"A Touch of Gold."
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Jeff Canyon checked his watch as he had
every Monday morning for the past month. It was
five after eight and like all the other Mondays,
banker Peabody, was late in opening the bank.
It didn't really matter because Jeff had lot's of
time these days. He could wait, yet as he did so,
leaning against the railing in front of the eatery, his
mind began to contemplate what he was about to
It was not too late to turn back from his plan, he
told himself, yet he was desperate, and he knew he
had to do it and take the consequences as they
Rustlers and Old Man Peabody, had seen to
his misfortunes. His ranch was in ruin, his cattle
stolen, the sheriff unable or unwilling to help, and
Peabody refused to offer him an extension on his
"I'd like to help, Jeff," Peabody had told him,
"but times are tough for the bank right now, and
frankly, from what I've heard, they aren't that good
for you either. I'm sorry, Jeff, I have no choice in this
matter, I'm going to have to ask you to pay off your
loan when its due. If not, the bank will have to
foreclose on your ranch."
"I'm sorry, Jeff," Peabody added, cutting off
Jeff's protest. "I can't help you, my hands are tied."
"His hands were tied! What a joke." Jeff
thought half aloud.
Rolling his fifth cigarette of the morning, Jeff let
his eye's take in the high puffy white clouds that
drifted lazily across the warm, morning sky. It hardly
seemed fair that all he worked for, sweated and
spilled his blood for, could be taken away in a
matter of days.
"Like Hell!" Jeff breathed, angrily throwing the
cigarette to the ground and crushing it with his well
worn boot heel. He was getting nowhere standing
around like this, he told himself. How long could he
just loiter around without drawing attention to
Turning to go into the eatery, his eyes picked
up the man he was waiting for. Peabody! The fat
greedy little Son of a Bitch, that was half, if not more
than half, of the problems plaguing him, was
coming down the street toward the bank.
Ducking across the street to where his horse
was tied, Jeff Canyon waited the last few minutes.
Again, he doubted what he was about to do, but he
saw no other way. He was desperate.
"Come on, come on, you Fat Fool!" He
whispered to himself.
"Morning," Jeff's breath caught as Peabody
spoke to him. "problem with your horse?"
For a brief instant, fear gripped him as he
thought Peabody would come around the horse and
want to talk, but he moved to the door and a second
later, Jeff heard the click of the lock opening.
"Say, aren't you..." Jeff started, and deliberately
stopped speaking as he drew his pistol and stepped
from behind the horse.
"Pardon?" Turning around to look at the
speaker, the door half open, Peabody started to say
more, then froze, his facing showing surprise and
"Get inside!" Jeff hissed, his gun poking the fat
man in his ribs.
"You'll never get away with this, all I have to do
is yell, and a dozen men will come running."
Peabody said boldly, but his eyes and his bobbing
Adams apple, failed to share his blustering.
"Go ahead, shout, if you feel like dying to day."
Jeff threatened. "Get inside, now!"
"You'll never get away with this." Peabody said
"And you'll be dead if that safe isn't open with-
in the next minute." Canyon hissed. "Move it, Fat
Jeff Canyon felt the sweat beading and running
down his back and under arms. To him, it seemed
like Peabody and his shaking hand, took an hour to
open the safe, but at last, the heavy door swung
"Get inside, you know what to do." Canyon
said, shoving the banker toward the open door.
"You can't..." Peabody protested, his eyes
going a shelf where a pistol lay.
"Go ahead, do something stupid." Jeff told him.
His nerves were beginning to wear thin and he just
wanted it over with. He felt trapped, knowing at any
moment someone might come and want inside the
bank. "No more stalling," He snapped and cocked
his pistol in the ear of the banker. "Put the money in
When the banker had put what Jeff thought
was ten thousand dollars into the sack, he jerked it
from his hand. "That's enough." He snapped.
There was still money piled up on the shelf, lots
more, but Jeff had all he needed. Beside, he had
nothing against the local citizens. Some of the them
were his friends, others he knew by sight, but all
had one thing in common. They all had worked hard
for their money and taking it would only hurt them.
Taking a rawhide strip from his pocket, Jeff
made quick work of tying up the banker. A check at
the alley door revealed no one in sight. So far, so
good, he thought as he pulled down his bandanna
and stepped outside to his awaiting horse. He knew
the knot he had tied would not hold the banker long,
yet he forced himself to move slow as he started his
horse out into the street.
"Howdy, Jeff!" Someone called to him as he
passed the general store. Sweat was beading his
face now and he had to fight down the urge to run.
He was so close, yet so far away from making a
clean get away. Lifting his hand in a wave, Jeff
moved on and at last came to the road leading out
to his place.
Jeff Canyon was no fool. He knew once
Peabody got free of his ropes, he would quickly
spread word of the banks robbery. Soon after that,
Sheriff Ben Miller would be poking around for clues
and when he had them, he would be on the trail.
The Sheriff was a big man of six foot one and
upward of a hundred and ninety pounds. His green
eyes took in all and missed little and like most tough
lawmen, his one certainty in survival was his quick
wit, steady nerve, and fast gun hand.
Jeff knew the Sheriff would see all elements of
the crime and he knew the man wouldn't be fooled
easily, yet he wasn't too worried.
A lot of people put their horse in the alley.
There was shade there and a rain barrel for the
horse to drink from if it got thirsty. If the sheriff
asked, he would simply say that he had been there,
that he had come to town to do some errands and
had stopped to get something to eat, placing his
horse in the alleyway. When he finished, he left for
It was a simple story and one not that
unbelievable, but first, he had to leave the sheriff a
false trail to follow. "Lets hope this works, Ringo."
He said, patting his horses neck.
The horse was a mean little roan that he had
caught up and trained to saddle the month before
and as far as he could remember, no one had seen
him riding it. Not that it mattered, the horse was a
dead ringer for Prancer, his favorite work horse.
Kicking the horse into a gallop, Jeff set a
course that would take him toward the pass that led
across the Bitterroot Mountains and into Idaho.
Once there, he would let the horse loose and head
to where he left Prancer waiting. If he was found
there, he would simply state that he was out looking
for those who had rustled his cattle.
Letting the horse have its head, Jeff searched
his mind for any flaws he might have missed in his
story. The little roan stretched itself out. The horse
loved to run and run he could.
"Bang, bang..." The voice startled Jeff and
before he could pull rein, before his eyes and brain
registered that someone, a young boy, had run out
into his path, the horse had already collided with the
Fighting the faltering animal, Jeff dragged it to
a halt. He was out of the saddle an instant later and
running back to where the boy lay prone and
unmoving. It took him only an instant to recognize
the boy. It was Bobby Hamilton, and Jeff realized he
was hurt bad.
Shaking his head, Jeff knew what he had to do.
He couldn't just leave the boy, he had to take him
back and see that he was going to be all right, even
if it meant getting caught and sent to prison. His
ranch, the money, none of it was worth more than
the boys life.
"Easy does it, Bobby, I'll get you to Doc McGill's
place before you can count to ten." Jeff said told the
Getting to his feet, Jeff raced back to his horse.
His mind shouted for him to get a move on it, yet he
took the added seconds it took to bury the money
sack near the rocks where the youth had emerged
That finished, Jeff Canyon mounted the little
horse, his eyes going back to the youth, his mind
torn by indecision. Prancer, his other horse was
waiting a half mile up the trail... Could he leave the
boy alone for the time it would take him to get it, he
He made his mind up suddenly, and digging his
heels into the little horse flanks he sent him racing
up the trail. The horse covered the distance in an
instance and even before he had pulled the horse to
a complete stop, Jeff was off its back and racing for
the other horse.
Reason told him he would need the fresh horse
for the race back to town, yet he also knew he was
still trying to cover his tracks.
"Get along." He shouted, once mounted on the
fresh horse. As passed by the little roan, he gave it
a slap on the rump sending it off running again,
then he too, was running Prancer back to where the
boy lay hurt and maybe dying.
He had been a fool, he told himself. The boy
might have died while he was trying to cover his
crime up... "Coward!" He hissed. the word directed
Bobby Hamilton lay as he had left him and Jeff
breathed a huge sigh of relief when he found the
boy still breathing. Lifting the youth as gently as he
could, Jeff returned to his horse, mounted, holding
the boy in his arms, and started back along the six
miles of trail to Dillon. Two miles later, he met up
with the sheriff and a half dozen of the towns
"Whoa there!" He heard the Sheriff call as he
neared the posse. The Sheriff green eyes went first
to Jeff, then to the boys limp body. "What
happened?" He asked in his usual commanding
"Ran out in front of my horse," Jeff said, his
concern showing in his voice. "hit him before I knew
what was happening."
"Hurt bad?" Another asked before the sheriff or
Jeff could say anything further.
"He looks bad." Jeff replied softly looking down
at the youth. "I was just heading for Doc's place
when I saw you all coming down the trail."
"Seen anyone else riding out this way?" Sheriff
Miller asked studying Jeff's face intently.
They were wasting time, yet Jeff answered the
Sheriff's question. "Yeah," Jeff said shaking his
head and looking at the boy. "thought it might have
been one of those who've been rustling my cattle...
that's why I was hurrying. When he saw me, he lit
Sheriff Miller surveyed the boy once more
before speaking. "Bank was robbed this morning.
Trail leads this way, but another hour won't hurt
none, lets get the boy back to Doc McGill’s place."
As he rode on ahead of the Sheriff and the
other posse members, Jeff could feel the small
hairs on the back of his neck rising. He knew the
Sheriff was watching him, knew that the Sheriff
suspected him. At any rate, he wasn't going
Let the Sheriff suspect all he wants, he thought
to himself. He's got nothing he can prove against
At Doc McGill’s, Jeff waited until the Sheriff had
dismounted and came over to his horse, then he
gently handed the boy down. The others had gone
to get some grub and it was his chance to run for it,
but he fought the urge down. He's got nothing on
you, he told himself, sliding from the saddle. Not
yet, he don't.
"What happened?" Doc McGill asked as the
two entered his office. He was more than just a
doctor, he was a surgeon from New York who had
come to visit, and to the towns good luck, had
"Ran out in front of Jeff's horse." Sheriff Miller
said, laying the boy down.
"Must have been in a damn big hurry not to
have seen him." Doc commented to no one in
particular. To Jeff, however, it brought a twinge of
guilt and regret. "You two get out of here." Doc
added before Jeff could speak in defense of his
"I was..." Jeff started, but Doc cut him short.
"Save it until after I've done what I can for him."
"Lets go, Jeff." Sheriff Miller added, taking Jeff
by the arm and leading him out into the outer sitting
"I better go tell Mrs. Hamilton." Jeff began and
started for the door.
"Now you hold on just a minute, Jeff Canyon!"
Sheriff Miller said, grabbing Jeff's arm again.
"We've got some things to get straight before
you go anywhere. And don't go trying to get huffy on
me either. You can talk to me here or you can do it
over to the jail. It's up to you."
"But, she'll be worried." Jeff protested.
"I know that, but she can't do nothing about it
right now, and knowing ain't going to help." Sheriff
Miller replied. "Right now though, you got things to
be worried about, and I don't mean the boy either. If
you get my meaning."
"Like what?" Jeff asked, his tone defensive.
"Like you sticking up Old Man Peabody this
morning." Sheriff Miller said. "Hell, I ain't blind, and I
ain't no fool. You left a trail that anybody with half a
set of eyes and have a brain could follow. What the
hell where you thinking about anyhow?"
Jeff's mouth was half open to deny the Sheriff's
allegations, but he realized he didn't want the
money the way he had got it. All his life, he had
worked hard. He earned every cent he had ever
"You're doing the talking, keep at it." He told
the Sheriff. It could be, he decided, that Sheriff
Miller was only fishing up a blind creek.
"Why, tell me why?" The Sheriffs eyes went to
Jeff's face as if he could read the answers there.
"Hell, Jeff, I know you're being robbed blind, and we
both know Peabody's behind it, but damn it man,
you could go to prison for what you did this morning
and I wouldn't be able to help you."
You haven't done much to help me so far, so
"That's not fair, Jeff, and you know it." Sheriff
Miller through his hands in the air. "I've busted my
tail trying to catch those rustlers, but I can't be
everywhere at once."
Sheriff Miller knew how Jeff felt, and the fact
that he hadn't had any success in nabbing the
rustlers added to his desire to help the man if he
could. "How about it?" He asked.
"All right, I'm not admitting anything, but I'm
listening." Jeff replied. "What's on your mind?"
"Not here, lets go over to my office and talk."
Jeff's eyes lifted to the Sheriffs face. It was easy to
read his mistrust, and Sheriff Miller quickly moved
to ease his fears. "If you would rather take a ride
instead," He added. "the boys should be ready to
resume our search for the bank robber about now...
I'll just tell them to forget it, that me and you can
handle it alone."
Five hours later, the two were headed back to
town. Jeff still didn't quite believe what had taken
place out near where the boy had been hit, but
Sheriff Miller assured him it was the only way they
were going to smoke out banker Peabody and
discover why the man wanted to ruin Jeff and take
possession of his ranch.
"It's the only way." Sheriff Miller had said, then
added with a smile. "Beside, it ain't rightly stealing
anymore, you're giving it back to him."
"I just ride in and pay off my note..." Jeff
replied, worry on his face. "He knows I don't have
that kind of money on me... He's bound to figure it
"That's the idea," Sheriff Miller smiled back.
"When he asks where the money came from... hell,
tell him you hit it rich. There's all sorts of tales about
gold and silver and such being found up in those
hills. At any rate, it'll shake him up some."
"Then what happens?" Jeff asked, his worried
expression turning to a grin. He was beginning to
really like Sheriff Miller.
"That's obvious! After you've visited him, you
go down to the cattleman's association and buy
some cattle. How many head you figure you lost?"
"I don't know, four, maybe five hundred head."
"Well, there you go, and a little left over for all
your trouble." Sheriff Miller laughed.
"Ok," Jeff smiled back. "I still don't see how
that's going to stop the rustling."
"Maybe not directly, Jeff, but I'll bet my last
dollar that once you pay off Peabody, he's going to
be some upset. I'm betting that as soon as he can,
after you leave, he'll head for whoever is behind the
rustling. And I'm betting he'll want to up the ante.
That's where I come in. If he takes the bait like I
think he will, I'll be on his trail."
The plan made sense to Jeff, but he still had
some lingering doubts as he headed off toward the
bank, leaving the sheriff to make his report to the
The story was, they had lost the trail in some
blow sand and they assumed the robber made it
over the pass and out of the sheriffs jurisdiction.
None of that mattered to Jeff, he just wanted it
over with, yet as he guided his horse down the
street, thoughts began to nag at him. Suppose the
Sheriff had unwittingly hit upon the reason for
Peabody's interest in the ranch. Maybe there really
was gold or silver on the ranch. It surely couldn't be
the cattle Peabody wanted.
The land itself? He wondered, then dismissed
the idea. There was a lot of unclaimed land still to
be had, so he doubted it.
At the bank, Jeff dismounted and tied his horse
at the hitching rail. His sober face had been
replaced by a smile as he thought about Peabody's
reaction to this visit.
"Howdy, Jeff." The teller called out to him as he
entered. "Heard the news yet?" We got robbed
"So I heard George." Jeff said taking off his hat
and giving the young man a nod. "I'd like to see
Mister Peabody if I might."
"I'm sorry, Jeff," George told him. "He's busy,
and still some upset over the robbery."
"Well, I got something that'll cheer him up
some. Tell him Jeff Canyon's here to pay off his
George hesitated but a moment. He knew that
Peabody had been thinking of foreclosing on Jeff's
ranch, and he knew that he didn't think it was fair.
Yet, with the hold up and all, he knew Peabody was
in a foul mood. Jeff's paying off his note would only
add to it and he wasn't sure if he could put up with
the man after that.
"Ok, Jeff, but he's going to be plumb riled for
my disturbing him, so don't blame me if he's a bit
short with you." George said and let a smile corss
"Jeff?" George added before moving. "I could
take the money for you and give you a receipt, if
"Thanks, George, but I'd rather I gave it to
Peabody myself." Jeff responded and waited while
George went to Peabody's door and knocked.
A moment later, Peabody was there. His eyes
held suspicion and questions, yet his face beamed
a false smile as he offered his hand in friendship
that wasn't genuine.
"Jeff, so glad to see you again." Peabody
started, then his face sobered. "What's this
nonsense George tells me about you wanting to pay
off your loan?"
"That's right, Mister Peabody," Jeff said. "I'm
here to pay off my loan. I believe it's due day after
tomorrow." Jeff added, watching as Peabody's face
twisted up some. For a split second, he saw the
anger rising with-in the fat man.
"But that's..." Peabody started, his voice raised
in anger that faded rapidly. "Come into the office, no
sense letting everybody knowing your business."
His eyes traveled from Jeff, over to where George
stood by, then traveled to several other customers.
Once inside the tiny office, Peabody sat down
and pulled out his box of cigars. Taking one, he bit
off the end and lit a match to it. He was clearly
rattled by Jeff's sudden appearance.
All his plans, all his schemes... they were about
to go up in smoke unless he did something, he told
himself, but what? He couldn't refuse to take the
money Jeff was offering to pay.
Peabody's mind raced with a confusion of
thoughts, yet he outwardly managed to keep his
face looking composed as he puffed on his cigar.
"Cigar Jeff?" He asked, stalling for more time to
"No thanks." Jeff replied. "Mister Peabody, if
we can, lets get down to it. If you just tell me what I
owe, I'll pay it and be on my way. Got an
appointment at the cattleman’s association to pick
up a few head of steers." Jeff added, keeping the
pressure on Peabody.
"Jeff, you were here a week ago asking for an
extension of your loan. Now suddenly you want to
pay it off." Peabody's fist slammed down on the
desk. "Mind telling me where you got the monet
from? I know what you got on deposit here and it
don't amount to a hill of..."
It came to him suddenly. He hadn't seen the
mans face, but he had seen the eyes of the man
who robbed the bank of the ten thousand dollars.
"You..." He started to speak, but Jeff beat him to the
"Sure, Mister Peabody," Jeff said. "I don't mind
telling you where I got the money. It's no secret, I
was plumb sore when you turned me down."
Peabody's heart leaped. Jeff Canyon was
going to admit to stealing the money, he thought,
but he was wrong.
"Anyways," Jeff continued. "I headed back to
the ranch, and when I got there, I saw two men
driving off some more of my cattle. I yelled and
started toward them, but they took off with me in the
drag. I chased them for... shoot, I don't know how
long, but they gave me the slip up in the hills back
of my place."
"That don't explain the money." Peabody
"I'm getting to that." Jeff said. "After I lost them,
I kind of hung around the area just snooping around
the country. Well, on the second day, I come across
some shiny stuff down by the stream... It was gold!"
Jeff exclaimed with fake excitement.
Peabody nearly swallowed his cigar when Jeff
spit out the gold word and Jeff knew he had it right
now. Peabody or somebody working for Peabody,
had found gold back up in the hills behind his place.
"Gold!" Peabody gasped. "You expect me to
believe that? I'll tell you what I believe! I think it was
you who robbed the bank this morning! That's what
I think, and I think it's about time I went and got the
Peabody was sweating as he nearly shouted
his tirade. He knew he was right about Jeff being
the man who robbed him, yet looking at Jeff's
outward calm, he began to doubt. If he was wrong
and what Jeff said was true...
"I'm sorry, Mister Peabody, but you're wrong
about me." Jeff told him, his voice steady and soft.
"I wasn't even close to town when the bank was
held up. I was out near Eve Hamilton's place, on my
way back from Billings. I'm ashamed to say it, but I
was so excited about the gold and the money, I... I
hit Bobby Hamilton with my horse. Hurt him bad as
Jeff Canyon let his voice waiver a bit as he
talked. "Met the Sheriff and his posse while I was
coming in with the boy. He can tell you."
Crimson flooded Peabody's face, it was a lie, a
damn lie, but he had heard the story about the boy
and he knew it would be hard to disprove Jeff
Canyon's story unless...
I'll do that, he told himself, I'll wire Billings. In
the mean time, he told himself, he had better play it
cool. He'd take the money, then ride up and see
Cooley. If what Jeff said about finding the gold was
true, there'd have to be a change in plans.
"I'm sorry, Jeff," Peabody apologized. "this
bank thing, it's got me so worked up, I ain't thinking
straight. I'll go find out what your balance is."
When he was gone, Jeff breathed a huge sigh.
For a minute there, he thought Peabody would go
for the Sheriff instead of taking the bait. Still, it
wasn't over with yet. Even if he paid off the loan like
he was planning, he still had the rustlers to deal
with, and he knew Peabody wouldn't quit, not if gold
Stopping on the porch as he stepped out of the
bank, Jeff rolled a smoke. The ranch was his now,
lock, stock and barrel, yet it gave him a twinge when
his hand touched the cancelled bank note. It was
paid for with stolen money. Still, he told himself
moving on down the street, he had began it, now he
had to see it through to the finish.
"George, you'll have to lock up today." Peabody
told George a minute after Jeff had left. "I almost
forgot I told Will Jordan I'd stop and take a look at
his spread. Seems he might be thinking of selling
Peabody moved swiftly. After a quick stop at
his place, he saddled up and headed out of town in
the direction of Jordan's place, but he had no
intentions of going there.
At the stream, he turned and started his horse
up the thin trail that would take him back into the
hills where Dave Cooley and his friends would be
lazing about, drinking and arguing, making plans on
how to spend all that money he was paying them.
A glance at the sun told him he could make it
before the sun went down and that was a good
thing. Cooley and his boys were a nervous lot and
fast to shoot. Jeff Canyon and the Sheriff had
hounded them pretty good, and several times, they
had come close to getting caught.
Dave Cooley had argued for killing Jeff
Canyon, but Peabody had refused to let that
happen. Now that things were getting out of hand,
he was wishing he hadn't.
"Move and inch, Mister, and I'll blow you clean
out of that fancy saddle you're riding." Peabody's
head jerked around and his heart nearly stopped at
the sudden words.
"Well, well, lookee here boys," Dave Cooley said
stepping out from behind a bush. "it's Mister Big
come a calling on us. Must be something awful
important for you to bring your fat ass up here."
Peabody ignored the barb from Cooley. Later,
he'd remember it, but at the moment he had more
important things to worry about.
"Important!" He said looking Cooley over. "You
might say that, Dave." He added dismounting and
moving over where Cooley waited. Two men moved
out of the woods and joined them.
"Canyon paid off his note today. Paid it off by
robbing the bank this morning and then coming in
with a cock and bull story about finding gold up in
the hills here, either way, we got trouble."
"Should have let me kill the Bastard when I
wanted, but no... you had to do things your way.
Well, no more! From now on we're going to do
things my way."
Peabody was a taken aback by this sudden
turn of events, yet he held his tongue, knowing how
near death he was. His one ace in the hole,
however, was that only he knew where the gold was
"You're way!" Peabody snapped. "You stupid
fool! You aren't nothing without me! You want to
take charge, go ahead. All you'll wind up with is a
handful of rustled cattle and maybe a lynching rope
around your neck."
The cords in Peabody's neck bulged as he went
on in his anger. "Only I know where the gold is, and
that's the ways it's going to stay. If you want out,
that's fine, but I'll let you in something, Jeff Canyon
put out the word. He's looking for some hand picked
men, and when he gets enough, he said he was
going to comb these hills and hang any man he
"Let him come, a forty four between the eyes
will stop him." One of the other two said, cutting the
angry tension that engulfed Cooley and the banker.
"So what are we going to do about it?" Cooley
asked at last.
"I don't know yet, I need time to do thinking."
Peabody was still angry, but his tone was more
conciliatory. "Meet me here tomorrow just after
noon. Maybe we can come up with something by
"I got an idea," Cooley said as his eyes spoke
his hatred. "lets just kill him and be done with it."
"That might not be as easy as you think."
Peabody replied, letting his eyes wander away from
"Well, we're the ones taking all the risks."
Cooley told Peabody. "All you've done is talk and
make promises. We ain't seen a dime yet, so why
don't you let us worry about Jeff Canyon."
"Ok," Peabody smiled. "How many head do you
think you got so far?"
"Four fifty, give or take. What about it?" Cooley
asked, not knowing what to think of this change of
tactics by Peabody.
"Four fifty? Let's call it five hundred." Peabody
started, then went on. At ten dollars a head, that's
five thousand, I'll have it with me tomorrow when I
come." Peabody told him and let his eyes drift to the
other two men to see what their reaction would be.
Their reaction was what he hoped for. Cooley
might be rough and tough, but he didn't have the
money, nor the brains that it took to keep men like
the other two loyal. Loyal, that is, as long as the
As the four men broke up their pow wow,
Sheriff Miller slipped off and away from the little
brush covered hill where he had been hiding. He
had missed part of the conversation crawling up
there, but he had heard enough to get Peabody's
neck stretched for cattle rustling.
Climbing back into his saddle, Sheriff Miller
headed back toward town. In his mind, a plan was
forming. Peabody, he told himself, could wait. It was
Cooley and the others he wanted the most.
He knew Dave Cooley, and by his estimate,
Cooley was nothing but a back shooting two bit thief
and cattle rustler who deserved to have been shot
at birth. The other two... if they hung with Cooley,
they deserved what they got, but he wanted one of
them to talk first, and that was where his plan came
After stopping off and telling Jeff what he
learned, Sheriff Miller headed back to town. His
plan called for him to get banker Peabody, first thing
in the morning, and throw his ass in jail. Then he
and a half dozen trusted men would high tail it out
to where Cooley and his cronies were supposed to
meet Peabody. Once there, they'd wait and try to
take the three alive if they could.
The first part of his plan went off without a
hitch. Peabody complained, ranted and raved, but
he went along without too much trouble once Jeff
Canyon told him what awaited him if he didn't quit
putting up a fuss.
"All right, you know what to do when they get
here." Sheriff Miller told the others.
The others had doubted the Sheriff when he
told them about Peabody, but once they saw how
the banker reacted to Jeff's threat of hanging, they
began to believe a little. Most of them, however,
said they'd reserve their judgment on the matter
until after they caught Cooley and the others. Then
if the sheriff proved to be right, they'd see to it
Peabody got what he deserved.
"There!" Jeff Canyon breathed. They had been
hidden amongst the brush, tree's and rocks since
ten in the morning. To some of the others, it had
begun to look like no one was going to show up, but
at last, Jeff's keen eyes picked up the approach of
three riders coming down out of the tree's high up in
"Get ready!" Sheriff Miller hissed. Don't shoot
unless you have to. I want them alive, to stand trial,
and I want one of them to sing us a song about
They didn't have long to wait. Five minutes
after Jeff first spotted them, the three rode up and
started to dismount.
"Ain't here yet," They heard Cooley grumble.
"just like him, we figure on making him wait, and
"He's not late, Cooley," The sounds of guns
being cocked mingled with the Sheriffs words. "he
sold you out. Told us he seen three men hanging
around the hills yesterday when he came out to look
at some property he is thinking about buying. It's a
lie, I know it and you know it, but he's going to get
off scott free while you hang for cattle rustling."
"The hell, I will!" Dave Cooley snarled, and
went for his gun.
Jeff Canyon had waited and watched for just
such a move, and when he saw it begin, he let off a
single shot that broke Cooley's gun hand.
"You Son of a Bitch!" Cooley cursed. "I should
have killed you when I had the chance, but that
"Four hundred and fifty head, call it five
hundred at ten dollars a head..." Sheriff Miller said.
"Guess Peabody didn't want to waste the money."
The others stood still, their hand held far away
from their holsters.
"You ain't got nothing on us." Cooley sneered.
"Not yet," Jeff Canyon said as he stepped out
into the open. "but we're fixing to have a rope
around your necks."
"You can hang for all I care, Cooley." Sheriff
Miller said as he took Cooley’s Pistol from its
holster. "These two I don't know, maybe they aren't
interested in hanging. How about it? You want to tell
me what I want to know?"
"What's that?" One of the other two asked.
"Shut up, Danson!" Cooley snapped at him.
"They ain't got nothing they can prove on us, so
keep your big mouth shut."
"Get your rope, Jeff." Sheriff Miller said, turning
to look over his shoulder, then back to look Cooley
square in the eye. "Jeff's been losing cattle, and we
find you three up here where you don't belong. It
adds up to me, how about the rest of you?" He
asked turning to look at his men.
"Better bring three ropes, Jeff." Joe Gossett,
the towns blacksmith, said, and there was no give in
his voice. His mind like several of the others was
made up now. "Hang one, might as well hang them
all, saves the trouble of trying them."
"Wait!" The man called Danson shouted. "You
can't do this, not without a trial."
"All in favor of hanging these cattle rustler say
aye!" The Sheriff's vote was carried unanimously.
The other man, like Cooley, had stood mum,
but Danson looked on the verge of breaking.
"Him first!" Joe Gossett said, pointing to
Danson. "Do him before he wets his pants."
Jeff moved to put the rope over Danson's head,
but Danson's shout stopped him. "No! Wait! What
do you want to know?"
"Shut up, damn you! Their bluffing!" Cooley
fought against the ropes that now held his hands
behind his back.
"You go to hell, Cooley!" Danson shouted back.
"I'm not stretching no rope for you or that Bastard
Peabody. I went along with you because you said
we'd make a lot of money, but I ain't seen none yet.
One thing I know for sure, Peabody ain't here, and
these fellers are... you figure it out. How else did
they know where to find us?" Danson asked. His
fear of hanging showed on his sweat beaded face.
The ride back to town, was filled with Danson's
confession and Cooley’s angry cursing and threats
of death. In the end however, when they arrived
back at the jail, it was Cooley who started talking.
"It was his idea." Cooley said, pointing at
Peabody. "The stupid Bastard wouldn't let me do it
the way it should have been handled. Well, Fat Ass,
if I'm going to swing on the end of a rope, so are
The trial when it came up two weeks later,
lasted less than an hour. Guilty was the verdict for
all four men.
"Dave Cooley, Red Thompson, having been
found guilty of rustling, I sentence you to hang by
the neck until dead, and may God have mercy on
your soul." The Judges gavel sounded and he
turned his attention to Clark Danson.
"Clark Danson, having been found guilty
likewise, I should sentence you to hang along side
of your two friends, but Mister Canyon asked that
you be spared, I take his request seriously. That,
along with the fact that you testified for the state in
the case against Horrace Peabody, is the only
reason you will not swing. Five years hard labor."
The judges gavel slammed down hard on his
desk and he turned his eyes to Horrace Peabody.
"Horrace Peabody, you were a highly respected
member of this community, but your greed led you
down a path of evil. You were prepared to lie, cheat,
steal, and even have another man murdered for
what he had. Having been found guilty of these
crimes, I sentence you to hang by the neck until
dead, and may God have mercy on your soul."
"No! No, you can't do this to me." Peabody
"Silence!" The judges gavel pounded again on
the table. "I can and I have, Mister Peabody, but I
might consider sparing your sorry neck... Your
greed got you into this, lets see if it will save your
neck. I want you to disclose to Jeff Canyon the
where about of the gold discovery you made on his
land. You do that, and I'll stay your execution and
sentence you to ten years hard labor. The choice is
"Ten years!" Peabody shouted angrily. "I'd be
dead just the same. Canyon can find his own gold,
and you can all go to hell."
Jeff Canyon never found the gold, he never
looked, he was to busy with his cattle and ranch.
Bobby Hamilton recovered from his injuries.
Eve Hamilton, brought closer to Jeff after the
accident, married him and together they had three
"You cannot worry about that which you cannot control."