The Kid. That was the name that Big Will Buckman derisively called Travis Jackson behind his back the night before, to his buddies at the bar. To his face, he dropped the “The,” and just spat out “Kid,” before he added “You should have took my advice, and left town.” Travis just stood his ground, there in the middle of the street. The noon day sun beat down on the both of them, and sweat trickled down their backs. No guns were drawn, and none would be. This would be an old-fashioned, bare knuckles brawl, until one of them was beat down so bad he couldn’t get up, even if he wanted to. Most everyone had laid money on Big Will. His moniker was accurate; he stood six foot three in his stocking feet, and weighed in at a solid 235 pounds. Thirty five years old, rough as a corn cob, and with a mean streak as wide as the muddy Mississippi, Big Will was not prone to losing a fight. In fact, he was so well known and feared in that arena, no-one had even challenged him for the past four years, not since on his 31st birthday he beat Jimmy Colton to death just for accidentally stepping on one of his new boots.

But here was a young upstart, all of 19 years old, standing six foot even and weighing in at 195 pounds, not so much as blinking his baby-blue eyes in the face of the threatened onslaught. This battle had been exactly 24 hours in the making. A short time, yes, but long enough for much have transpired.

Travis Jackson had ridden into town the day before. No-one knew where he came from, and he didn’t seem inclined to say. He simply walked into the local general store, put some silver coins on the counter, and handed pretty Lola Taylor a list with the supplies he needed. Not much really, just the bare necessities for a man who was constantly moving on; bullets for a six shooter, a sharpening stone for a knife he carried in his boot, some cans of beans, sugar cubes for his horse, and a new canteen.

As Lola moved gracefully through the store from place to place gathering the supplies, he could not help but notice that she was, as the he remembered the Good-Book putting it somewhere, “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” Brunette, petite, and with a smile that would light up the desert at midnight, most any man in town would have asked for her hand, save one thing: Big Will Buckman. Though she had made it abundantly clear to him that she had no interest, he had made it abundantly clear to her and every man in town that that really didn’t matter. He got what he wanted, one way or the other. The men in town got the message, and one good man after another passed up so much as the chance to speak to her, for fear of what would surely happen to him if he did.

But Travis Jackson, “The Kid,” knew none of this. So as he spoke to her, calling her “Pretty Lady,” he did not expect the explosion that would follow. For as he did, Big Will Buckman walked in the front door. He closed the gap to Travis Jackson in less than a second’s time and grabbed him with both hands by the lapel. He had done this to men, dozens of men, with the same result each time. He would jerk them completely off the ground, pin them up against a wall, with feet dangling inches off the ground. He would then explain to them the “error of their ways,” and lower them, with their newly wet breeches, back to the floor.

But not this time. This time everything went completely different. As he grabbed Travis Jackson by the lapel, he realized in an instant that he had been careless with someone who could take advantage of that carelessness. The Kid stepped back with his left foot, swung his right arm over both of Big Will Buckman’s arms, planted his left foot hard, and swung his right elbow back into Buckman’s face, smashing his nose. Big Will went down in an instant, cursing, covering his bloody face with both hands. Travis Jackson walked to the counter, gathered his things, smiled at Lola, and walked out towards his horse. But before he could mount, Big Will Buckman was out the door after him, with his gun drawn, shouting at him to stop. Travis turned around, smiled, and said “Haven’t you had enough for one day, old man?” That immediately set Big Will Buckman’s blood to boiling even as it dripped down his face and onto his shirt.

“Listen here, Kid,” he spat, “ I don’t know who you are, or where you came from, but you just got real lucky. I promise you, that won’t ever happen again. I’m givin you exactly 24 hours to get out of town, or I will personally beat you to death, and bury your body in a shallow grave. Got it?”

“Well now,” Travis calmly answered, “I was actually getting ready to get on my horse and leave town right this minute. But since you put it that way, I’ve changed my mind. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to see a lady so pretty, and a man so stupid, both in the same place. So I’ll just wait around till tomorrow at this time, tear down your meat-house for you, and then I’ll leave. And (he said to Lola as she walked out to see and hear) if you want to come with me after that, you would be mighty welcome. I can’t promise a life of luxury, but I can promise one where you’ll have a man tough enough to take care of you, but tender enough to love you. I’ll be in the hotel tonight if anyone needs me.”

And that is how those two men ended up standing in the street, the one big and burly, angry as a wounded rooster, and the other calm and collected, 3 inches shorter, 40 pounds lighter, but obviously not to be taken lightly, not this time. Blood would be shed, noses busted, lips split, and ribs cracked.

Warily Big Will circled The Kid. The Kid turned in time with him, keeping himself just barely off-center, left foot forward just a bit. He knew that he was outmatched in size and strength, and in such a case, most people would recommend that he fight a very careful fight. But Travis Jackson knew little of careful. Careful didn’t keep his parents from getting killed in the Indian raid when he was just nine. Careful isn’t what helped him survive years alone in the wilderness. Careful wasn’t an option as he hunted down and killed each of those that had played a role in killing his parents, and careful isn’t what he intended now as he faced Big Will Buckman. No, what he intended was an overwhelming display of anger and speed and force, a total destruction of this latest life-enemy to stand before him. And that is what he delivered. As Big Will took another circling step to his left, The Kid suddenly sprang into action. Big Will had expected The Kid to fight a defensive battle, waiting for him to strike the first blow. Yet The Kid’s hard left jab came so fast, so unexpectedly, that it took a split second to realize that he had just been given a split lip. Immediately lights went off like lightning in his brain, as The Kid followed up the jab with a hard right hook to the temple, followed by an even quicker left uppercut that lifted Big Will completely off his feet, and sent him sprawling into the dirt flat on his back.

But Big Will Buckman was a bull of a man, and he was now enraged to the point of homicidal insanity. He was up in a flash, and charging at The Kid like a runaway locomotive. But The Kid was ready, very ready. He stepped in and across with his right leg, hooked Bill Buckman under the left arm with his right, pivoted the big man up and over his hip, lifting with his arm, and sent him flying. A perfectly executed hip toss, and Bill Buckman landed at least ten feet away, flat on his back yet again, this time losing his breath as his back slammed into the ground. This time he would not be allowed to get up. The Kid straddled the big man’s chest, and proceeded to smash his face with a hard, straight right hand, over and over and over. Within a matter of half a minute, Buckman’s face looked like it had been put through a meat grinder, and he was whimpering like a baby.

Travis Jackson got up, gathered up his hat that had fallen off during the fight, and brushed himself off. He turned towards the door of the general store, saw pretty Lola standing there stunned, yet smiling. He walked back to her, and said “Ma’am, I’m a far bit better at fightin than I am at talkin. But I was serious about both parts of what I said yesterday. You’ve seen the tough part. If you’d like to see the tender part, I can promise you you’ll not be disappointed.

Five minutes later, they left the Justice of the Peace, and rode off together into the West.

(© Dr. Bo Wagner 2012)
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