For the last fifteen minutes, the foot traffic on Main Street ran like a confused river. The farmer's wives, in town for the day, flowed toward one end of Hayfield while their men and boys pooled up on the other.
Mrs. Crawford, the resident busy-body, stomped toward the Marshal's office, her heels rattling against the wooden sidewalk like the hooves of a billy goat scrambling over a shed roof.
“Marshal!” she screeched.
Horace lifted the brim of his hat so she could see his eyes.
“There's a fight in front of the depot!”
“I gathered that from all the boys yelling 'fight' and running in that direction.” Horace said.
“Are you just going to sit there?”
“That was my intention,” Horace said.
“Why don't you do your job instead?”
“Edith, it's not my job to pick a beau for the Willodson girl. If she lacks the courage to choose between her suitors, let the boys battle it out.”
“But they're fighting in front of the depot.”
“She got a point,” the man on the chair next to Horace said.
Horace turned to his old partner. “You think we should intervene?”
“Nope,” Tom said, “I ain't getting up but I am saying you ought to get your ass down there.”
Horace scowled. He lowered the brim of his hat and tilted his chair further back.
“You're getting too damned tolerant,” Tom said.
Edith had stepped out into the sun to stare down the street. The men ignored her.
“Hayfield's changed.” Horace said by way of explanation.
“Maybe,” said Tom, “but you made your reputation by keeping the rowdies out of here and you can't afford to let people believe you've gone soft.”
Horace thought on it for a while. After a moment of internal debate, he sighed and reached back for his short barreled shotgun then he too stepped out into the sun and walked away from Tom and Edith Crawford.
The crowd had formed a doughnut around the fighters and each time one of the boys landed a blow, a cheer went up. From the end of the block, it sounded like the exhale of a weary beast.. ahhh-hhh, ahhh-hh, ahhh-ahh.
Horace mulled over how to handle the matter as he closed the distance.
He didn't give a damn about the boys. Their fight was a long time coming. He just wished they would settle it out on the prairie – but it was the men by the depot who had egged them into it. Stopping the fight wasn't important, making a point with the town was...
A few paces from the edge of the crowd, Horace gripped his shotgun in both hands to hold it horizontally. An instant later, he felled one man with the butt and sent a second sprawling by jamming the barrels into his liver.
In this manner, he paddled his way through the crowd until the men realized there was a second nexus of excitement.
They quickly split the doughnut into a horseshoe.
The fighters paid him no mind. They were big, square-headed, slab-muscled boys focused on the frenzy of combat and Horace had no intention of getting pulled into a three-way with them.
He watched for an opportunity to sap one of them but before he could move – the crowd split again like a mole was burrowing it's way through – and that is what popped into the arena, a black-clad, hatched face mole of an old woman.
She grabbed both boys by the ears, banged their heads together and shook them with a ferocity that sent the crowd scattering for cover.
Horace let his shotgun droop to his side and walked back to the office. A few minutes later, he slumped into his chair.
“Tom,” he said, “you reckon it's too late in the season to head for Montana?”
“Nope,” Tom said, “I'd say when the schoolmarm takes on your job, anytime is a good time to head for Montana.”
Len's challenge: Using prose or poetry, write a Western tale. It can be fiction, nonfiction, or an essay regarding life in the “Wild West.” Don’t limit yourself in your thinking. It can be the old West in the US, the western Urals, West Oz, or any other “west” you can imagine.