Pocket watches have a tradition among Gunfighters.
Slimy's watch didn't play music. It didn't even work – but then again, Slimy dug latrines for a living.
This is the second of five excerpts from the first chapter of my book – Trouble in Taos. It’s the story of Slimy Beach, a notorious gunfighter, and gifted latrine digger as told by his friend, Walter Bego. If you want to read the first excerpt, here’s the link.
According to Two-Bucket Joe (one of the ones that was really there), Slimy and Finn were sitting at the bar. Slimy was never much of a drinking man, but he loved to sit in a saloon. Slimy was telling Finn about his watch. Slimy, like many people who weren’t very bright, liked to advertise it by telling stories. One of his favorite themes was his watch, and I don’t doubt that Finn had heard the story more than he cared to.
I should probably tell you about Slimy’s watch, because it was the thing he was proudest to own. According to Slimy, his dear mother bought him that watch for his seventh birthday, spending the entire sum of five Confederate dollars.
Slimy turned seven in the fall of 1864, and by that time Confederate money wasn’t worth much anymore, but you could never convince Slimy of that fact. He always emphasized the word Confederate to impress on his listener the tremendous value of the watch in question. Confederate money was, to Slimy, the finest money there ever was. In his adult years, he insisted on being paid in Confederate scrip, as opposed to silver or federal money. Slimy hoarded his Confederate funds and never spent a single Jeff Davis if he had any worthless Yankee notes to spend instead.
The watch was made of tin, and the glass was long gone. By the time I saw it, the minute hand was gone. Slimy told me how he loved to hear it ticking, but I don’t think the watch worked past his eighth birthday. Though he missed the ticking, Slimy didn’t care about the watch not working. He never learned to tell the time.
So Slimy was sitting at the bar with Mike Finn, trying to interest the blacksmith in the virtues of his watch. I’m told that Mike was a patient man, but he had had enough.
“I tell you, Slimy,” said Mike, “I know as much as I care to about that watch of yours, and I’m sick of hearing about it. I’d much rather look at Flossy.”
I suppose W. G. C. R. Colmes was referring to Flossy when he wrote about Miss Purity Homebody, Slimy’s schoolmistress. I met Flossy years later, and I’m pretty sure she was never a schoolmistress. Learning and purity were not the first thoughts that came to a man’s head on making Flossy’s acquaintance.
Not that Flossy was what you’d call a pretty woman. Broken and dented as it was, I’d have to say that Slimy’s watch had a more pleasing face. But being out west makes a man lonely, and many a frontier man was happy to settle for cow pie if the only other choice was no pie at all. Mike Finn, like many others, used his imagination to make up for Flossy’s unfortunate shortcomings.
Now that I think about it, I don’t recall any schoolmistress in Taos ’til long after Mike Finn’s muscular frame was reduced to bones and dust. There was a feller, a schoolmaster I suppose, that taught some of the children at Saint Frank’s. I don’t know if I ever met him. I don’t think he was there very long.
Things start happening after that, so I’ll stop. You could make up what happens. Maybe you could play a game of plot association – or you could wait for the next post – Estevo’s shotgun.