Shoots Plenty secured his horse to the hitching post in front of Madam Cortez’ House and proceded to walk around back to where Carmen had her crib. Two men came walking by, laughing and talking loudly. One of the men bumped into Shoots Plenty almost knocking him to the ground. They kept walking without looking up or acknowledging what they had done. When he arrived at the back of the house he rapped on the door, “It is Chief Shoots Plenty,” he said. The door cracked open and a slender arm reached out and pulled him into the room. Later, as he sat on the bed strapping on his Colt .45 and placing his black stovepipe hat securely on his head, he said, “Carmen, it is time that I go.”
“Where do you go to now, mi hermoso gran jefe?” Carmen asked while looking up at Shoots Plenty and placing the palm of her right hand gently on his cheek.
Shoots Plenty smiled as he slowly removed her hand and placed some crumpled up bills into it. He felt strong when she called him her beautiful big chief. He had never been called that before, not even by Gray Grass, because he was not a chief, and because he was not beautiful. Maybe it was his black stovepipe hat with his magical eagle feather, or maybe it was because he lied and told her he was a chief, or maybe because she liked that paper money he gave her. It did not matter. He was glad to be her big beautiful chief.
“There are two bad men in town that I must see and then I get more paper money. We travel to where the white men call Fabens. Do you know this Fabens?”
“Si, I know it. Hay hombres muy malos who come there from Ciudad Juarez to rob and kill so many people. You be careful mi hermoso gran jefe and return to your Carmen, si?”
“Shoots Plenty is careful.”
He stepped out into the morning sun, adjusted the gun belt on his hip, and walked around to where he spotted an old man across the street, sweeping down the steps of the saloon. He walked over and asked him if he knew where he could find Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson.
The old man stood up and removed a pipe from his mouth while looking Shoots Plenty up and down with a scornful eye and replied, “Yep, but I wouldn’t want to get crosswise with either of them two if I was an Injun, especially an old Injun like you. They got them Yankee rifles, the ones you load on Sunday and fire all week.”
“You mean the Henry Repeaters like that one?” Shoots Plenty asked pointing to the rifle hanging from the scabbard on his saddle.
“Yep, thems the ones. How’d an Injun get one of them? Ain’t that against the law?”
“I am the law.”
“Sure you are,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Them twos in there in the saloon. Good luck cause you’ll need it.”
Shoots Plenty walked into the saloon. It was one of only a few times he entered one. Mainly because Indians were not allowed in most of them and also because he had no desire to be in one.
He saw the men standing at the bar with the Henrys propped on the floor, smoke curling over their heads from the cigars they were smoking. Grambling, the one who bumped into him, was the larger of the two, but still not a large man. His clothes were filthy like he had just ridden into town after spending a long time on the trail. Pilson didn’t look any better. Both of them wore what appeared to be Colt .45’s in their belts with most of the cartridges missing. He figured they stopped in the saloon first after riding into town then planned to go to the mercantile store to purchase or, more likely, steal more cartridges and gunpowder.
“You two you should come outside with me.”
His voice startled both men. They quickly swung around to see who was behind them, their hands instinctively going down to cover the butt of their gun.
“What did you say?” Grambling asked, not sure he heard correctly. “You an injun?”
“I am Lakota. Now, you and your friend, Pilson, come outside with me.”
“How do you know our names?” Pilson asked.
“I know. Now you should come.”
Grambling glanced over at Pilson and then they both started laughing.
“Don’t try to play rooster in my town, you filthy red skin,” Grambling said, while a grin spread across his pockmarked face.
Shoots Plenty took him in without moving his eyes. They were the coolest things in the hot smoky saloon but they set Grambling on fire. He was fumbling at his belt for fresh cartridges all the while smiling. Shoots Plenty had his fill of his charm so he shot him point blank between the eyes.
When he died he was still grinning.
Shoots Plenty turned to Grambling’s partner and said, “Your friend looks healthier than you do white eyes.”
“You best listen to good advice, you old red skin, Red don’t last around here.”
Shoots Plenty cracked the hammer of his Colt .45 again and shot Pilson between the eyes as well.
When he died he was not grinning.
Shoot Plenty stared with contempt at the dead body of Fred Pilson and said, “Red lasted longer than you white eyes.” He removed their gun belts and returned Grambling’s gun to his holster and threw them over his shoulder while he picked up the two Henry Repeaters and left, leaving both outlaws bleeding out on the filthy beer-stained floor.
Before he mounted his horse, he looked over at the old man who had his back pressed against the saloon wall and said, “You should take those two over to the man with the box that captures the soul of the whites. Tell him to send them to Captain Smith with the Texas Rangers in El Paso.”
“I ain’t takin’ no orders from no redskin,” he said.
Shoots Plenty just stared at the old man.
“Okay, don’t get all worked up you crazy old Injun, I’ll do that.”
“I will be back,” Shoots Plenty said before he turned and rode off into the west Texas hills.
Later when Esben returned he dismounted his mule and sat down next to Shoots Plenty who was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
“I return and that whole town is talking about some crazy old redskin, wearing a black stovepipe hat with an Eagle’s feather, claiming he is a law dog, who just walked into a saloon he ain’t allowed in, and shot Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson without even blinking an eye and took their guns before riding off. By any chance was that you, Shoots Plenty.”
“That was Shoots Plenty.”
“Did you fry your brain in this heat?”
“I told the white eyes I was a law dog. Did you tell them Shoots Plenty is a law dog and collect my paper money?”
“Whoever heard of an Indian being a law dog?”
Shoots Plenty sat puffing on his pipe without replying.
“You are not the law.”
“I know that, but they do not.”
“They know you aren’t the law. Everybody knows you aren’t the law.
They are glad to see those two gone, but they ain’t too happy that an Indian would think it was alright to ride into town and gun down two white men, no matter how much they deserved it.”
“They should be happy the crazy old redskin stopped at shooting just two white eyes. He could have killed many of his enemies.”
Esben shook his head.
“I told them we are bounty hunters and I made sure the pictures of Grambling and Pilson got sent off to Captain Smith. I have the paper money in my saddle bags on my mule.”
“That is good, Wasichus. Your Captain Smith has hired an old Indian and an old mule packer to find these men because he cannot find other white eyes to do this. Plus we are pretty damn good at it, is that not so, Wasichus?”
Esben looked at the old Indian and smiled, “I guess we are.”
“Did I tell you the story when that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives into believing that their paper money grows on trees? You remember how that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives to release him from their jail by telling them he could train that big white horse?”
“I remember. I’m going to collect some wood and start a fire.”
“That is good. I will speak louder so you can hear this story as you do your chores.”
“Is that not what the white man calls their work?”
Esben shook his head in exasperation and replied, “Just don’t scare my mule.”
“Your one-eyed mule will like this story because Coyote took the pack mules from the long knives. That is a good thing.
This is how it happened. Coyote was out of the cheese and crackers that the long knives gave him when he trained that big white horse and he had little money left so he came up with another trick to play on the long knives who were still pursuing him.
He knew they were greedy, like all white men, and he devised a plan to get all the pack mules the long knives had with them.
He found a big walnut tree and swept the ground clean under it and strung what money he had left on its branches. Pretty soon the long knives came along and Coyote said, “I am going to tell you about this tree. Money grows on it and I want to sell it. Do you want to buy it?
The long knives were interested so Coyote told them, “It takes a day for the money to grow and ripen. Today’s crop is mine, but tomorrow it is all yours. I will sell you this fine tree for all your pack mules.”
The long knives agreed to Coyotes terms, and Coyote got a big rock and threw it against the trunk. Most of the money fell to the ground. “See, it only ripens at noon,” he said. “You have to hit it just at noon.” He whacked the tree again, and the rest of the money dropped out. Now it was all on the ground and the long knives helped him pick it up and put it in sacks. They turned all their pack mules over to Coyote as agreed upon, and Coyote started off.
He traveled the rest of the day and all night until he was in another country. Meanwhile, the long knives camped under the tree waiting for noon. then the officer told the soldiers to hit the tree, and they pounded it hard. When no money fell out, the officer ordered it chopped down, cut into lengths and then split up, in case the money was inside. Of course, no matter what they did they couldn’t find even five cents just old worms and bugs.”
Esben shook his head. “Shoots Plenty,” he said, “I am finding so many of your stories so far-fetched they are laughable. You surely cannot expect anyone in their right mind to think that a company of Union Soldiers would be that gullible that they would give away all their pack mules to a mangy old coyote in exchange for a walnut tree that the coyote said had money growing on it?”
“It is so, le mita-cola, my grandfather told this story to me.”
“I’m turning in. We have a long ride ahead of us tomorrow.”