Gunfight With a Fool

by Ron Lewis

Tags: Historical, Western,

Desc: Western Story: Meet Harold Andersen, a pitiful man for whom happiness just does not fit in the equation. If good luck were water, Harold would die of thirst. Having tried many things in his miserable life, and failing at all of them it makes perfect sense to Harold to become a gun fighter. He was born with money, not brains. His desire to become famous sends him head first into a confrontation with John Henry "Deadeye" Bain.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters are used strictly for dramatic purposes.

Before the Story Begins

Most call this a prologue or back-story and it is not entirely essential you know this; however I am including this so I do not just dump you in the deep end and hope you can learn to swim.

David Andrews was a big man. Nearly six feet tall and built like a bear, with big muscled arms, a big chest and strong back. Andrews was called Frisco by most, having moved to San Francisco several years before the rush. Now he spent his days in a dark hole in the ground and his nights trying to keep up with his partner, Johan Henrick Bain. Bain was the shorter of the two men, but no less formidable. His arms resembled tree stumps, short but big around. His hands were overly large for his height.

Seeking to find their fortune, both men went looking for gold. Six months later, they met ass deep in a stream both of them had been panning. Lesser men would have argued or fought about who had the right. These two men, rather than fighting, wondered if a partnership would serve them better. They spat in their hands and shook on it and thus the partnership formed.

No one had laid claim to this part of the stream yet. When Johan Bain reached down and picked up a gold nugget so large it filled his oversized hand, he looked to his partner and shouted in his thick German accent, "Bonanza yah." The men filed that afternoon and claim 227 was theirs.

For many months, the two men had a rich find and life was good. That all changed in an instant when Newt Carlson, the employee of a mining interest came to inform them his company wanted the men's claim. When Bain confronted Carlson, he was shot by the lout; murdered in cold blood. Still, Bain managed to take his killer with him. Wrapping his big arms around the man, he lifted Carlson off the ground wrapping his tree trunk arms around him so tight he suffocated the man. Frisco heard the loud cracking sound as Bain broke Carlson's back and several ribs. Bain held on until the man's breathing labored and at last stopped, before dumping the man's body in the dirt. Bain turned to Frisco, his chest and belly covered in his own blood and cried out breathlessly, "Frisco, this bastard has murdered me!" before Johan Henrick Bain fell dead to the ground.

The next day Frisco signed the deed over to the bastards that had his friend and partner killed. He was on board a ship by nightfall with the money concealed in the lining of his luggage. Traveling around the horn to New York, he then made his way west to Ohio to give his partner's widow her share of the claim. With great sorrow, he proceeded to tell Welda Bain her husband was dead before giving her the money. In a daze, Welda took the money, never realizing that Frisco had given her all of it, not merely her husbands half.

She saw he had no place to go, so politely asked him to stay to dinner. That led to him staying on as handy man and general farm worker, before eventually becoming foreman. After a year, he finally worked up the nerve to ask Welda to marry him. He assumed the role of husband to her and stepfather to the Bain's two boys. It was as if not having a life of his own he took on the life of his partner.

A borrowed life is better than no life. Bain's two young boys, John Henry and his brother Carl Jeffery had known their true father. The elder, Carl was ten when their father left for the gold fields of California. John turned ten in 1851, the year that Frisco showed up. From that point on, Frisco was their father, though neither called him father; he was always Frisco to them.

As the two boys grew into fine young men, married and had families of their own, Frisco became the grandfather to John Henry's two boys. Carl was in his element as a farmer while John was far too much like his father and had inherited his father's restless spirit. So Carl stayed on and farmed the family land in Ohio, while John Henry moved west with his childhood sweetheart and new bride, Mary. The two faced a new world in the west. Buying a small parcel of land in Missouri, he installed his pregnant wife on the farm then set out to find their fortune.

In 63', Welda died a slow painful death and Frisco stayed at her bedside the entire time. Whatever the reason Welda and Frisco were closer to John Henry and his family. They helped with boys while John Henry went off to earn a living or when he was off to the war. The sun rose and set for Frisco on those two lads. If anything ever happened to either, it might kill the old man.

John Henry's excellence as a hunter gave him his first job of providing meat for the workers who were stringing the wire for the telegraph. It was while doing this that he met a wild young man named James B. Hickok. Bain often received credit for giving Hickok his nom de plume, though this was merely speculation. In truth, the nickname Hickok earned originated from a gunfight in which the dying man exclaimed, "I have been killt by nothing more than a wild bill!" It was a final insult from this dying man, which somehow stuck as a new handle for young Hickok.

During this time Hickok became reacquainted with his boyhood friend, "Colorado" Charlie Utter. Utter provided new horses to the pony express. The three men consorted with each other at place called Rock Creek Station in Nebraska. They talked often and soon a friendship struck up between the three men. Once Hickok introduced Bain to Utter from that time, all three were thick as thieves. Colorado Charlie drifted in and out of the two men's lives like a stream meandering though a pasture.

Leaving the employ of the telegraph, Bain worked for Hickok as his assistant until the war broke out in earnest. Both Hickok and Bain became civilian scouts for the army until the war was over. Since they were civilians, they could have left at any point. Their love of the traveling through the new, untamed country, of sleeping under the stars with nothing but clean, cool air to breathe was such a draw to both men that they stayed on. They may have only been scouts, but both men took part in many bloody battles.

After the war, the two men went their separate ways yet always managed to stay in contact. Hickok remained a civilian scout for Custer. John Henry Bain went to work for the Railroad on their private police force.

Well, that is what has gone on before. Now we come to a pitiful man for whom happiness just does not fit in the equation. His name is Harold Andersen and if good luck were water, the man would die of thirst.

Part One

The Sad Account of Harold Andersen

Having inherited a large sum of money, one would think that Harold Andersen would be a prosperous individual. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a ne'er-do-well in life. Having failed at so many ventures, all who knew him considered him a failure of the first order. In '49, he made his way to San Francisco to give prospecting a whirl. While others reached down and picked up gold nuggets, he failed to find even a flake.

Freezing his ass off in cold water up to his balls, he panned for gold but found nothing. His interest in prospecting soon waned. After only a few weeks of panning, he stopped as suddenly as he had begun, putting his pan down and walking away from his claim. Disgusted with his bad luck he decided to try his hand at something else.

Harold turned his endeavors to gambling; figuring mining the miner's pockets would be an easier pursuit. Night after night, he sat at the tables in San Francisco, allowing cards to be the master of his fate. He managed to lose several thousand dollars and after witnessing the terrible murder of a miner, he cut his losses and gave up on gambling.

Moving to Denver City, he set out to find a business to operate. He had few requirements other than it be easy to learn and easy to do. Purchasing a General Store, he put his full efforts into its success, only to see his venture go up in smoke, literally. The store actually held its own for years, neither making money nor losing it, giving Harold quite a good life. Fate stepped in one breezy night though when the Chinook winds blew down from the mountains after Harold mistakenly left a candle burning. The problem was not the candle burning so much as how close to the curtains it was. Leaving the window open a little to help cool the place the curtain and candle touched, which proved to be more than enough to undo Harold's latest venture.

After barely escaping with his life from the upper rooms, Harold watched in horror as the place burned to the ground. It was as well his store was on a separate lot from other businesses, or the entire street could have been lost. As the flames leapt skyward, his spirits sank. He was going to miss that store. He moved on again, still with a sizable amount of money to live on and to fund a new venture. When there is an absence of brains, there had better be an abundance of money.

.... There is more of this story ...

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Story tagged with:
Historical / Western /