The sky was up above the sandy hills, showing sun to the East and that direction led off through the desert northward to San Antonio where I could go east to Victoria or southeast to Corpus Christi. Scraggy brush, some coyotes, a few rabbits, and a few cattle operations were responsible for keeping you entertained while travelling, but not much else. I thought I could travel for days and not see a soul, maybe have no water for the horse, but still I’d get there. I get everywhere I go and I go a lot of places. The sun shone bright I thought as I adjusted the brim of my cowboy hat to block more of the impeding rays and sauntered towards town from the East side. I had been in the hills and crags of a forested area hiding from murder charges. I was just about to the town limits when I seen the Sign:
“ Welcome to Pedras Negras “
I’m on the run from the law and used a lot of my monetary stores in trade with the people I had encountered during my stay in the area. I bought what I needed, I thought, as I looked ahead. I was never recognized and always came out ahead in the deals… I made sure of it… Made certain of it… Always reassured myself that it was a good deal. I thought my money is coming to an end and looked at the distant buildings hoping for work… I need more bullets, cause I used some in hunting, and the odd shootout. I also would like to pack some supplies for myself for the long dark and cool nights. I had fifty dollars left, albeit a substantial sum, to carry me over and looked for help wanted signs as I entered the town. I thought I could stop by the general store and look as there may be a posting board there.
I thought I could find a slight glimmer of hope as the cattle business was big in Pedras Negras. While in Texas, myself, our hero, William Bonnet was trying to find a source of income thinking I may make some peaceful money for a change. I thought lay low and pass time in this little town of about four hundred and hopefully go unnoticed while I scanned left and right. I didn’t want to come across as new to town… I wanted to blend in from the beginning to avoid notice. At first the houses were far apart and few in between. Each one had a corral and a few other livestock pens for goats, sheep, and pigs. Some had chicken coops painted brown with tin roofs that probably tinkled in the rain. The odd barn was even noticed as the owners had built up their property.
Many of the outlying buildings were residential, like I’d found for the last two miles back behind me. There were fences around some of the homes and children playing in the gated yards. A dog barked and my horse, a horse with no name, cautiously tried to veer away to the left to go around her, a nice looking Labrador Retriever. Gently I pulled the reigns and kept the horse on its path. A slight neigh told me he was fine and would obey. I pet him on his left shoulder, just above the saddle and thought I may just get lucky in this town and find a job. I thought I had the chance to go unknown, anonymous, mysterious if needed. I wouldn’t get to know anyone… Yeah… Nobody. I would remain a stranger and get a job out of town as a ranch hand as quickly as possible.
I heard they have a general store, a saloon, a corral, a sheriff’s office, a bank, a hotel, a fountain in the town square and do well in agrarian affairs, especially chattel. On the negative side there is a courthouse, which means that Texas Marshals are in and out of town often. There is even a permanent judge. I think there may be a Dentist and a Doctor, but that negates the fact that one of them Marshals may recognize me by about zero with several outstanding warrants against me, but I was out of Huston were it went down, and they may not be looking. I had been there for a while, but Huston was bad, real bad. I got into a fight in a saloon in the working district of town and damned if it didn’t turn ugly when pistols came into play. I was playing poker with some guy from a sawmill named Pete.
He had been at sawing planks all day, stank a foul smell and complained incessantly about sawdust in his boots. His face was flush in the July heat and from the numerous whiskys he’d drank… Two shots, straight, at a time… Shooters to celebrate a good hand. I looked to the south along the main drag and found a place to hitch a horse. It looked like there was a store nearby. A hotel was next door and there was a coral behind the combined businesses. There was a stable near the store and I thought my horse needed premium care. He had dragged my sorry ass this far and had survived the desert yet again. I pulled the reigns softly and the horse obeyed slowing to a stop. I steered him over towards the stable boy’s hut. When I got near I called out.
“Hello?” thinking that I had talked loud enough to be heard by a deaf person and wondering if there was room as my horse needed new shoes too boot.
I could have him watered, fed, and groomed for five dollars and have him boarded for two dollars more read a sign tacked onto the hut. I could pay for a day and take a chance, then I thought I was probably better off boarding him for a week and paying in advance. It would reassure me that horse theft was not as easy. The corral was a ways back and there was bush along the back. I thought that horse thieves could sneak up on the fence, hop it, and open the gate at night. They may be chased and tracked, but stand a better chance of getting away clean in the gloom of night. They’d be long gone, if they rode hard, by morning sun and the ability to track clearly came. Gone… Gone… Gone… Nowhere to be found.
Speaking of nowhere, a young man appeared and a hurried over. When he was close he grabbed the reigns and offered a hand to dismount. I smiled and nodded at the young man who wasn’t much younger then myself. He was wearing deer skins and carried an antler knife I thought as I did a once over. He was tall… Taller then me. Broad in the shoulders, but not as broad as me, the Indian looked strong and muscular. The sides of his head were shaven and contrasted the long black hair that pulled back into a ponytail. Second look, the man was red skinned and painted in the traditional colors for the Lipan Tribe. He was wearing a sash of beads that was colored black, yellow, and white It was about four inches thick and each band was of equal width. The Indian seemed tense in town as if he’d begun to feel creeped out due to someone’s presence. I’d hoped it was not mine.
I dismounted the horse thinking I’d have to ask how much for a complete horse shoeing then ask for a week’s food and board. A little corral time during the day would help keep stress down to a minimum… Horses liked to socialize as much as humans. They were creatures that liked to brag, and my horse had a lot to brag about. He held high status in the West and was well known in certain circles to hold cool under stressful situations like robbing trains. He never got out of sorts as you approached the train real close to board from a gallop. Mind you banks was my thing, but the guy I bought him from said so.
“How much for a re-shoeing?” I asked.
“Fifty Cents a foot.” answered the Indian.
“You got room in the stable?” I asked.
“Yeah, there are a couple of berths left.” answered the Indian.
“Good. Take my horse and I’ll square up tomorrow.” said Bill.
“Sorry, but we need payment up front.” said the Indian.
I sighed and reached into my left saddle bag, retrieving a small leather sac. I picked through it and grabbed what was needed, then placed the leather sac in my pocket. I handed a few coins to the attendant and dismounted.
“There, that should be enough for a complete re-shoeing and board and feed for a week.” I said.
The attendant looked over the currency and accepted the value as he led my horse off to the stable. I watched him trot proudly beside the attentive Indian glad to be headed for some rest. I was also glad to have made town with little notice. Being early evening I supposed some supper was in order and headed over to the bar. I walked over to the boardwalk that ran the length of main street and dodged the odd mud puddle created by that afternoon’s rain. I looked for a sign advertising the saloon and saw one about one hundred feet away so I headed off in that direction looking around town.
The sun hung low in the sky casting a shadow across main street that left one side of town seemingly darker then the other. The buildings had a dark tint to them that seemed nefarious and uninviting but still I was led in by my hunger. There were still many people out and about on this weekday night mulling about on the street. Some were on foot and others on horseback, others still had wagons pulled up at the general store and were loading supplies for their homesteads. Everywhere I looked was busy and I couldn’t help but think that this town might have a flourishing bank that I’d have to visit and make a one time withdrawal from before I left town. I thought I could slip in midday when the tellers would be the busiest and make a great amount at gunpoint like usual, but for now I’d lay low and go under the guise of looking for work.
I came to the saloon and seen there were swinging doors in the entrance. As I approached a man came flying through head first reeking of alcohol and stale cigar smoke and just missed bowling me over. Instinctively I reached for my pistol and ducked while drawing. The man harmlessly hit the boardwalk in front of the saloon and slumped to the ground.
“Stay out you lousy card cheat!” yelled the guy who had hefted him through the opening while wiping his hands on his leggings.
“Sorry! I needed the money.” said the man who was getting up to his knees.
“You could have been shot you darn fool.” said the other as he disappeared back inside.
I reholstered my gun and quickly climbed back to my feet feeling cheated of a fight, but none the worse for the wear. I again tried to approach the swinging doors and this time succeeded in entering the establishment. I saw five tables that had men at them playing poker and drinking whiskey. Quite a few of them were smoking cigars and a few more were chewing tobacco. There was a long oaken bar along the back wall with bottles of liquor on shelves, mostly tequila and whiskey that I could make out. A man stood polishing glasses behind the bar wearing spectacles and having a neatly trimmed moustache and a balding head. He must be the proprietor I thought as I noticed a staircase leading up to a balcony that overlooked the bar.
Women where hanging over the balcony railing and watching the cowboys gamble while a few of them were engaged by cowboys who took turns grabbing their asses and kissing them. Once in a while a couple would head for one of the rooms and would presumably have sex. I thought this was a lively enough place to stay in for a while and approached the proprietor. He seemed disinterested as I approached, but later I thought he was just absorbed in thought as he stopped towelling the glass he was holding as I approached.
“Can I help ya stranger?” said the man.
“Yeah, I’d like a room for a week. How much?” I asked.
“Let’s see, two dollars a day including supper if you’d wish that… seventy five cents a night if you get only the room.” said the man.
“Sounds good.” I said as I took out my pouch and counted out the necessary coins.
“Room five at the end of the building will do you fine. It looks over the corral and woods behind us.”
“Now how about supper?” I asked.
“Take a seat, I’ll get my wife. She’s in the kitchen.”
I sat on a nearby stool and waited for the woman to appear. Moments later she appeared with a plate. There were two tacos folded with beef, lettuce, and tomato and some refried beans on the side with a small portion of Spanish rice. I dug into it heartily and ate every last bite, then I ordered a shot of whiskey and retired to my room for the evening.