Holler if you see anything.”
Louisiana nodded and Jeff walked along the corral to where Heyes stood watch. “You okay?”
“Yes, sir.” Heyes did his best to look alert.
“You ready to use your gun if you have to?”
“I reckon I am.”
“Want me to ask Jed to give you some shootin’ pointers?”
Heyes bristled and Jeff did his best to hide a grin. “I don’t need him to teach me anything.”
“Okay. Keep sharp.”
“I will.” Heyes glared at the distance trees daring anyone hidden behind them to make a move.
The ranch foreman looked around. They had created a cordon on four sides. A wagon served as barricade beside the corral, another blocked the gap between the barn and the bunkhouse. Boxes and an old cart from the barn provided protection on the road to the main house and Henry had finally agreed to let them use the full sacks of flour to make a barrier on the other side of the bunkhouse and…Jeff frowned. Two of the hands were currently couched behind it playing cards.
“Hey!” The men jumped to their feet at the sound of Jeff’s voice, cards falling around them. “At least one of you should be keeping an eye out.”
“Sorry, Mister Collins,” they chorused. The cards were swiftly gathered up and disappeared from view. The men assumed on-watch positions.
Satisfied, Collins headed up to the bunkhouse. When he reached it he looked up at the roof. “Kid!”
The blond boy peered over the edge. “Boss?”
“See anything?”
“No, sir.”
“Keep a sharp watch.”
“I will.”
“Good. We’re relying on you.”
The kid positively swelled with pride. “Yes, sir!”
Jeff smiled and climbed the steps to the bunkhouse porch. He took a long look around satisfying himself that all was in order before entering the bunkhouse.

***
Bobby sat up in bed, his left arm in a sling from the arrow wound he had recently sustained. He looked up at his brother. “Everything all right?”
Jeff lowered himself into a chair and sighed. “Yeah.” He closed his eyes.
“You okay?”
“Yeah.”
“No, you’re not.”
Jeff opened his eyes. “Why did you ask me a question if you already know the answer?”
“So you’re not okay?”
Jeff’s eyes closed again. “Sheesh, Bobby, I’m too tired to play games.”
“So answer the question.”
“I’m tired. I’m worried. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten something but I don’t know what.” He shot his brother a look. “Satisfied?”
“To know that my big brother isn’t infallible? You bet.” He waited a moment then smiled.
“Shut up.”
Bobby shifted in bed. “I’m gonna need my gun.”
“What for?”
“Mostly for shootin’ things.”
“Bobby…”
“Where d’you want me stationed?”
“I don’t.”
“I’m not sitting in here so you have to defend me like some useless girl.”
“Don’t let Rosa hear you say that. Besides, if I thought you were a girl I’d have sent you into town with Nathan.”
“You know what I mean.”
“You’ll do as you’re told like the rest of the men.”
“But I’m not like the rest of the men. If I was you’d have me out there doing something useful. Right, Big Brother?”
Jeff gave a heavy sigh. “You’re wounded.”
“Doesn’t stop me firing a gun.”
“Bobby, I can’t be worrying about you too.”
“You don’t have to. You haven’t had to for a long time.”
“Doesn’t stop me doing so.”
“Just let me do something to help out. I feel so damned useless sitting here.”
“If you wanna help, stay in the bunkhouse. Help Henry protect the supplies. I reckon they’re more likely to want our food and horses than anything else.” Jeff pushed himself up out of the chair and headed for the door.
“Jeff.” The foreman turned around, clearly expecting his brother to complain once more. “Stay safe.”
Jeff half-smiled. “I’ll do my best. You keep your head down too.”

***
“What about the main house? You want me to send someone up there?” Bill asked as he buttoned up his jacket against the chill wind that had started to blow down from the mountains.
“There aren’t enough of us to protect all the buildings. I’d rather save lives down here.” Jeff’s eyes moved over their fortifications as he spoke.
“Hope Mister Culver feels the same way.”
“I reckon he would if he was here.”
“Even if it means losing his precious paintings?”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far.” Collins smiled. “But then I can’t see the renegades wanting them either.”
“Not even the one of the prize bull?”
Jeff chuckled. “Especially that one.”
“They might ransack the house just for the hell of it.”
“Yeah, they might, but we can only defend a small area.”
“I know.” Bill seemed about to say something else but kept quiet, kicking the ground with the toe of his boot.
“What?”
“Nothing.”
“I’ve known you for too many years, Bill. What is it?”
“We’ve got a handful of men and a couple of boys.”
“Your point being?”
“You know what my point is.”
“It’s gonna get rough, I know, but we can’t just ride out and leave the place. “
“I know, I just hope the men are up to the fight.”
“They’ll do their best.”
“Let’s hope it’s good enough.”

***
Like the calm before the inevitable storm the bunkhouse was eerily quiet. Some of the men played cards with little enthusiasm; others checked and cleaned their guns. Louisiana sat on his bunk flicking playing cards, one at a time, into his upturned hat and Hannibal Heyes lay on his bed reading a well-thumbed book Henry had given him. Jed Curry perched on the edge of his bunk, socked feet on the floor as he twirled his Colt around in his right hand. Twirl, catch. Twirl, catch. He watched the other men. What did they do before a fight? How did they prepare? What went through their minds? How could they look so calm, when he was so nervous? Yeah, he was as nervous as he had been on the day they entered the home. Even Han looked calm and he usually paced back and forth when he was nervous.
Behind the book, Heyes read the same sentence for the third time. Sheesh, he was nervous. He had never shot anyone before but it looked as if he was going to have to. Oh, he’d fired a gun. Growing up on a farm you had to know how to and his Pa had taught him, but shooting a deer or a rabbit had to be a lot different from shooting a man. And the deer had never shot back. What if…
The sound of a rifle shot sent chairs crashing and men running from the bunkhouse.
Out on the porch Collins called “Reno?” and the man appeared at the edge of the roof. He pointed into the distance and all eyes focused on an approaching dust cloud.
“Gotta be twenty riders!”
“Can you see who they are?”
“Not sure, but they ain’t soldiers.”
Jeff turned to the men and shouted orders.
“What is it?” Kid asked as he hopped about on the porch attempting to pull his left boot on.
“Riders, not sure who,” Heyes informed him as he tucked his shirt in his pants and scoured the horizon.
“Gotcha gun?”
“Yeah.”
“Use it.”
Before Heyes could respond his friend had drawn his Colt and was heading down the steps.

***

The riders could be heard whooping and hollering as they rode towards the Bar T. They separated before they reached the ranch. One group headed off behind the bunkhouse and quickly disappeared from view. Jed and Marty took up positions behind the wagon, between the bunkhouse and the barn, waiting for them to appear.
“See what they do first. If they attack us, don’t fire ‘till you’ve got a target,” the older man advised.
“I won’t.” Jed looked over the top of the wagon. His mouth had gone surprisingly dry. He swallowed. Nope, no spit at all.
“You’ll be fine kid.”
“Huh?” He looked at Marty.
“You’ll be fine.”
“Sure I will.”
“So keep your head down!” Marty reprimanded as he placed a hand on the blond locks and shoved the boy out of harm’s way.

***

Hannibal Heyes was afraid. He wasn’t about to admit it to anyone, but he had butterflies in his stomach and his palms were sweating. He licked his lips and swallowed. “Louisiana.”
“What?” The southerner didn’t take his eyes off the strip of land he’d been entrusted with defending. From the end of the barn to the water trough was his responsibility. Where were they? A bunch of Indians on horseback couldn’t just disappear.
“You ever kill anyone?”
“You never ask a man that.”
“Why not?”
“You just don’t.”
“But have you?”
“Anyone ever tell you, you talk too much?”
“Once or twice. Jed mostly.”
“I reckon the kid knows what he’s talkin’ about. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes sharp and you’ll be fine.”
“I never said I …”
“It’s all right to be afraid, just don’t let the other man know it.” He turned briefly to face Heyes and gave him a wink. “You’ll be fine.”
Heyes nodded and his grip tightened on the butt of his gun just as the Indians reappeared.

***

Yelling and screaming, a group of riders charged straight at the corral. Two of the horses jumped the fence throwing up dust as their hooves hit the ground. Heyes’ eyes opened wide when he saw the men’s faces covered in stripes of red and black paint. They waved rifles angrily at the ranch hands.
“Hold your fire!” Jeff Collins commanded. He watched the riders from behind the fence. The renegades rode closer to the fence yelling at the waiting men, then turned and spurred their horses out of the corral.
When the renegades disappeared, all eyes scoured the area for any sign of their return.
“Reno?” The foreman looked up at the man on the bunkhouse roof.
Reno pointed into the distance. “They headed towards the bluff, but I can’t see them.”
Almost as soon as he finished speaking the hollering started again and the renegades came at them from all sides. The attack had begun. Bullets pinged off the water tower as the sound of hooves pounding the earth filled the air. The ranch hands took cover behind the wagons, water trough and buckboard. Arrows flew through the air imbedding themselves in fence posts and corral rails. Some skidded across the ground. The men of the Bar T returned fire.
Riders circled the ranch moving beyond the corral, around the barn and bunkhouse. Bullets peppered the bunkhouse roof and Reno disappeared.
“Reno!” Bill called.
The man appeared once more. “I’m okay!”

***

An Indian rode straight toward the wagon Marty and Jed hid behind. Marty stood up, raised the rifle to his shoulder and fired. The man fell from his horse and landed unmoving in the dirt. Marty ducked back down.
Jed starred through the wagon wheels at the body and the bloody wound in the man’s chest.
A sharp thump on the shoulder brought him back to the moment at hand.
“Keep sharp, they’re coming back.” Marty rested his rifle on the wagon and aimed at the approaching riders.
Sure enough several Indians appeared from behind the bunkhouse. One jumped from his horse and headed towards the barn, another went for the bunkhouse itself. Jed squeezed the trigger of his Colt until…The bullet hit the wall of the barn. “Damn!” He turned to Marty and found him aiming his rifle directly at him. “Mar…” The weapon fired and an Indian fell to the ground behind Jed.
“I told you to keep sharp!”
Jed stared at the body at his feet. Sheesh, that was close.

***
“See anything?” Bobby asked Henry who peered, rifle in hand, out of the cookhouse window.
“Not anymore. A bunch of ‘em just rode by but I don’t see…Wait a minute.” He fired a shot. “Damn! Missed him.” Henry turned to look at the boss’ brother. Bobby leaned against the kitchen door, his face pale. “You should be in bed.”
“Don’t you start; I had enough of that with Jeff.”
“Well, at least sit down so you don’t throw off my aim when you pass out.”
Bobby lowered himself onto a nearby barrel. “I want a shot at those Indians.”
“I’m sure you do, but I’d prefer to keep ‘em outside. Still, if one gets past me I promise you can shoot him.”

***
Jed Curry had just killed a man. The Indian rode straight at the wagon shouting and waving a gun. Marty was desperately trying to reload his rifle when the man jumped from his horse and landed in the wagon. He raised the gun ready to shoot when Jed fired. The man staggered backwards and crumpled in the wagon bed. As Jed stood open mouthed Marty slapped him on the back and pointed in the direction the man had come.
“Watch the damn hill!”
Jed did as he was told but the look on the Indian’s face as he’d fired the Colt was imprinted in his mind.

***

A flaming arrow soared through the air and connected with the roof of the barn. A second landed in a pile of hay Louisiana and Heyes were crouching behind. A third and then a fourth hit the open bar door as more arrows rained down. The hay caught light. Louisiana looked around for a safer place to use as cover. The closest solid object was the water trough. He shoved Heyes towards it. “Get over there!”
The young man ran and the bullets chased him. Heyes landed on his stomach, hands covering his head as the metal hit the wooden sides of the trough. There was a sound of sliding feet and Louisiana crashed down next to him. Heyes was stunned to find him laughing.
“If my mamma could see me now she’d skin me alive for gettin’ myself into this. Not sure who I’d rather face, her or them injuns. S’like N’Orleans on a Saturday night!”
Heyes laughed and then a shadow fell over them. Louisiana flipped onto his back aiming his gun at the Indian who stood over them, a knife grasped in his right hand. Louisiana fired…CLICK!
His gun was empty. The renegade lunged at Louisiana. As the men grappled in the dust Louisiana called out, “Shoot him!”
Hannibal Heyes aimed his handgun at the fighting men trying to summon the courage to fire. The Indian let out a chilling scream. Heyes’ finger hesitated on the trigger. Could he do this? What if he hit Louisiana? If only they’d keep still he could…
“Shoot ‘im, Heyes!”

***

“The barn’s alight!”
At the shout all eyes turned to see flames leaping from the walls of the building. Inside the horses could be heard whinnying in fright.
“Get the horses out!” Jeff cried.
Bill ran across the yard toward the barn. Shots hit the ground all around him, sending up small puffs of dirt, and he danced to an imaginary jig as he struggled to avoid them. Then Bill cried out, his body jerked and he fell to the ground.
Jeff saw his friend fall but a barrage of bullets kept him pinned behind the fence. When the onslaught died down Jeff pushed away from the fence. Keeping low, as bullets continued to whizz above his head, the ranch foreman took off at a run. Around him others headed to the barn to rescue the animals.
“Bill!” Jeff dropped to his knees beside his friend. His eyes opened wide in horror at the bloody wound in his friend’s chest. “Oh no!”
Bill reached out a hand and caught hold of Jeff’s shirt. His grip tightened around the fabric as he struggled to speak but his throat filled with blood. Frightened eyes met Jeff’s.
“Just hang on, all right? Just hang on,” his friend pleaded.
“Boss, we…” Heyes skidded to a halt when he saw the blood. “Bill?” He looked to Collins for reassurance that all was well, but the expression on Jeff’s face gave him none. Heyes lowered himself to the ground and knelt beside the injured man.
“Name…” Bill swallowed and tried again. “Name….a boy.”
“You don’t need to say anything,” Jeff assured him as he ripped the bandana from his own neck and pressed it against the wound. “We’ll get you help.”
“Jeff.” Bill took a deep breath as his eyes lost focus. “After me. Name…a boy…after me.”
“Name one yourself. I want you dancin’ at my weddin’, you hear?” The hand on Jeff’s shirt lost its grip and Bill’s arm fell to the ground. “Bill?” William Napier’s eyes stared at the sky above. “Bill?” Despite the cries and gun shots all around him the only thing Jeff heard was the silence of his friend no longer breathing. He didn’t even react to the sound of a distant bugle.

***
Marty closed the bunkhouse door and stood on the porch watching the colours of the sky change as the sun slid below the horizon. He reached out and struck a match on the porch post then lit a cigarette. As he took a long drag on the smoke his gaze drifted to the lone figure sitting on the edge of the horse trough beside the corral. “How long’s he been down there?”
“Long enough.” Bobby sat on a porch-chair watching his brother but too weak to walk down to him. He’d been of little help to Henry during the raid and now, when his brother needed him, he didn’t have the energy to cover more than a few paces.
Without a word Marty descended the steps and headed towards his friend.
Jeff Collins didn’t turn round. He knew the men well enough to recognise the footsteps approaching him. He wasn’t surprised when Marty stepped into view.
“Heck of a day.”
No reply.
Marty sat beside Jeff. He offered him his cigarette and Jeff took it. After a couple of long drags he handed it back. Marty smoked in silence for a while, watching as the sky worked its way through the spectrum before he spoke. “D’you remember the day he arrived? He wore that darn hat.” Jeff smiled. “Took us, what, two days to get him to change it for a proper one?”
“Three.”
“Three days. I always liked the brown one he used to wear. Had my eye on it when he got tired of it. What the heck happened to it?”
“Got trampled in a stampede.”
“Thought it had to be something major. The thing was practically glued to his head.” Marty shot a quick glance at his boss. “I’m gonna miss him.”
“Me too.” Jeff’s fingers tightened on the wooden frame of the trough. “I, er…”
“It’s okay, Jeff. No one expects anything of you. We’ve all lost a friend.” Marty stood up, resting a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “If you wanna eat tonight you’d best head back up there soon. I always forget how much teenage boys eat.”
“Seem to have lost my appetite.”
“Might be just as well. Henry’s been mutterin’ somethin’ about makin’ gator pie.”

***
Jeff stood on the hill top looking down at the freshly covered grave. The marker Marty had made still smelled of newly cut wood. It said simply, Our good friend William Napier. A finer man you will not meet. And then there was the date. They had discussed at length what to put and these words had been Heyes’ suggestion. That had been a surprise, but he had clearly been listening to everything the men had said about Bill and captured it all in two succinct lines. Who knew the young man was that astute?
Jeff swallowed as he tried to find the words he wanted to say to his friend. “Bill, I…I let you down.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Jeff spun on his heels at the sound of the voice. Nathan stood on the other side of the white picket fence, hands behind his back. “Nathan, just let me have some time alone, will you?”
“Not if you’re gonna blame yourself for his death.”
“I was the one who…”
“Who what?” Nathan stepped inside the fence. “Who helped the renegades escape the reservation? Who bought them the guns? Who stuck a target on Bill’s chest?”
“Don’t…” Jeff bristled.
“Or were you the one who tried to protect the ranch? Tried to keep the men safe? Organised the defences?”
“You weren’t here.”
“No, I wasn’t, because you wanted the women kept safe and made the right decision about the best way to do that.” Nathan shook his head. “You’re right, Jeff. You’re to blame for a lot around here. But Bill’s death isn’t one of them. Let’s just send him off the way he woulda wanted.”
Jeff looked at the grave and then back at Nathan. He nodded. “D’you bring whiskey?”
Nathan brought his arms from behind his back to hold up one bottle and three glasses.

End of Part 35

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7 thoughts on “35 Attack on the Bar T

  1. What an action thriller – great descriptive writing to visualize exactly what was happening all the time! And our boys had to kill for the first time. And Bill… wahhhh! The ending was very sweet… not too sappy. Wonderful story!

  2. Whew, let me catch my breath and dry my eyes. This really drove home what an illusion peacefulness in the Old West must have been. In the space of a few hours, lives were turned inside out. Jeff lost a close friend and the boys lost their innocence. The adrenaline will wear off soon and I wonder if the remorse will begin.

  3. I know you have another story called “the end of innocence” but it seems to fit this, too. Jed has killed a man. An enemy, sure, but he’s drawn blood. And it sounds like Heyes may have done the same. Twirling your gun in boredom at the bunkhouse is one thing; shooting it with the intention to kill is something else. The boys can’t say they’ve never killed anyone, and they are still very young. I like the new character, Louisiana, and how he laughs in the face of danger, stunning Heyes. He seems to be a lot more used to violence than Heyes and Jed.

  4. Tense and ending in tears. Nice portrayl of the seriousness of the situation and the men’s reactions to an old west scenario done in your own unique style.

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