Another Tack: Mideastern horse opry (semi-fictional)

Straightshooter may only aim at Quickdraw's already airborne bullet, and only nick the projectile's tip

By
June 29, 2006 11:57
4 minute read.

Outlaw gunslinger Quickdraw, holed up in his hideout, had long been scheming to take over the town. He positioned snipers atop all the surrounding hills and ordered them to fire randomly at passersby. Sometimes Quickdraw's snipers missed, and sometimes they didn't. Sheriff Straightshooter's resolute undertakings to wallop Quickdraw clinched his electoral victory and that coveted tin badge. To the townsfolks' dismay, however, it emerged that Straightshooter was a bit leery of gunplay. Over the years his fearsome reputation had rendered him anathema to society's more genteel elements. He yearned for their approval. Besides, the circuit judge was on his tail for alleged past hanky-panky. Straightshooter's overriding priority became the protection of his rear-end from legal assault. His braggadocio notwithstanding, Straightshooter figured that getting Quickdraw mightn't be in his own best interest, even if the community breathed free. Straightshooter therefore quit tracking Quickdraw's assorted crew of cattle-rustlers, horse-thieves and train-robbers in the renegades' roost. Instead Straightshooter drove all south-of-town ranchers out of the terror fiefdom's vicinity, explaining to the outraged uprooted cowmen that it was for the best. Their presence, Straightshooter asserted, enraged Quickdraw. With them out of his sight there was no pretext for savagery. Quickdraw and his gang would contentedly luxuriate in their newly acquired territory, devote their energies to improving the abandoned spreads, and make an honorable living. In no time they'd become fine upstanding neighbors, the sort you invite over for a summer picnic. 'YOU DON'T know them like we do," screamed the dispossessed families. "These thugs are after the whole shebang. Show them a finger and they want the entire arm." But Straightshooter's savvy mouthpieces branded the homeless settlers "alarmists and panic-mongers." They became so unpopular that nobody cared about their plight. Their atavistic land-fixation might drag the peaceful populace into superfluous bloody confrontations. The eviction of these public enemies was their own private misfortune - one nonetheless highly warranted because the rest of the town was made safer thereby. However, just to banish any lingering, latent anxiety, Straightshooter assured his voters that "should Quickdraw be up to no good after we give him control of the range, he'll feel the full force of our retaliation. We'll exact a heavy price for unprovoked pot-shots. After our supreme sacrifice for peace, judgmental gentry everywhere will side with us and back all necessary measures to defend our people. We demonstrated our good will, and good will pays off. Our improved image will afford us freedom of action. We will show Quickdraw that it's downright dangerous to rile us." Stirring stuff. Strong enough to get Straightshooter reelected. YET UNCOOPERATIVE salvos continued coming. The citizenry was getting uptight. It was only a matter of time before bodies filled the streets. Buckshot glanced off church walls and shattered schoolhouse windows. Miraculously, the kids were out of harm's way. But lucky streaks are finite. Hesitant murmurs of discontent became audible, particularly on the town's southern outlying fringes, on the wrong side of the track - the one that ordinarily doesn't count. The newspaper owner, in cahoots with Straightshooter, blasted uncool calls for action. Deputy Sheriff Shimon took on edge-of-town crybabies. "Snipers-shmipers," he exclaimed before saloon groupies, "so what happened already? We've seen worse. Let them hang tough and not disturb our peace with their constant whining." But despite attempts to downplay the sniping, such a surfeit thereof would be considered war in any other county. Folks might be wondering whether supercilious Straightshooter was pretending to be unperturbed in order to avoid admitting that the ranchers' expulsion had been for naught. Could it be that Straightshooter's hangers-on feared highlighting the fact that, contrary to hype, they had won no perks from non-local citified snobs? Or could it be that Straightshooter sincerely failed to realize that disengagement had proved a calamity? Could it be that Straightshooter was fanatically addicted to throwing more good money after bad and couldn't resist playing retreat-roulette? Did Straightshooter no longer realize that his bravado, rather than deter, triggered the miscreants' heckling horse-laughs in the vacated homesteads? Belatedly Straightshooter did fire off a few warning rounds, first at empty wasteland to make sure nobody got hit, then at dirt roads frequented by snipers en route to shooting sprees. A great outcry sounded in the halls of justice far removed from frontierland whenever outlaw riflemen bite the dust. Cosmopolitan guardians of conscience fully sympathized with Quickdraw's vows of vengeance. Straightshooter seemed jinxed. Some of his return fire had inadvertently struck the gangsters' kin. Sophisticated society was now utterly revolted. Straightshooter was accused of disproportionate breach of propriety. IF STRAIGHTSHOOTER wants to challenge Quickdraw to a gunfight, dueling rules must be strictly obeyed. These decree that Quickdraw may rely on the backup of any number of bandit gunslingers, use all the pistols he wishes, fire off as many slugs as he can, whenever and in whichever direction he desires. To keep things on the up-and-up, Straightshooter cannot pull the trigger until Quickdraw has. Moreover, Straightshooter - representing lawful authority - may only aim at Quickdraw's already airborne bullet, ascertaining that only the tip of said projectile is nicked, and only in the final phase of its deployment just before it makes deadly impact. Unable to own up that unilaterally surrendering strategic holdings was a disastrous gamble, Straightshooter - ostensibly still intent on saving his community from Quickdraw's limitless lust - now plans to cede lots more property east of town. With settlers out of sight, Quickdraw's pretext for savagery will vanish. Good neighbors will gather for summer picnics. Otherwise, a real angry Straightshooter will show Quickdraw how downright dangerous it is… stay tuned for the rerun.


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