The Farmer - Part II - The Ride to Denver
After morning chores, I sent the boys out to mend a broken fencepost. There was no need for them to witness their parents arguing. Mary still refused to speak to me since I told her about the job riding security on the train to Denver.
In our dresser drawer was a cigar box that held my personal effects. The key to my trunk was at the bottom of the box, underneath a Remington Derringer and my sergeant’s chevron from the war. The pistol went in my back pocket and the trunk key in the palm of my hand.
Mary stood in the doorway of our bedroom with her arms crossed and a concerned look on her face. Her strawberry blond hair was pulled up in a bun and her warm blue eyes stared me down. “What am I supposed to do when you don’t come back? What about the boys? Did you think about that?”
I took a deep breath. The look of disappointment on her face hit me like a .44 slug. “I’m coming home. I’ll ride the train to Denver and come back. Nothing is going to happen.”
Mary nodded at me. “Is that why you put that pistol in your back pocket?”
She didn’t wait for a response before walking away. There was no other choice, we needed the money. If everything worked out we would have enough to clear our debt at the general store and plenty left over to repair the worn out farm equipment. The boys might even be able to get some shoes that fit properly.
The trunk was small but deep, it measured three feet wide and two feet long. For years Mary nagged me to get rid of it. She was right to ask me to move on but I wasn’t ready. The trunk contained a full outfit of clothes and gear from my days as a law man; charcoal gray cotton pants and matching jacket, white bib shirt, black boots, and black wide brimmed hat. Underneath the clothes was my holster rig, ammunition, and Colt revolvers. Both pistols still had the light coat of oil I put on them ten years ago.
Wearing a respectable suit of clothes with a fresh shave and trimmed mustache, the man looking back at me in the mirror was one that I hadn’t seen in years. The trousers fit fine, but the top button on my collar wouldn’t button and the chest was tight, the farm must have broadened my shoulders over the years. A Colt revolver was tied down to each thigh and he Remington Derringer was tucked neatly into my left breast pocket. Even though you could almost see the round come out of the barrel, as a last chance weapon, a derringer was as good as it gets.
Tyler and Jake burst through the front door, no doubt looking for lunch.
“Papa, those are nicer than your Sunday church clothes,” said Jake.
“What happened to the hair on your face?” Tyler asked.
“Boys, I have to go to Denver. I’ll be gone for two days.” Mary stepped into the room, I nodded toward her, “nothing changes while I’m gone, you two listen to your mother.”
“But papa, why can’t I go with you?” Tyler asked.
“I’m going on business. And someone needs to feed the hogs. That’s a man’s job, are you and Jake up to it?”
Tyler and Jake both stood up straight and replied together. “Yes sir.”
I smiled and gave them a hug. “Good. I knew I could count on you.”
The expression on Mary’s face hid her emotions. She hugged me but her heart wasn’t in it. I kissed her on the lips, “I’ll be home in two days.” Her eyes told me that even if I was back in two days, we wouldn’t be sharing a bed for some time.
There wasn’t much else to say, the boys helped me get the horse tacked up and I rode off into town. At the crest of the hill I looked back down at the farm and promised to whoever was listening that this would not be the last time I looked over the valley.
My first stop in town was the livery, I paid for four days in advance and left instructions to return the horse to the farm if I did not return.
The Marshal’s office was full of commotion, I stood quietly in the corner waiting for things to settle down. From what I could gather there was a dispute about who would pay damages from a fist fight in the Red Dawn saloon.
“Never thought I’d see you again,” boomed a voice from the other side of the room.
Tuck Parsons stood up from a chair and walked toward me. A smile formed on my face and a hollow pit of concern grew in my belly.
“I’d say the same. Darn good to see you.”
“Still workin’ as a law man?” Tuck asked.
“Don’t mind the fancy clothes. I’m a farmer now, been so for the last few years. You still robbing drunk prospectors at the card table?”
Tuck straightened his back and tugged on his vest. “Poker is an honest trade.”
I nodded. “You’re right, my apologies. I’m not lookin’ to start any trouble. Nice to see a familiar face. What brings you to the Marshal's office?”
Tuck tipped his hat toward me. “A job … You and I will be riding security together on the train to Denver.”
I patted Tuck on the shoulder. “Didn’t know I was going to have a partner on this trip. But I’m glad we’re on the same side.”
“Dave, we’ve always been on the same side, you just didn’t see it that way. All I ever wanted was a chance to play cards without getting shot in the back. And maybe a woman to spend the night with. If that ain’t law and order, I don’t know what is,” replied Tuck.
“If that’s all you wanted, you sure had a strange way of saying it.”
Tuck laughed. “Might not have known it at the time but that’s all I really wanted. With age comes wisdom.”
Marshall Riley stepped up next to us, “You two ready to get hitched and ride off into the sunset?”
“Just reminiscing about our younger years,” replied Tuck.
“Good … Then let’s get right to it. There ain’t much to tell you about the job. All you have to do is make sure nobody opens that safe except the Wells Fargo officer in Denver. The man in Denver will be Robert Harris, short chubby man with spectacles and missing his right leg,” Marshall Riley looked at Tuck and I before continuing, “follow me and I’ll …”
“Tuck is a good hand with a gun and sharp as a whip but I wasn’t expecting to have a partner for this job ... pay still the same?”
Marshall Riley continued walking toward the train, “pay’s the same, three hundred each. Follow me and I’ll give you a tour of the train and show you the safe.”
Marshall Riley walked with us through the train cars and stopped at the safe which was in the express car at the back of the train. It was an impressive slab of steel, four foot square and three feet deep with a large combination lock on the front. Without knowing the combination, dynamite was the only way into the safe.
Tuck and I were instructed to ride in the passenger car directly in front of the safe. At each stop we were to wait in the express car until all passengers exited and boarded. Upon arrival in Denver we were to let only the Wells Fargo officer into the express car. The instructions were brief and simple, no details were given regarding the contents of the safe.
The Marshal left and before long we were on the riding the rails to Denver. Tuck and I traded security watch in two hour intervals, allowing us to get some decent shut eye on the ride to Denver.
Just outside of Colorado Springs, my eyes were heavy and I stood up to walk around the car. The train stopped at Colorado Springs, Tuck and I made our way toward the express car. We both turned toward the passenger car to take one more look before going back to the safe. My eyes locked onto Frank Rogers as he stepped onto the train. Frank was the leader of the Rogers gang, they were responsible for at least twenty train robberies. We stared at each other for a moment, a cold sweat rolled down my nose. Frank smiled, tipped his hat to me, and sat down in the passenger car.
Tuck and I exchanged a nervous glance and headed back to the express car.