(To celebrate Gather's generosity in tripling points, I'm republishing four of my best (I think) and silliest pieces.)
I was sitting at a table in Saloon #10 when in walked a man in black with a bullwhip attached to his belt where a holster oughta be. I leaned over to my drinking partner, Bat Masterson, and asked, "Is that...?"
"Yes," he said, "That's none other than Lash Larue."
I'd been stalking that cowboy for years hoping to get him to provide color for a dime novel I wanted to write: Lash Larue's Finest Hour. I didn't know what it would be about, I just liked the title.
I sauntered over to the bar where Mr. Larue had just ordered a drink.
"Hey, pardner," I said, "You any good with that whip?"
"No. I just carry it 'cause it looks good. What do you think?"
He didn't sound like a man who enjoyed foolish questions. I had to show him I was serious. I held out my paw. "I'm Ned Buntline, the writer. If you're Lash Larue I'd like to talk to you about a book I want to write."
"Ain't you the feller made Bill Cody famous?"
I smiled. It's good to be recognized while you're still alive, unlike some of the men I've written about.
Mr. Larue didn't smile back. Instead he said, "We know it was fame that killed Marshal Hickok. I think I'd rather avoid that."
Maybe offering him a Buntline Special would change his mind. "Don't be so hasty," I said, "Could be I've got something you want."
"What would that be, Mr. Buntline?"
Unfortunately, I'd given all the long barrel Colts away. I thought I'd show him Bat's, and promise to get him one. I took him over to the table.
"Bat." Larue said.
"Lash." Masterson said.
I hadn't realized they were acquainted, but they looked at each other with obvious affection.
"Is this what you thought I wanted?" Larue said looking at the lawman.
"It's that gun you see on the table. A gift from me. If you tell me your story, you could have one, too."
"That's a long...gun." Larue said, admiringly. "I wouldn't mind having a...gun like that."
That evening Lash Larue told me the story of his life. When he was done, I only had one question. "Lash," I said. "You're a hero if ever there was one, one of the ones I think of as the monks of the west, you right wrongs and ride off into the sunset, and you never get the girl. It must be a lonely life."
He stood there in his black shirt, black trousers, black boots, black hat, his black leather chaps and black leather vest. He stood with his head up and his legs apart. His right hand fell to the bullwhip by his side, then moved up and down the long fat cylinder that was the whip's handle, almost caressing it "Ned," he said, "You gotta make sacrifices if you're gonna be true to yourself. I find my rewards in other places."