Marshal Don Hanson was making his rounds around his town of Marfa, Texas. Marfa was located in the Big Bend country of southwest Texas. It was close enough to the Mexico border that one of Marshal Hanson's biggest problems, well really, his only big problem was outlaws using the trail through Marfa on their way across the border. However Marshal Don, as he was known around town, was an ex Texas Ranger. Because of this fact, not too many bad men actually wanted to try him. That was OK with Don. At 43 years of age Don was content to keeping the peace in his peaceful town. He was always ready though, if someone should care to disturb that peace.
As he walked the streets of Marfa, the marshal noticed a young man sitting on the steps of the stage station. Don crossed to where the young man sat seemingly watching the world go by. As the marshal crossed the street he studied the newcomer. What he saw was a man of no more than 18 years of age. It was clear this young man was new to the West by derby hat he was wearing. A well-worn wool store bought pair of pants, a (what used to be) white cotton shirt and brown brogan shoes rounded out his attire. It was obvious to any western man that this youngster was new to the West, as these clothes were not suitable for work in the West.
The young man looked up at the marshal as he approached, and with a clear and open expression on his face he said "Morning Marshal."
Marshal Hanson stopped and answered, "Morning. Passing through or planning to stay for a while?"
"Thought I might stay for a while. Seems like a nice, quiet town. Know of any work around?"
Marshal Don looked at the young man and wondered what kind of work he could handle. "My names Don Hanson and I'm marshal here. What kind of work are you looking for?"
"My name's Matt Long and I can do a little of everything."
Now the marshal knew that when a man says he can do a little of everything, it generally means he can't do much of anything. But he was willing to reserve judgment.
As it turned out it was good the marshal did hold back on judging Matt. Matt seemed to have a special way with working on mechanical things. He could work on big items such as repairing wagon wheels and axles, but Matt's real talent was working with smaller things. This was proven when Matt was able to take apart and repair Don's broken watch.
Matt had long slim, nimble fingers and a casual confidence in his actions and coordination. Matt was tall, about 6'2" with wide shoulders and narrow hips. He moved like a cat – smooth and without excess movement. Matt soon settled into the role of gunsmith. His natural talent with things mechanical coupled with the abundance of firearms in the area insured a steady flow of business.
Marshal Don Hanson had married a local girl around 20 years back. Her name was Lucy Alvarado, now Lucy Hanson. The Alvarado family was a large, old family dating back to when the area was still part of Mexico. They were a close-knit family, usually distrustful of the gringo. However, Don had ingratiated himself with the family by always being the first to be there when help was needed. If there was going to be a barn raising, Don was there before dawn. If someone was sick Don was there to feed the cattle, mend fences, or go to the store, if that was what was needed. In short, Don demonstrated to Lucy's family his respect for the Alvarado family as a whole, and he proved that he deserved the family's respect in return.
Lucy and Don had a daughter, Felicia, who was sixteen at the time. Don had always wanted a son but he loved Felicia with his whole heart. She was the spitting image of her mother, which in Don's mind made her one of the two most beautiful women in the country.
Somehow, along the way, Matt and Don became best friends. For the first few weeks Matt was in town Don let him sleep in the jail and invited Matt to his home for meals. Matt's quiet nature and impeccable manners quickly won over Lucy, and of course, Matt and Felicia took instant notice of each other.
When Matt found a place of his own, Felicia would often bring him a lunch that they would share. She usually also brought an invite to supper from her mother. As time went on, Don and Lucy came to look at Matt as one of the family, and Matt, for his part, felt like he had finally found the home he had searched long to find.
One day Don mentioned to Matt that if he was going to live in the west it would be best if he learned to shoot. He took Matt out to a back canyon to show him the proper way of handling a pistol.
"Matt, when facing up to another man, speed counts, but always remember that it's accuracy that is most important. Boot Hill is full of men that got off the first shot but put that shot into the ground in front of them. Make sure your first shot counts." Marshal Don instructed.
He continued "You may have heard of the 'shooters crouch' - The good shootists never use a crouch or anything else that would cause them to tense up. Find a stance where you are comfortable, free and easy. Aim the gun like you are pointing your finger, and let your gun become an extension of your finger."
Matt had a natural talent for shooting. His natural hand-eye coordination enabled him to shoot quickly and accurately. However, Matt believed in the old saying; practice makes perfect, so he could often be found practicing on his own.
Don was a good hand with a gun and had been around many of the best men with a pistol. But one day while he and Matt were riding together he learned something about Matt that startled even him.
While they were riding the trail, Don saw a rabbit. As he mentioned that a nice fat rabbit would be a good addition to that night's stew, he slapped leather. Just as he gripped his gun he heard a boom and the rabbit's head disappeared. Startled, Don looked up to see Matt's smoking pistol. Matt had blown the rabbits head off from nearly 30 yards! Shocked to be so badly outdrawn, Don looked at Matt and said "That was some shot; do you think you could do it again?"
Matt answered "I imagine so."
Half an hour later another rabbit ran across their trail at about the same distance as the first rabbit.
"Rabbit!" Don shouted.
The roar of Matt's gun sounded almost before Don got the word out. The rabbit's right ear and half its head disappeared.
Don recognized that Matt was truly one of the fastest men alive with a six-shooter. Don decided to keep this information to himself. There was no need to spread the news. Too many young men yearn to try out known fast men in an effort to create a reputation for themselves. Don didn't want Matt to have to deal with the pressure that being a top fast draw could bring.
One evening the following spring, the town held a box social. For the event, the eligible young ladies in the area would each prepare a box dinner, and an auction would be held for the boxes. The winner of each box would get to eat with the young lady that had prepared the box dinner. Along the front table were arraigned the gaily-decorated boxes.
The boxes were supposed to be anonymous, but somehow word always got out. Sometimes it was the young lady clueing in her boyfriend. Sometimes it was crafty young men trying to find out which box belonged to the best cook in the area. Sometimes it was young men wanting to wind up another young man who was sweet on one of the ladies – bidding against the young suitor just to drive up the price and make the young couple a little nervous.
Matt really wanted to win Felicia's box, but he only had $2.75. Since Felicia was so pretty and popular, Matt was nervous that he might not have enough money.
Bidding was fast and furious. Most boxes went for $1.00 to $1.50. Mia was the best cook in the country and her box went for $3.00. Mia wasn't the best looking woman in the area. In fact, she was rather plain looking, but the hungry cowhands didn't care, Mia could really cook!
Finally Felicia's box came up for auction. It wasn't hard to determine that this was her box. Felicia flushed a deep red and Matt was so nervous that he literally couldn't stand still. The young men picked up on this and started bidding up Felicia's box. Matt was starting to worry that he would not get to buy his girl's box. Suddenly Don was standing beside Matt pressing some paper into Matt's hand. Matt glanced into his hand and jumped to his feet shouting "$5.00!"
Lucy smiled at the help her husband had provided Matt. Matt and Felicia happily took the box dinner to a table to enjoy together. Not surprisingly, Matt couldn't recall what he actually had for dinner when asked the next day.
Matt had been in Marfa for 2 years when the trouble came. Louis Gomez was half Mexican and half Apache. He was all bad. A naturally amoral man with no sense of right or wrong, Gomez killed his first man at the age of 14 just so he could watch the man die. Since then, Gomez was credited with the killing of 18 men. This count was wrong however, because Gomez had actually killed 6 additional men whose bodies had never been found.
Gomez was a fast man with a gun - reportedly as fast as anyone alive. However, Gomez didn't believe in fighting fair. Louis Gomez believed in killing, He would shoot from ambush as easily as from upfront.