The Long Drive

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The progress of Perry Case and his companions into the Texas cow country was slow, for Bushnell was still ailing. On April ay, they reached the town of Waco on the Brazos River; another day’s journey across the plains brought them to a ranch owned by a man named McCabe, from whom Bushnell purchased seven hundred head of cattle. McCabe also agreed to furnish experienced cowhands for the first part of the drive north, and to teach Bushnell and his men some of the rudiments of handling the tough, semiwild longhorns. Much of that instruction, however, consisted of riding the “greenhorn Yanks” through the thorny chaparral, or trying to get them lost. Even so, Perry Case had a fine time; his single regret was that one of McCabe’s sons refused to sell him a beautiful sorrel colt named Bob. During the two-week interlude at the ranch, Perry had several opportunities to make side trips. On one of these sight-seeing jaunts with his friend Dick Bear, he confronted the desperado, Texas Jack. It was a meeting that nearly cost Perry Case his life, and when it was over he was glad that he had taken time during his stay at the ranch to practice with his six-shooter.

Old McCabe said, “You want to get used to the saddle, how would you like to ride to Boiling Springs?” He told us about it. I asked how far it was.

“Oh,” says he, “right smart ride. I could send you a shorter way, but you not being used to following a trail had better take the main trail.”

We decided to take the main trail, which was the longest. This route took us to an inn which was about half way to the Springs. The trail turned and we were told that we could get directions there.

We stopped at the inn for dinner. While we were eating in the dining room off the barroom, the proprietor’s children came running in crying to their mother, “Texas Jack is coming. Texas Jack is coming down the road.”

The mother picked them up in her arms and ran away somewhere.

Dick looked at me and I at him. Our first thought was that he was coming there after us to take the money that we carried on us. Upon inquiring from the girl, however, we learned that he was alone and coming from the opposite direction. That convinced us that he did not know about us and was not looking for us. We knew that he would spot us as strangers, and we had heard many times about his tactics with tenderfoots. Not a day had passed that his name was not mentioned since the first night we heard tell of Texas Jack, that night sitting on the veranda in Millican. I recalled the man that was shot crying out three times in death and I looked over at Dick and he was white as a sheet.

I said, “Dick, you will have to control yourself and get some color in your face.” Dick was always that way. With any fight he turned pale, but when the fighting began he was there with the best of them.

I figured then just how things would happen. Jack would come in the barroom with a gun in each hand. I knowed, for I heard tell, he’d kick the door open with his foot so’s both hands was free. That was the way he always did.

Then I took my gun out of the holster and put the flap inside. I pushed the holster around in front of my hipbone. I cocked the revolver and put it in the holster carefully so that I could get to the trigger quick and easy. By this time I had gained some skill in shooting from the hip without moving my arm, by this way taking anyone unawares. Then I pulled my large red bandana handkerchief out as if I was wiping my hands. It would not be unnatural for one coming out from eating and unaware of danger to be wiping his hands on his handkerchief. I was careful though that I was using only one corner and the rest was hanging down in front of my gun. I was being careful also that my right hand should be free when I should need it.

We heard Jack fling open the door into the barroom and let out a yell: “Everybody to the bar for drinks.” We heard shots follow and falling glass and we knew he had shot the tops off the bottles. We heard scuffling of feet and knew that everyone was at the bar.

I nodded to Dick, and we got up and walked toward the barroom door. The door was open between the rooms, and we started to cross to the other side of the room to the outside door when Jack spied us.

“Hello, stranger,” he said. “Come up and have a drink.”

“No sir,” I said, “I am not a drinking man.”

“The hell you ain’t. You can dance then, can’t you?” With these words he whipped out his revolver and fired at my feet.

With the flash of his revolver I had mine and fired. His revolver dropped to the floor. The blood spurted from his finger and he was so surprised he did not seem to notice it. A more surprised man I never hope to see. He looked at me and said, “Who the hell are you?”

Says I, “A tenderfoot.”

“You are the first man that ever got the drop on Texas Jack,” he said, and stood pale and still, white as a sheet, expecting another shot, which according to rules I had a right to take and shoot the man down in cold blood.

Says I, “You had better attend to that finger.”

A man hollered out in the crowd, “Go for him Jack—don’t let a tenderfoot clean you up!”