Hangman's Knot

by Ron Lewis

Tags: Fiction, Historical,

Desc: Western Story: While delivering the outlaw Captain Edward Powers to the Law at Larned, Kansas, the group of travelers witnesses a hanging that goes horribly wrong. Witnessing the fate of the condemned causes Powers to rethink he is life. He worries that his hanging might similarly be bungled. Meeker assures him that no Hangman could botch two hangings in a row, could he?

License Notes

This eBook license is for your personal enjoyment only. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction and not intended to be historically accurate but merely a representation of the times. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters use is strictly for dramatic purposes. This story contains some violence.

The small group stood round the collection of fresh graves. Heads bowed they listened as the old Indian spoke to God. His prayer was almost conversational. The man responsible for the carnage sat with his back to the wagon wheel, hands tied behind him. His amusement at the superstitious ritual preformed in front of him, showed on his face and was punctuated by occasional laughter. His shoulder ached from the two bullets lodged deep in the joint between shoulder and arm. He hoped for a chance to get even with that bitch for shooting him.

"Lord," the Indian said, closing his supplication to his Maker, "we ask your tender Mercies on these people. I think you might have a rough time forgiving the one called Halfwit. I know I do. But he might not be fully responsible. You see, Lord, he was carrying around a bullet in his brain. That has to cause some changes. May you have mercy on the souls of these departed. Amen!"

Saying words over the graves of newly departed friends, family and strangers was a constant in the old man's life. A part of his life on the frontier was death. Harsh weather, accidents, and of course murder were just daily occurrences. The old man had never once killed anyone. Though he was sorely tempted to kill once or twice, he had always resisted the urge.

Returning his derby to his head, he turned back to the wagon. The darkness was already upon them. A couple of lanterns lit the area while a big campfire provided its own glow to the proceedings. He stopped just long enough to speak to Powers. "God doesn't like it when you mock him. Allowing for your situation; you might consider a little respect."

"I ain't got anything to do with your God and he has nothing to do with me. When I get my necktie at Fort Larned, I won't meet my maker because I have no maker. You Bible thumpers are the worst sort of persons; you go through life depriving yourself of pleasure to please a God that isn't there; an Indian, Christian? I never knew there was such a thing. We got ourselves plenty of nigger Christians where I come from but nary one Indian Christian to be found."

Dishing up the food; they all began eating in somber silence. Keeping Powers good hand tied behind him, forced him to struggle with feeding himself with his wounded arm. After a short time, he gave up tossing the food down; proclaiming it slop.

Slowly the mood lightened as they ate their dinner. Once finished they again tied Powers hands behind his back. Buffalo Head again tried to convince Powers to let him remove the bullets and sterilize the wounds on his shoulder. Powers swore never to let an 'Injun or Darkie' touch him.

Drinking coffee, the group talked of life. Suddenly Meeker listening to the coyotes howling began to laugh. "I saw a little mountain cotton tail rabbit kill a big ole mean wolf one time. He was what you would call an assassin rabbit. Oh, nobody wants to hear that story I guess." Michelle looked over at Meeker and smiled.

"I think I would like to hear me that story." Shell said; settling her back comfortably against her saddle.

"Me too," Sarah Culbertson chimed in, sitting cross-legged she put her elbows on her knees and leaned her face on her hands. The young girl was hoping for something to lighten her mood. The horror of her parent's deaths blazed in her mind most of the time. Out of the corner of her eye she watched HIM ... sitting there against the wagon wheel ... she hoped he was hurting bad!

"Oh, go ahead," the old Indian, said. The prisoner shook his head no. Powers realized his vote was not going to count. Lying back, he just hoped it was a short story. God his shoulder burned, a throbbing pain moved down his left arm to his fingers.

"Well sir, there was this cute little rabbit eating some grass in the meadow. He was a right cute little critter, gray with some brown and a white cotton-ball tail. His little nose would twitch; a' sniffing this sprig of grass or that leaf of a dandelion. Pulling sprig or leaf he would carefully chew it, I got the impression he was counting how many chews he took. That would be allowing for a mom that taught him right. It was high up near the timberline.

"I saw this vicious looking wolf just a' watching that poor little rabbit. The wolf was dark gray bordering on black with white on his chest and paws. His blue eyes were somewhat spooky looking. His long tongue darted out and licked along his lips. Just a bit of anticipatory drool dripped from his mouth. I could tell he was looking at his next meal.

"To my surprise the wolf just sat there, eyeballing the little rabbit. He seemed amused by the feller and his scampering about. Just as I was amused by the critter. I thought maybe that little rabbit was safe; as the wolf didn't appear to be as hungry now. He wasn't pawing the ground or looking anxious no more, he was just watching. Suddenly he made his move. It was lightning fast. One moment he was casually watching, the next he was right on top of the rabbit. I thought; 'well, there goes my dinner.'

"The wolf must have been in a playful mood. You see, he took to tormenting the little rabbit. Chasing him around grabbing a leg of the little critter, he would throw him a distance. Tumbling around a mite then coming to a stop the little feller would get up and shake it off, and then he'd take off again. Ole, mean mister wolf chased him down ... again. Tossing him around and repeating the whole danged processes." Meeker meandered on with his story for some time then, "The wolf at last let the hunger get the better of him. In retrospect, this was a mistake because he wolfed down his meal whole, so to speak. He didn't even take time to chew. No sir, he just swallowed him down ears to hind paws. Being that he was a right smart little rabbit, he took up a defensive stance.

"Pushing out with his little hind legs and grabbing a hold with his front paws he prevented the beast from gulping him on down." Meeker laughed for a moment then continued.

"That wolf had the strangest look on his face. He took to gagging, coughing and spitting something fierce. He pawed at the ground and even tried to howl. Holding his head up he tried to swallow but the critter wouldn't budge not for hell nor high water." Leaning toward the young girl his eyes grew wide as he spoke, "You could say he stuck to his position. Soon you could almost see the blue in the wolf's face. Now, what I mean to say is; the wolf was in a bad way. It was over in a flash. That ole wolf lay down his eyes bulging out! Yes sir, I tell you true ... he just gave it right up there and died." Pausing he looked at his listeners, moving his gaze from one to another till he looked each of them in the eye.

"Then the throat of the wolf began to move and soon his mouth opened up. The little critter scampered out." Pushing upright, Meeker went on with the story, "The tiny hero shook his-self all over mighty hard and thick spittle flew from his fur. Then he licked himself off. Being sure to get all that nasty wolf stuff off just a spitting it out in disgust. Turning his back to the dead beast the little critter left a few little pills marking his kill. I lifted my rifle up thinking I would get my dinner now. Still I could see that dead wolf out of the corner of my eye and set my rifle down. Thinking better of eating the critter I pondered it a mite too long and the little feller scampered off to destinations unknown. Damnedest thing I ever did see. Now that is how I remember it, accuracy is not ensured."

"Fine story," Michelle said as Sarah chimed her approval. Michelle then added. "I'll take the first watch on this," she stopped for a moment then chose her word carefully, "man." Staring at him hard she almost dared him to try something.

"Wake me about 2am and I'll take over." Meeker told her as he lay back covering his eyes with his hat. His long gray hair hung over the cantle of the saddle. Pulling his hat off, he explored the two bullet holes in the hat, one made when the bullet entered his hat and one where it exited. "Damn I loved this big floppy hat!"

"It may be a mite longer than that before I wake you." Michelle realized how hard it must have been for Buffalo Head to forgive those who had harmed his people. She wanted nothing more than for this man to try to escape so that she could kill him.

Sarah had a rough night filled with nightmares of the torture and murders of her parents. The awful cackling sound the man called Halfwit made as he raped her mother tormented her in her dreams. Sarah still managed to sleep. A fitful, sleep that gave her little rest; her world was shattered and the girl had no idea what would become of her. Waking sometime after midnight, she moved over and laid next the old, sleeping Indian. Pressing against the old man, she snuggled up to him. Instinctively the old man put his arm around the girl not even knowing she was there. Feeling safe and secure in the old man's arms; his tender touch comforted her and she slept soundly for the rest of the night.

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Story tagged with:
Fiction / Historical /