This post is a little violent. It’s hard to do a story about a gunfighter without… Of course I could have done it like A-Team where ex-military “elites” fired thousands of rounds each episode and never hit anybody. More better – I could have done a gunfight like Mr. Bean had in this clip.
This is the third of five installments of an excerpt from my book Trouble in Taos, the story of Slimy Beach, gunfighter and latrine digger. If you’d like to see the first two here are the links. part-1 part-2
But back to the story. I’m pretty sure Slimy never thought of taking up fisticuffs to defend Miss Flossy’s honor. Being so small, Slimy was not one to resort to fisticuffs if he could avoid it, and certainly not with the village blacksmith. Furthermore, Flossy was not the sort of woman who expected, or even desired, men to defend her honor. That would be economically inconvenient.
It wasn’t the liberties Mike Finn took with Flossy that irked Slimy; Slimy just never could tolerate being ignored.
Slimy grabbed the barkeep’s scattergun from the top of the bar and shot Mike Finn dead. He also winged two poker players and shattered the chair that Claybourne Petree, the undertaker, was about to sit in. According to Two-Bucket Joe, Claybourne was pretty scared for a minute, but took it pretty well. Of course, he got some business out of the deal.
This was Slimy’s first killing, and it came as a surprise to the people of Taos. He’d been in town a year or two and was, after his own fashion, a successful businessman. People found him tedious, and nobody liked the way he smelled, but no one thought of him as dangerous before.
Slimy grunted an apology for the mess and offered the smoking scattergun back to Estevo, the bartender.
Estevo, not a man known for his courage, failed to take it.
Looking back, a lot of lives might have been saved if Estevo had reached over and taken that shotgun from Slimy. Others might point fingers, but I'll wager that not a single one of his accusers ever ran a saloon in a 19th-century western town. Bartenders dealt with the rowdiest (and drunkest) characters in what was already an unruly and violent environment. Lawmen rarely spent time in saloons, and it wasn’t because there was more business elsewhere. They knew that if you sat around in a bar with a gun and a badge, someone would eventually think it a good idea to take a shot at you – maybe in the back.
Bartenders like Estevo didn’t have a friendly jailhouse to retreat to. If they started disarming their clientele, some clever fellow might figure things out. If he managed to smuggle one gun into an unarmed bar, the only thing he needed to do to be king of the bar was kill the bartender.
I’m sure there were a few brave bartenders in the West. A couple might’ve lasted a year. Estevo lived to sixty-eight and would have lived even longer if he hadn’t eaten his way to three hundred pounds by the time he was fifty.
It was a younger, slimmer Estevo who said to Slimy that day, “No, Mr. Beach. Please don’t be concerned about the mess. Accept the shotgun as my gift. Here…” And at that point, Estevo reached under the bar and produced a matching weapon. “Please accept this one as well.”
“That’s nice of ya, Estevo,” said Slimy. “Thanks.”
So Slimy just killed a man in cold blood. What will the folks at the Rosa Linda do about it? Find out in the next post: Hanging is for bad guys.