New Western Adventure Story
The life and times of Marshall Luke Johnson
by a. j. Lombardi Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved
I knew it was time for me to leave. What had just transpired was the final straw telling me that I did not belong here. As I was making my way back to town, it was starting to get dark. It was getting hard to tell if I was on the right road back to town. After about a half hour of riding I noticed a campfire off to an open field ahead. From a distance, I could make out two figures sitting around a small fire. It was a welcome site in that there would be someone there who could put me in the right direction back to town.
As I rode up to where they were, I noticed there were two men wearing Union soldier uniforms. “I felt relieved in that I thought I was heading into a safe zone. I remember the Sheriff telling me about bands of marauders roaming the county! Seeing two men with Union blues was a welcome site. When I finally got up to where they were, one of the men pulled out what looked like a Springfield rifle and pointed it at me. “Hold on boys, my name is Luke Johnson I am a former Sargent under General Sherman. The second man placed his hand on the top of the gun’s barrel lowering it to the ground. “I was certainly relieved!” I no longer had my uniform on and I figured that they were just being cautious. The man who held the rifle yelled out for me to dismount and come in closer so he could have a good look at me.
In seeing I was no threat, they welcomed me to join them around the campfire. “So who’s command are you fellas under I asked? The guy with the rifle answered, "We soldiered under General George B. McClellan and gave the Rebs a whoopin at the battle of Shiloh! I knew something was not right when they said that. Fact is, General McClellan did not fight at the battle of Shiloh. Maybe the fella just made a mistake. I did notice that the one holding the rifle was taking a swig of liquor from a small canteen every now and then. We sat next to the open fire for the next half hour or so in somewhat of an awkward silence. The only sounds that penetrated the night was the constant sound of a pack of wolves howling from the canyon behind us.
In back of the tent they shared, I noticed that there were about seven horses grouped together that were tied to a line rope. One of them was a young brown spotted Appaloosa. "Something was not right with this scene!" I remember the Sheriff telling me that there were bands of renegade former soldiers who went AWOL and went about ransacking and stealing from local folks through the county. The guy holding the Springfield rifle never let it down from his lap. From time to time he would whisper something into the other man’s ears. "Sitting there I was starting to feel a might uneasy in the way they both coldly stared in my direction!" They just sat whispering to each other they passed the small canteen of liquor back and forth never offering me a swig.
Looking over at the young Appaloosa and the other horses, I asked them if they were intending to return them to the rightful owners. They both started to laugh saying “That would be us!” The guy holding the rifle continued laughing as he then told the story of a how he punched a young boy in the face as the boy tried to stop him from stealing his horse. I thought back to Ben and his Ma and I do recall that the boy had a bruise on his left cheek. “What kind of grown man would do this to a young boy?” These men were not soldiers. They were an insult to the uniform they wore, and everything I stood and fought for. I figured I should cut out as quickly as I could. With some luck I could find my way back to town and inform Sheriff Hockshaw where they were camped. “Well fellas, I reckon it’s time for me to head on out! “Not so fast Sargent, you ain’t leaving with that Appaloosa you rode in on. “By the way Sargent,
I want you to reach into your side holster and slowly hand over that shiny Colt 44 your toting!”
"At that, I knew I had to make a move! In that moment, everything seemed to go into slow motion." I knew exactly what I had to do and I had no problem making my move. When I heard one guy shout “Shoot him now Henry! I calmly withdrew my Colt 44 and fired dropping both of them to the ground in less than seven seconds. I have held and fired many handguns in my life, but never felt one that fit me so much like a glove as that the Colt 44 did! It had a perfect feel as if it was made for my hand. In the seconds that followed, the smoke settled, and an eerie silence engulfed me. I no longer heard the howling of the wolves. The only sound was the crackling of the slow burning campfire as the embers shot up into the darkened sky. With the night half over I figured I would wait until morning to head out.
Early next morning I got all the stolen horses and decided to head back to the Randall homestead to return the horses.
When I arrived, young Ben and his Ma met me at the front gate of the coral. “Look Ma, it’s Mr. Luke and he has all our horses!” I dismounted, took off my hat and addressed her. Ma’am I believe these here horses are yours. However, it looks like your coral needs some work before we can put them back in. “I can’t do it alone, so if you and young Ben help, I do believe we can get it done right quick!” She then turned to her son and said, “Come on Ben, let’s help this nice stranger!” Looking over at the horses, Ben pointed to the young Appaloosa and said, Mr. Luke that horse is not ours! I turned to him and said, “It is now Ben; she is all yours and you best be taken care of her from now on!”
While we continued to repair the coral, Mrs. Randall never said a word. I could tell that she was not use to this type of work but did continue the best she could to help get the job done. Upon finishing, we drove the horses into the coral and closed the gate. Mrs. Randall then went into the house and returned with a jar of what l reckon was a lemon-flavored drink. She poured a cup and handed it to me saying, “Much obliged to you Yankee, I’m afraid that I have treated you right unkindly and duly apologize for my bad manners. If there is anything, I can do for you that is my power, I will do so. Unfortunately, the only thing I know I can freely offer you is my prayers to the good Lord for you. That’s about the only thing I can give away!
“Thank you, Ma’am, I rightly appreciate your kind offer of prayers and hope that you commence to start whenever you have a mind to. However, there is something I would ask that you can for me now, and that is to stop calling me Yankee! My name is Luke. Also, I would ask if you would tell me your first name in kind. “Why certainly Sir, my name is Beth, and I truly thank you for your kindness. I do believe that there are still Christian folks in this world. My door will always be open for you Mr. Luke.
“Why thank you Beth, “I hope all goes well for you and duly appreciate your offer to pray for me!”
Please note that this is an ongoing story that will contain several additional parts that will continue to be published until it's completion.