Monday, November 5, 2012

Six-Guns and Slay Bells, Story 6

Jingle bells takes on a completely new meaning with Douglas Hirt’s creepy Christmas story.

There was an old woman who lived under the hill near our old elementary school. She used to tell a story about when Geronimo came with five horses to trade for her when she lived in Forestdale. Well, Calvin Durham’s kinda like Aunt Sarah Mills.

Cal came into town because he heard the Wheatland Baptists were putting on a Christmas Eve potluck. Cal lived by himself out to Hondo Gulch, but once in a while he came into town. He’d rode a mile or two and he’d met a man or two during his long life. Bat Masterson knew him to say hello. Him and Wild Bill had raised a glass or two in Deadwood. Cochise’d let him sleep in his wickiup back when Tom Jeffords’d been making peace with the Chiricahua chief. Problem was, Cal sometimes let slip that he knew Bat or Jim Bridger, or Wild Bill, or someone, and every time he did, the stories come back to haunt him. Tonight, though, he keeps hearing the sound of sleigh bells.

He had his plate loaded up with potluck ham and potatoes and provender when people started hazing him again. He tells them he’s headed back to Hondo Gulch. And he is. But youngsters just won’t let him be.

Out on the street, Cal busts one of the youngsters with the barrel of his Winchester, and another with the butt. The sheriff shows up and takes Cal’s side of things. But for some reason, the sleigh bells keep sounding. And he really misses Annie, the wife who left him in death almost four decades ago.

The three youngsters come after Cal, bent on killing him, sure no one will miss him. They want to rub out the shame of an old man beating them. Cal sees them, hears them, knows what they want, and the sleigh bells ring.

DOUGLAS HIRT was born in Illinois, but heeding Horace Greeley's admonition to "Go west, young man", he headed to New Mexico at eighteen. He drew heavily from this "desert
life" when writing his first novel, DEVIL'S WIND. In 1991 Doug's novel, A PASSAGE OF SEASONS, won the Colorado Authors' League Top Hand Award. His 1998 book, BRANDISH, and 1999 DEADWOOD, were finalists for the SPUR award given by the Western Writers of America. A short story writer, and the author of twenty-nine novels and one book of non fiction, Doug now makes his home in Colorado Springs with his wife Kathy and their two children, Rebecca and Derick. When not writing or traveling to research his novels, Doug enjoys collecting and restoring old English sports cars. You can find more about Douglas Hirt at