Pilgrim Town was founded over a rich alluvial vein of premium gold. The mineral had made the town quite prosperous. With the proceeds of the gold, the folks traded in innumerable cattle and Pilgrim’s Town became the most influential trading post around. It was a place of beauty, gaiety and fanfare. The men were always dapper and the woman draped in peacock feathers like dresses. Sundays were days for dancing, drinking and picnics. Life was not lived with more brio anywhere else than in Pilgrim Town.
That was until…Rusty showed up with his men. Rusty was the vilest bandit in the west with a mean streak longer than the Mississippi. Always immaculately dressed in black, his swarthy face was never seen without a scarf tied below his eyes. The grapevine had it that he had a fibrous white scar running from his left lower eyelid to his lip. The scar, a testament to a bar room brawl had healed badly and had hardened his face into a permanently sneering rictus. Beneath the shadows of his Stetson hat’s brim, his pupils were coals that smouldered with the flames of malice. Rusty had a beguiling charm, a swagger that hid his rattlesnake viciousness and made him irresistible especially to the maidens. To the discerning, his strutting cockiness and serpent like insouciance were clear indicators of a murderous soul. It was said that aside from his deadly proficiency with his colt pistols, he was a wonder to behold with the banjo. Town folks usually wondered how someone so malevolent could play such heavenly music. Suffice it to say that the man was unadulterated evil!
It was a Sunday evening that he and his honchos rode into town raising a mushroom of dust in their wake. It was that same day that all hell broke loose in Pilgrim Town. They came, riding black mustangs and dressed in black leather etched with skulls and cross bones. Yodelling and screaming, the Hell Raisers (the moniker by which they were known) wrecked havoc on the town before the people could circle their wagons. Their Winchester carbines and Gatling guns rained a deluge of bullets that drowned the town.
Fortuitously, a wedding reception was going on. The Mayor’s brother was getting married. The bandits, spurs clicking made their way into the town hall and Rusty declared, “From this time on, Pilgrim is mine!”
The Mayor rose, his face red with fury for the interruption to the proceedings of such a memorable day. Eyes popping with anger, he stared down the bandit. “Not on my watch,” he spat out.
“We would see about that, wouldn’t we,” Rusty drawled. No sooner had he finished speaking than he shot the Mayor’s pregnant wife right her protruding belly. The shock of the gruesome act made a wave of quietness spread through the hall. It was the groom that first threw off the shawl of unbelief that gripped the hall and in his rage, he ran towards the bandit.
Rusty chuckled, raised his right colt at the charging man and sidestepping him with the panache of a matador, he released two bullets into the brain of the new bride. Her husband lost interest in the thieves, ran and held her as blood seeped into her wedding gown. He watched in horror, screaming her name as the blood stains spread, roses from the garden of hell growing profusely on a pristine snowy field. Unhinged, he kept screaming, unlike his brother who was still dumb and petrified by the nightmarish scene unfolding before him. He kissed his wife and made for Rusty with blinding fury once more. The boom of a sawn of shotgun resounded in the room and the man’s right hand dissolved into a mist of blood from the elbow downwards. Confetti of bone, gristle and muscle sprayed the room. It was at this point that a stampede to flee from the hall ensued. A frightened herd of humanity rushed for the single door. The crying agony of crushed babies was a sound that would haunt the citizens in their nightmares for a long time, a demented banshee that they would not be able to exorcise or silence for years to come.
In the madness, it was Rusty’s raucous laughter that filled the hall. That day, Pilgrim Town fell and became his private fiefdom. Without visible chains or manacles, the folks of the town became his personal slaves. The proceeds from the mines went to the private account. He opened bordellos where the young ladies were made to serve as wenches at the risk of death. Any woman that caught his fancy was forcibly abducted, married or not. His men paraded the gates of the town to kill anyone who attempted to leave. Gradually the town changed and became known for saloons, drunks and prostitutes, a place where wanton rape and pillaging ran riot. Suicide became rife, death, despondency and diseases reigned. The town had fallen from its perch. A once evergreen oak tree, it had gotten blighted by Rusty’s poison. The bandit’s presence had turned a flourishing orchard into a cactus forest of thorns. Pilgrim Town had become a ghost town.
In the past, the settlement had been complacent because of their wealth and never believed they needed a Sheriff. That decision had gone awry for them.
On the outskirts of town, a woodworker faced his quiet existence getting by. He made great furniture with exquisite finishing and the town was filled with his beautiful works. However, he could not keep working wood while Rusty ran rough shod over his beloved country. He had grown up here and could not believe the ruinous state everything had become. Working wood was his job, now he had to take up his work, his raison d’être, his reason for being.
The wood worker was thirty when he walked away from it all. He was done working wood but he knew he could not take on the Prince of thieves in his present state. Except a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone, but when it does die it brings forth much fruit, he figured. His present status would not cut it, he needed a new persona. He rode away on his pony into some uncharted regions of the desert for three years. He was thirty three when he came back.
That morning, as the mist parted like curtains before the glory of the rising sun, he rode into town, on a stallion so white it was called cloud. The man sitting on the horse was also clad in all white. Everything shone about him. The saddles were polished, buckles and pommel burnished. It was like the dust shuddered to lay its fingers on him. There was a glow to him, a glory that could not be denied.
Rusty’s men at the gates of the city could not prevail over him; they were the first to be scythed down by his magnums. He rode into the city, consumed by righteous indignation. News spread like wild fire, there was a new gun in town and he was faster than Rusty’s best hands. The streets were soon running with bandits’ blood. His hands were a blur as it went into his holsters and came out pouring smoke and bullets. He was all out to destroy the work of the enemy as he picked off the bandits like they were fish in a barrel. When his bullets ran out, he used throwing knives and his hands. The wood worker had become a living weapon, the messiah the people had waited for, for ages.
Using his guns like a whip, he drove out the bandits from the bordellos and saloons. Pilgrim Town would no longer be a den of thieves. The air was soon filled the smell of cordite and blood but the fight was yet from over. Whipping out guns, shooting, ducking, throwing knives, he went through all Rusty’s men, making a public spectacle of them.
At last he was face to face with the Prince of thieves. The bandit was ensconced in his private saloon downing shots of brandy when the swinging doors opened. Highlighted by the midday sun, he strode in purposefully, a figure of brilliance that startled the thief. As Rusty’s aides rose he crossed his arms shooting left and right, two bullets that found the thugs in their foreheads. Bullets that reminded the enslaved bar tender of David’s stone striking down Goliath. He sheathed back his guns.
“The show is over Rusty, give it up!” he said.
“Over my dead body, Whitey,” drawled Rusty making for his guns.
With movements faster than the eyes could follow, the guns came out and Rusty was winged. The wood worker had officially become the fastest gun in the west.
Rusty, knew the game was over. He sat back to the counter nursing his injured arm and weighing his options. He realised he could not beat the wood worker in a fair fight, so he decided to improvise. . He had only one bullet left in his chamber, a last ace to play. To distract his avenger, he shot at the bar keeper’s maiden daughter. With lightening speed, the wood worker threw his body into the path of the bullet and was smashed against bar. Broken bottles pierced and lacerated him. He went still and limp.
“You should have stayed with your carpentry Whitey; you ain’t no match for Rusty!” The bandit was the kind of person that would kick a fallen man. With malicious glee, he used a raw hide whip on his foe. With unabated ferocity, he flung the whip, ripping flesh, flailing skin until there was no beauty to desire him. He beat him to a pulp and as a final gesture of wickedness; Rusty used the spur on his boot to kick and tear through the man’s side, gutting him. Blood gushed!
“You, lady are coming with me,” He dragged off the maiden, she screamed and shouted and no one had the guts to stop him. Their champion had fallen.
The young lady’s cry tore through the haze of pain holding the wood worker down.
“She is not leaving with you Rusty, not today, not ever!” he said, getting to his knees.
“I thought you were dead, now you are going to stay dead sucker!” Rusty replied, bring out a hunting knife.
“Bite the dust!!!” The wood worker exclaimed.
Two shots rang out, one hitting him in the head and the other in the heart. Rusty fell like he had been struck by lightning.
“It is finished!” said the wood worker blowing at the smoke from his smoking gun.
With time, Pilgrim’s Town attained and surpassed its former glory under the guidance of the wood worker who was now the Sheriff.
During a New Year celebration, the town daily did an exclusive on him.
Following the interview, the journalist stopped and asked, “Off the record, Sheriff, what is your ultimate mission here in Pilgrim’s Town?”
He looked at her, smiled and said,
“THE THIEF COMETH NOT BUT TO STEAL, TO KILL AND DESTROY, BUT I AM COME THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY….”
“Secondly, Sheriff, why did you put your body in line for the bar tenders daughter so many years ago. Why did you risk your life for a girl you did not know?”
The Sheriff, ran up the stairs and as he was about entering his station, replied,
“Miss, I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; THE GOOD SHEPHERD GIVETH HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP…”
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