Kid’s First Fast Draw
By Maz McCoy
Hannibal Heyes followed the sound of gunfire into the woods. A thin blond boy of no more than 15 stood with his back to him, hands by his side. His right hand hung close to an old Colt .45 nestling in a worn second-hand holster, that swamped the boys narrow hips.
In a flash the gun was in the boy’s hand, six shots were fired in rapid succession and six tin cans flew into the air a few feet away. When the blond boy had finished shooting, he twirled the gun a couple of times and then dropped it neatly into the holster.
Hannibal Heyes whistled in admiration and the boy spun around. He smiled as his friend entered the clearing.
“You’re gettin’ faster Jed,” Heyes said and his cousin grinned. Heyes was reminded just how young Jed really was. Heck he wasn’t even shaving yet. He shouldn’t be fooling with guns.
Jed saw Heyes’ expression change.
“Yeah, well, at least cans can’t shoot back,” he said, as he walked towards the log and set up some more.
“I reckon you should enter a contest, next time we’re in a town that has one,” Heyes suggested, watching his friend arranging his targets.
“Think I’d win?” Jed asked, still a little unsure of his own abilities.
“Win? Of course you’d win. Jed I ain’t never seen anyone as fast as you,” Heyes told him, confidently.
“Yeah, but then how many fast draws you seen?” Jed asked, sceptically.
“Well enough to know you’re fast.”
Jed smiled and once more two boyish blue eyes shone back at Heyes.
They rode into the town of Milton on Founder’s Day. Celebrations were in full swing. A band was practising for a march later that morning. Men were making final adjustments to the decorations that adorned the town. Flags and bunting fluttered in the warm gentle breeze that blew. Women laid out pies and cakes on a red check table cloth that covered a long trestle table. Jed smiled, as his stomach rumbled at just the sight of the food. He always seemed to be hungry.
His cousin pointed across the street to where a man was rolling plates down a runway, as targets on a quick-draw shooting range. Heyes smiled.
“Now’s your chance Jed,” he said.
“Forget it Heyes, you said yourself those things are rigged.”
“Not for someone as good as you. I’ll watch them, see what they do, and then you have a go.”
“I don’t know,” Jed said, reluctantly.
“They’re giving a money prize. We sure could use that.” He fixed his brown eyes on his friend, almost pleading.
“All right. I’ll have a go,” Kid relented.
Heyes grinned at him.
“Now what you gotta do boy, is shoot all six plates, as they drop from the gully.”
“Is that all?” Kid asked, confidently.
“Well it’s not as easy as it sounds, son,” the man told him and a few men standing around them laughed.
Jed’s shoulders stiffened.
“You see you have to keep your gun in your holster and draw when the plate begins to roll.”
“You just say when,” Jed told the man. The man studied the boy. He could not be more than sixteen. He was a scrawny thing; overly confident too.
“All right,” the man said. He turned to the growing crowd. “Gather round folks. We got ourselves a real sharp shooter here today. What’s your name, kid?” he asked.
“Jed Curry,” Jed told him.
“Well now, young Jed Curry here, reckons he can shoot all six plates as they drop from the runway. So gather round and let’s see what this young man can do.”
Across the street, Hannibal Heyes stood on the boardwalk, leaning against a post. His arms were folded across his chest. He had been ordered to stand there by his cousin.
“Stay there, don’t move. Don’t say anything. Don’t do anything,” Jed told him.
“Jed, I…” Heyes started to protest.
“No Heyes. I know you. You’ll want to do somethin’ or say somethin’. I need to concentrate. So stay here and shut up.”
Heyes had to admit he’d been surprised by his friend’s forcefulness and a little proud too. The boy was becoming a man.
Now as he stood watching, he knew Jed had been right. He did want to do something. He wanted to walk over there and tell that man just what a good shot his cousin was. He wanted to… He smiled. Yeah, Jed had been right.
Heyes watched his cousin. Jed nodded when the man asked him if he was ready. At the top of the gully, another man was ready to load the plates. On the first man’s command he let go of a plate. It rolled down and flew into the air. Kid drew, fired and the plate shattered into pieces. He dropped his gun back into its holster. The crowd fell silent. The man dropped a second plate, Jed drew, fired and slivers of china flew into the air.
“Looks like the boy’s, as good as he thinks he is,” someone called from the crowd. Several people laughed.
“Show him what you can do son!” another man called.
Another plate rolled down the gully, then another and another. Jed hit each one almost dead centre, shattering each in turn. The last plate began to roll. Jed stood, feet slightly apart, his hand hanging at his side. He waited for the right moment, and then he drew and fired.
The crowd began to cheer as the final plate flew into pieces. Hands slapped Jed on the back. Jed was grinning from ear to ear. He held out his hand to the man, waiting for his winnings. The man stared at him, as he reached into his pocket.
“That was pretty fancy shooting son,” he said. “What did you say your name was again?”
“Well Jed, you watch yourself. A young fella like you, with a talent like that, bound to attract a lot of attention.”
Jed wasn’t sure what the man meant. He thought about it as he crossed the street towards Heyes. His cousin was smiling at him.
“I told you, you could do it,” Heyes said, cheerfully.
“Yeah, yeah you did,” Jed admitted.
“How ‘bout I buy you a drink, to celebrate?” Heyes asked.
“Does it have to be whisky?” Jed asked. He’d been violently sick the first time he’d drunk some. Of course Heyes had pointed out that you weren’t supposed to drink that much all at once, but the memory was still fresh in the young man’s mind. He didn’t want to repeat that too soon.
“No,” Heyes said with a smile. “I think we’ll stick to beer. Then I’ll find me a poker game.”
They headed for the saloon.
“I tell you she’s been looking at you ever since we came in,” Heyes said, nodding towards a young saloon girl standing against the wall talking to a large bearded man.
“Ah Heyes stop it,” Jed told him.
“No I’m serious. I bet if you gave her a nod she’d come over here and spend some time with you.”
“I’m not gonna…!” Jed protested.
“I don’t mean that!” Heyes snapped back. “I mean have a drink with her, talk, you know.”
“Look a man’s leaving that table. I’m gonna join that poker game, so why don’t you go keep her company?” Heyes patted his cousin on the shoulder and headed for the poker table. At the same time the large bearded man, pushed the girl away and also walked towards the poker table.
Jed swallowed hard. He took a deep breath. He would do it. He looked up and across the room to where the girl had been standing. She was gone. His shoulders sagged.
“You lookin’ for someone?” a voice asked.
He turned around and came face to face with the girl.
“I erm..I..er..no,” he stuttered.
She was beautiful, not more than eighteen years old. Her long brown hair hung around her shoulders.
“Well it looked like you were,” she told him, amused by his awkwardness.
“I…I…,” he said.
Her dress was cut low, revealing her well endowed cleavage. Jed tried not to stare.
“Anyone ever tell you, you have beautiful blue eyes?” she asked and Jed blushed.
From his seat at the poker table, Heyes shook his head in disbelief.
“Sheesh, hopeless,” he muttered quietly to himself.
The man’s fist connecting with Hannibal Heyes’ jaw sent the young man sprawling backwards into a table. The table and surrounding chairs went flying and Heyes landed spread eagled on the floor. He pulled himself to his knees and ran his tongue over his split lip, licking away the blood.
“D’you want some more of that boy?” the large bearded man asked, flexing his hand. “Or you gonna use that gun you wear?”
“Can’t we be reasonable?” Heyes asked, as he looked up at the man.
“You were cheating. I don’t reason with cheats.”
“I wasn’t cheating,” Heyes protested.
“If you’re winning every hand, you’re doing somethin’,” the man stated. “Now get up.”
“I just happen to be really good at poker,” Heyes told him honestly, as he got to his feet. Heyes studied the man. He had no doubt the man would draw on him if he didn’t think of something soon.
The room had fallen ominously silent. Over by the bar, Jed Curry watched the scene play out with concern. Alice, the pretty brown-haired saloon girl he had finally found the courage to talk to, sensed his desire to do something, and placed a restraining hand on his arm.
“Don’t get involved,” she whispered.
“I already am,” he said and walked towards the poker table.
“If you’re man enough to wear a gun, you’d better be man enough to use it,” the big man said.
Heyes stood in front of him, his hands at his side, although he had no intention of reaching for his gun and was trying hard not to let his fingers twitch. He tried not to look worried.
“Something wrong Heyes?” a voice asked. Hannibal Heyes felt a mixture of relief, at knowing his cousin was there to help and fear that Jed was about to put himself in danger.
“It’s all right,” he said, dismissively. “I can handle it.”
“I’m sure you can,” Jed said, walking around the table to stand beside his friend. Two unwavering blue eyes fixed on the man with the beard.
“Well, well, well, if it ain’t our fancy sharp shooter,” the man said, remembering the blond boy from the quick draw contest. “You making this your fight kid?”
“Looks like it,” Jed replied.
“Jed, leave it. I can handle it,” Heyes snapped.
“You let him be,” the man said. “Fast against a few plates is one thing boy, but to draw against a man takes a whole lot of courage. You reckon you’re up to it?”
“I guess you’re about to find out,” Jed said, bravely. “If that’s what you got in mind.”
“Jed, don’t!” Heyes was furious with his cousin but also scared. Scared Jed was about to get himself killed. He had never drawn on anyone before. Never shot anyone either.
Jed ignored Heyes. He knew his cousin was slower than he was; knew there was a good chance the man would out draw him. He wasn’t about to let that happen. He fixed his eyes on the man. Jed’s hand hung down at his side, ready. He could do this; he knew he could do this. He was fast; the fastest Heyes said he’d ever seen. He could do this. He swallowed when the man grinned at him, but he kept his nerve and didn’t take his eyes off the other man.
Suddenly, the man went for his gun. Heyes’ mouth dropped open ready to cry out a warning to his friend, but Kid’s gun was already in his hand.
The large man looked at the young boy, stunned by the speed of his draw. His own gun was still in his holster.
“Are we done?” Jed asked him, unemotionally.
Saying nothing, the man turned back to the table, picked up his money, and left.
Jed just stood there. Heyes let out a sigh.
Slowly, Jed replaced the gun into his holster, then without looking at his friend, he headed for the saloon door. Heyes followed him. When he walked out into the sunlight, there was no sign of Jed on the boardwalk. He looked up and down the street. Heyes walked to the corner of the building. Then he heard a sound and entered the alleyway beside the saloon. Up ahead he could see his friend. Jed was bent over, holding his stomach, and retching.
Unsure what to do, Heyes held back. When Jed stopped throwing up, he took a few tentative steps forward.
“Jed? You alright?” he asked. His cousin did not say anything.
Jed kept his back to his friend, his breathing heavy. He put one hand against the building to steady himself.
“Jed?” Heyes asked again, growing concerned.
Finally Jed turned around. His face was pale and he looked embarrassed. Self-consciously he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. Jed looked everywhere except at his friend.
“You alright?” Heyes asked again.
“Yeah,” Jed said, still not making eye contact.
“Thanks for helping me out.”
“You’re welcome,” Jed said, politely.
“You sure were fast.”
“It didn’t feel fast. Felt slow. Felt real slow.”
“Well not from where I was standing. From there it was fast. Fastest thing I ever saw Jed.” Heyes’ admiration was obvious in his voice.
“I thought he was gonna kill me,” Kid admitted. He leaned back against the building, breathing heavily. He looked as if he was about to be sick again. “But I couldn’t let him kill you.”
“You don’t have to put yourself in danger for me,” Heyes told him, firmly, stepping closer. “I coulda handled it.”
“No you couldn’t. He was faster than you Heyes,” Jed stated, truthfully.
Heyes didn’t know what to say.
“I won’t let anyone else hurt my family,” Jed said and he finally met Heyes’ eyes. “I won’t stand by and watch, ever again.”
Heyes swallowed, when he saw the look in Jed’s eyes. The young boy was gone, replaced by a man with something hard in his soul.
“Let’s go Heyes,” Jed said and headed back down the alley to find his horse. After a moment Heyes followed his friend.