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(Tombstone, Arizona Territory, 1880)

Kade slid his empty shot glass forward again on the bar, as the tender poured another. He turned to the small crowd of locals as one young lady urged, “Please, tell it again.”

Holding his whiskey up, Deputy Kade said, “Well, I suppose one more time.” Then he downed the contents of his glass, burping.

The deputy launched in to his now-familiar tall tale, telling of how their posse drove themselves and their horses to near exhaustion chasing after Frannie May’s despicable killer. He related how Dic read the ground like a book, picking up on the faintest signs that their quarry had passed that way. Kade’s leadership grew more heroic with each retelling, as the other members of the posse grew more afraid and dependent on his wise counsel with every iteration. Even Dic, Kade explained, would ask his advice and, with all due respect, defer.

But the best part, the part everyone wanted to hear again and again, was about the Thunderbird. In a tone filled with awe, Kade set his empty drink down, hand shaking, searching for words as his eyes darted around the room…then saying, “There just ain’t no words. I looked up into the sky as a bird so big, it could carry off a horse in it talons, swooped down upon us. The monster’s mighty wings sent a whirlwind and caused the earth to literally shake beneath our horses. I know you can’t believe – I know it’s impossible to imagine the terror of such a creature, to feel how my flesh crawled with fear.” He rolled up his shirt sleeve, baring his arm. “The others won’t say it, but everyone else cried like a baby, knowing that their grisly end was near. I, by myself, was left to face the raven from hell all alone. Barely controlling my horse, I raised my rifle, but by then the bird was gone.”

“But that was not all…” pausing for dramatic effect.

“The sky became violet, with thundering and lightning. The rain, oh that rain! Not since Noah’s flood was there such a rain anywhere on earth! Drops as big as your fist! Pelting us as we struggled up the hill where the killers were hold up. Lightning danced around us like wild Injuns around a night fire. I tell ya folks, it wasn’t natural! I inched forward towards the desperado, but in spite of victory almost in my grasp, I looked back on the others, who were scared out of their minds, and I just couldn’t leave ’em, I had to help them.

“By the time the storm stopped, the dirty mangy dog that killed our beloved Frannie May was long gone. Made his getaway in the storm, I reckon, the rain leavin’ no trail to follow.”

Kade looked at Amos out of the corner of his eye, as he finished his tall tale. Amos, laying his glass down to be filled again, nodded and said, “Yup, happened just that way, folks. If it weren’t for old Kade here, we’d all be goners.”


Indeed, Dic noted that the posse and their tall tales were the talk of Tombstone for weeks. The sheriff did return a few days later, but as the trail was cold, the lawman elected not to pursue the fugitives. Besides, since the trouble between the Earps and the Cowboys was heating up, there were other fish to fry.

Richard, as Dic preferred to be called now, walked down the street, leading his burro. Amos waved at him. Walking up, Amos said, “Dic, where you been? You courtin’ or something? I’ve not seen you looking that gussied up, well…never.”

Just then, the stagecoach rolled through, and Dic said, “Amos, I’m leaving Tombstone. I’m going back to Virginia to see what’s left of my family.”

Amos’ mouth dropped open, but eventually he said, “You’re leavin’ me?” Choking up slightly, the old miner said, “I’ll miss ya somethin’ terrible, you old codger. You’re the only one that treats me like a human being ’round here.”

Dic smiled, “Well, you can come along if you like. My family’s got a big spread, I’m sure they can find something for you to do.”

Nodding, Amos replied, “Of course I’ll go. Without you here, it’d just not be the same.”

“Well, come along then, but there’s something I want to do before we leave.”


“Hey Shirley,” Dic called out to the big man, just inside the door of the brothel, who bent down and whispered something to his little poodle. Then, adjusting the collar on her leash, with all the pride he could muster, Shirley walked his Gloria out the door onto the clapboard sidewalk. Dic smiled and shook his head. Aw, the mysterious bond between man and beast. Who can know it?

Amos followed close behind him. “How’s it going?”

Beaming, Shirley said, “Howdy, Dic. I’m doin’ good, Amos. You’re looking good, too.”

Amos grinned with his yellowed teeth, saying, “That’s a fine poodle you’ve got there, big man.”

A few pleasant words later, Dic and his friends walked to the edge of town, then hired a buggy which carried them into a small valley, coming finally to a single-roomed stone house. A young man worked a hoe in the front garden, filled with what looked to be carrot tops. Shirley called out, “Hey, Dale!”

Running over, Dale shook Shirley’s hand, then Amos’s, then Dic’s. “Your friend told us that you aimed to ask your girl for marriage, how’s that going?” Dic asked.

Dale smiled from ear to ear. “Yes sir, I bought a ring with the money Deputy Kade paid me.”

“Decent of Ol’ Kade to pay us even though things went south like they did,” Amos commented. All nodded in agreement.


Dale, staring blankly replied, “Hm?”

Dic said, “Did she say yes?!”

Looking sheepish, Dale said, “Yes she did, sir!” Then called out, “Betsy!”

In a moment a young, sweet-looking brunette in a blue hand-sewn dress emerged from inside the house smiling, coming to Dale’s side and taking his arm. “Hello, gentlemen. Oh, look, such a nice poodle! She’s adorable!” She bent down to pet her. Gloria yapped and shook with excitement. Standing, Betsy said, “You all should stay for supper, I have rabbit stew with carrots cookin’.”

Dic said, “I’d be obliged.”

“Me too,” Amos chimed.

Shirley nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“Alright,” Betsy said, looking proud as a peacock at her guests. “I’ll make things ready.”

“That’s a fine carrot garden you have, Dale,” Dic noted.

“Thanks sir, I sell them in town.”

“Shirley, you want to say it?” The big man, too choked up to reply, just nodded back towards Dic. “Well, son, Shirley told us why you joined the posse, and we agreed that it is the finest reason we ever heard.” Handing the reins of his burro to Dale, who took them hesitantly in his calloused hands, Dic said, “She’s all yours. I’m heading back to Virginia to see what’s left of my family, and I want you to have her.”

“Well…” the young man said, “I don’t know what to say, sir…”

Then taking a key and a folded paper out of his pocket, Dic continued. “This is the key and the deed to my house in town. I’m giving it to you and your bride. It’s yours and Betsy’s to do with as you like. I don’t need it any longer. Shirley suggested you might want it, being as you’re starting a family and all.”

Trembling, Dale asked, confused, “You – you gave us a house?”

“Yes,” Dic smiled broadly. “It’s all yours.”

Excitement rising to a crescendo on his face, acting as pleased as a pup with two tails, Dale called out, “Betsy! Betsy! Come out here quick, you won’t believe this!”

In the background, pulling yet another carrot from the earth, the donkey munched contented, as a young woman jumped up and down and screamed for joy.


(Peruvian Andes, 1882)

Perspiration trickled down the back of his neck, adding to the wetness already under his poncho. Summer high in the Peruvian Andes was hot, even though a few thousand feet higher, a skirt of snow clung to the mountain peak. Setting his heavy sack down, Father Worthington sat in the meadow and looked over the valley below. Beautiful.

As he rested, he meditated on how God works in such mysterious ways. That’s just what the priest had said to him a couple of years ago during his confession. In the most agonizing tones possible, Clyde remembered confessing his sins and asked to become a servant of God on the spot.

Enumerating his many failings, he related how after he tried to kill a black man, he walked for two days, his inner thighs red and raw, water in his canteen having run out. Hungry and tired, he was sure it was the end when he’d heard horses, a lot of horses, coming towards him along the trail. He confessed, “I knew God was answering my prayer, Father. Ashamed, I hid behind some bushes, calling out as the troop passed. They stopped in a cloud of dust, the commander yelling, ‘Who goes there!’

“Its me! Clyde Worthington,” I said with practically my last ounce of strength. “Sir, I could use…a… use some assistance.

“The captain barked, ‘Show yourself!’ I saw the soldiers behind him slide their rifles from their scabbards, and point them all at me.”

“I’m sorry, sir. . . I can’t.”

“Are you injured, man?”

“No, sir.”

“Mr. Worthington, there are at least 50 Winchesters aimed at you, waiting to fire on my command. I suggest you show yourself.’

“Father, I almost chose death over dishonor, but I stepped out wearing only my poncho, and covered my privates with my hat. I felt so small, an ant could have stepped on me and not noticed. When I came from behind the bushes, the men began to smile, then chuckle, then laugh out loud. The captain said, amused as any present, ‘I see we have come in the nick of time.'”

He winced inwardly, remembering finishing his story, then waiting. The padre had sat amazed and mute for several minutes, then Clyde said again, “Please, I want to do God’s work.”

“Normally, my son,” the padre replied, “the church doesn’t recommend making such life commitments when you are in a vulnerable way. However, after hearing your confession, I feel our Lord will make an exception.”

The bell tolled in the distance, rousing Lightning-Draw Clyde out of his reverie. Sighing, he stood back up. Flipping the front of his poncho back to let in the mountain breeze, he lifted the bag of school books, adjusted his hat, and continued on the narrow way.