Dust mixed with gunsmoke swirled across the road leading to Fort Boise. Rypien the Kid stood alone on the dirt track, watching as the cougarskin-clad gunslinger he’d just bested was dragged back to Provo by his posse.
“Hokey religions and weird clothing are no match for a good six shooter at your side” he muttered, mostly to himself. Turning back to the fort and the saloon nearby, he began a slow walk toward leaving his troubles at the bottom of a bottle.
Rypien kicked open the door to the bar, and wearily sat at the nearest table. “Gimme a bottle of whatever’s a cheap fix”.
The barman nodded tersely, and walked over with a bottle and a glass, setting both down in front of The Kid. “Too bad Fort Boise don’t appreciate what you’ve done for them today. Back home in Kansas, the townfolk always showed up for a big gunfight!”
The Kid cast a wary eye at the barkeep. “Your name BJ by any chance?”
“They just call me Rains around here, young man. Nice hat, if you don’t mind my saying.”
Rypien rose to his feet. “Mayhaps I’ll take this bottle to go.” He laid some coins on the table, and headed back toward the street. Just as he reached the door, it was flung open from the outside.
“Any man here good with a gun!?” A hulking, breathless man blurted out before collapsing to his knees.
Rypien gazed at the large blonde man. “Who’s asking?” he drawled.
“Jay Tust, moving picture newsman! Are you an able-bodied marksman?” the blonde man grasped Rypien’s hand firmly and proceeded to shake it vigorously. “Sheriff Whimpey and his boys all got bum knees, and we just got word that Mad Dog Tedford and the Bulldog Gang are on their way up here!”
Extricating his hand from the excited moving picture newsman’s grasp, Rypien took a step back. “Exactly how many of the Bulldog Gang are coming this way?”
Tust’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know exactly, you’d have to ask Juarez. He’s our telegraph operator, and he heard tell of the news from the Fresno office.”
“Nobody would blame you for just skipping town, kid,” interjected Rains the barkeep, “that Bulldog Gang is no joke. They’ve kicked nearly every ass this side of the Mississippi!”
The Kid snorted derisively. “Pretty sure I heard tell they got whipped by a bunch of oarsmen from Minnesota, though. I’ll have a word with this Juarez.”
Moseying down the main street of the fort, The Kid noticed an ink-stained man scarfing down fried chicken on a porch. The man, noticing Rypien’s confused stare, grinned wide.
“Best chicken in the world, damn shame you can only find it in Nevada! Gotta dig in while it’s still good!” the man went back to his meal with a vengeance.
Rypien watched in awe, then took a pull from his whiskey bottle. “Y’all know where I can find a man named Juarez?” he asked cautiously.
Mouth full of chicken, the man pointed at telegraph pole next to him, then nodded toward the building one down from his own. Rypien raised his bottle in a salute of thanks, and ducked inside the dimly lit telegraph office next door.
A man behind the desk inside sat up as Rypien entered. “I see you’ve met our local newspaperman, Dave” Juarez chuckled. “He sure does love his chicken.”
“Indeed he does” Rypien intoned respectfully. “I’m told you’re the man to talk to regarding the Bulldog Gang?”
Juarez leaned on his desk. “Word is they’re coming up this week with a full crew, looking to settle some score with the local boys. I heard they felt Fort Boise didn’t respect them much, but seeing as they’ve pretty much had their ass handed to them by the sheriff every time they get frisky up these parts, I don’t see what they’re on about, exactly.”
“I hear your sheriff is in a bad way?” Rypien intoned. “No next man up?”
Juarez nodded grimly. “Lots of bad knees for them boys, sadly. We’ve a few young guns raring for a scrap, but they need someone to take the lead.”
The Kid squinted at Juarez. “Pretty sure this town don’t think real highly of me after that San Diego shindig.”
“Win a gunfight or two for em, and their memories get real short for the bad stuff.” Juarez smirked. “Just don’t pay much heed to that barman, he’s always on about something to sell drinks.”
Rypien spat on the floor. “I don’t need a crowd to shoot a gun. Best get your boys together, it’s time to stand up for this town.”
Juarez smacked his desk “That’s the spirit! You got a message for me and Dave to get out?”
“You tell them I’m here to drink whiskey and kick puppies”- Rypien paused to down the bottle he’d carried from the bar-”and I’m fresh out of whiskey.”