Pancho and LeftybyPAPATOAD©
Thanks to the Hip and Knee Doctor for editing assistance
There is no sex in this story sorry
Note from Jake Rivers:
This is my sixth semi-annual "invitational." The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "This Bed of Rose's." The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: "El Paso" "El Paso City " and "Faleena." The third had stories based on the various versions of "Maggie May" or "Maggie Mae." The fourth invitational was based on any Country & Western song and the fifth on songs by Merle Haggard.
The current invitational is based on any song written or performed by Willie Nelson.
Pancho was a bandit boys
His horse was fast as polished steel
Wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know
On the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dying words
That's the way it goes
Lefty Torrensen was the tallest man in town. Actually, the town wasn't that big, but it was growing. Lefty and his partner Malcolm, started the Hachita Mercantile three years ago. The copper mines were booming and the traffic on the El Paso and Southwestern was getting heavier every day. Lefty's real given name was Niles. He got his nickname when he was sixteen years old and lost his arm in a threshing machine back in Ohio. That was when he decided that he no longer wanted to be a farmer.
Malcolm and Lefty pooled their money and ended up in Hachita. It was a gamble but they were both willing to take it. The West was growing and Lefty was ready to be a part of it. New Mexico wasn't the prettiest place in the world, but he could see his future there.
His future included Hilda. While Lefty's yellow hair was thin and wispy, Hilda's tresses were thick and golden. They had been together since childhood and were destined to be together forever. They were planning on at least five children and Lefty was anxious to get started.
The El Paso and Southwestern was due in at noon. There was only one passenger car on the train and today there was a special passenger. Lefty converted the whole second floor of the Mercantile into living quarters to share with his new bride-to-be. In a few years he would have the new house ready just outside of the town limits. Actually, it wasn't a town yet, but if things kept booming it was sure to come.
Malcolm was just the opposite of Lefty. He was short, with a dark complexion. His most outstanding feature was his jolly nature. Since he worked well with the customers, Lefty left most of the selling to him. Malcolm was making space for the new merchandise that was also arriving today. Everybody was waiting for the shipment of lanterns and kerosene. There would be the usual cases of canned food, sacks of beans, sugar, and flour. Malcolm was also hoping to see the tools he had ordered over two months ago. There were less than twenty kids in town, but Lefty insisted that Malcolm order a batch of penny candy.
Hilda was now a certified teacher, and the children were looking forward to her arrival, almost as much as Lefty was. The only learning that they got up to this time was from the local minister.
"Lefty, that train is not going to get here any faster if you keep checking the clock every five minutes."
"Sorry, Malcolm. I am having a hard time concentrating. All I can think about is Hilda. I just hope everything goes as planned. The minister is ready to perform the marriage this afternoon, and Mister Jennings is going to have enough brisket ready to feed the entire town tonight. It has to be perfect. She's waited this long and came this far. It just has to be perfect."
"You still have two hours to go. I can finish here without you."
"That's Okay. It's better if I keep busy, even if that damn clock is running slow."
Malcolm had to laugh at that. Niles didn't make jokes too often, and when he did they were usually very subtle.
Pancho Gomez waited patiently for the train to leave Columbus. He only had six men with him, but there were never any guards on the freight trains. The freights carried a little mail, but never any money. The food and equipment was of no use to him, nor were the empty hopper cars. The best he could hope for was a few passengers in one car who might have a little money or jewelry.
A small pile of railroad ties was all it took to stop the train. The crew never offered any resistance. That way nobody ever got hurt. They looked in all of the boxcars and found nothing of interest.
Pancho boldly entered the passenger car. He was taller than most of his compadres, and far more flamboyant. The gun belt that held his silver .45 also had a large silver buckle. His black shirt had silver buttons, and around his hat was a silver band. There were only six people in the passenger car. Pancho said a few words to some of his men and they proceeded to collect all of the valuables from the victims. Pancho stood by, staring at the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. She had hair like the afternoon sun and a complexion that looked like ivory. She looked at him in the eyes and never blinked or wavered. One of his men approached her, but Pancho waved him away.
Hilda watched as the banditos entered the car. There was nowhere to run to and no place to hide. All she could do was sit and wait. She quickly decided that she would give up anything she had with no argument just to get it over with. Seeing Lefty again was the most important thing to her. The leader of the group stopped in front of her. His stare was meant to intimidate her and she knew it. Her pride would not allow her to give in. She returned his glare with a defiance that Pancho was unaccustomed to.
Women fell at his feet. He never met a girl who did not immediately want to be with him. He had never met a girl like Hilda.
In ten minutes, it was all over. Six men waited on horseback for Pancho to join them. All six stared in disbelief as he came out of the train car carrying Hilda over his shoulder, kicking and screaming. He threw her across the front of one of the mounted men and slapped the rump of the horse. Minutes later, Pancho and his group where across the border in Puerto Palomas, with a furious Swedish hellcat. It was the biggest mistake Pancho would ever make.
It took the train crew twenty minutes to clear the tracks. This was the first time anyone had ever been hurt during one of these encounters. Actually, Hilda wasn't hurt but the abduction was clearly unacceptable.
Malcolm sat on the porch of the mercantile watching Lefty walk towards the train station. The jacket was too small for him and the starched collar forced him to walk like he had a broom stuck up his butt. Lefty carried a small bouquet of wild flowers that he had paid some of the children to gather for him. The payment was, of course, in hard candy. The train was usually late, but today it was later than normal. Malcolm could see Lefty pacing nervously from a hundred yards away. After all of his years of waiting, it was odd watching him get excited about a few minutes.
Things got a lot better as Lefty saw the stream of smoke from the wood burner appear in the distance. He straightened his coat and stood proud and erect as the engine passed the depot to the water tower. Lefty strained to look through the windows, but could not see the love of his life. He never noticed the brakeman/conductor walking up to him with a somber look on his face.
"Yes. I am Niles Torrensen. I am here to meet Miss Olsen. I don't see her."
"I am afraid that I have bad news Mister Torrensen."
"She didn't get on the train? What happened?"
"No. She got on in El Paso. Everything was fine until we got just outside of Columbus."
"What do you mean? Where the hell is she?"
"The train was robbed."
"Was she hurt?"
"No. It's worse than that. She was taken by the leader of the robbers: banditos actually."
"We can't be certain, but they were headed towards Puerto Palomas."
"Who was it? Does he have a name?"
"Pancho Gomez. There was no doubt. It was Pancho."
From across the street, Malcolm could sense that there was a problem. He rose from his chair intending to walk over to see what was going on, but stopped when Lefty flung down the bouquet of wild flowers and started back to the Mercantile. By the time he reached the store, Lefty had torn off his starched collar and removed his coat. Malcolm stepped aside as Lefty entered the store. He did not say anything. This was not the time for conversation.
In less than an hour, Lefty had changed clothing and gathered together what he needed to rescue his beloved Hilda. Malcolm stood by, waiting to see if there was anything at all he could do. Lefty grabbed some jerky and a canteen of water. He took some coffee and beans, but was not anticipating having time to cook. He finally stopped to collect his thoughts and looked to Malcolm.
"Could you get Jenny ready for me, and make sure you grab a bag of oats?"
As Malcolm walked to the livery, Lefty was headed for the local saloon. No one said a word as he entered. By this time, everyone in town knew what was going on. Lefty walked passed the bar and straight to the piano. He opened the back of the upright and clipped the longest three piano wires off at both ends with the fencing tool that he grabbed before leaving the store. He left as quietly as he arrived.
There were no wagon trails going directly east, so a mule was the best bet. Jenny was old, but steady. He threw his cache bag over the horn and strapped the goose gun on the side. Lefty was not comfortable or skilled with a handgun, but the Remington ten gauge fit him perfectly. The thirty-two inch Damascus barrels could reach out far better than a standard model. Just in case, he dropped a dozen black powder cartridges into his right pocket.
It was dark before he reached Columbus and it was too difficult to continue in the dark. Reluctantly, he built a fire and heated up the coffee and beans. By the light of the fire, he opened up two of the black powder shells and removed the lead buckshot. Using the Sear's Roebuck fence tool he carefully split several of the pellets and fastened them to the last few inches of one of the piano wires. The wires were stiff, but still pliable. He jammed as many pellets as he could with the wire attached back into the shells and resealed them. Guiding the wires down the full length of the barrels, he loaded the shells in the chambers. The wires were long enough that he was able to fastened them together with the extra split lead shot. He didn't need the third wire, but was still glad he had it. Lefty finished the beans and coffee and tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep. He left at early dawn and was waiting at the 13th Cavalry Regiment gate before they opened.
An hour later, an angry Swede stormed out of the Army office with fire in his eyes. The US Government refused to cross the border to help rescue Hilda. The best they could do was to recommend that he contact the Federales when he arrived at Puerto Palomas.
Since there was a trail between Columbus and Puerto Palomas, Lefty decided to get a wagon. The local blacksmith had heard of his neighbor's plight and was more than happy to lend him a small cart. Lefty left to face his antagonist before the noon sun.
Since it was a small village, everyone noticed Lefty's arrival, including the Federales. The two of them were not wearing uniforms, but only tan shirts with patches on the arm designating some type of official status.
"Welcome to Puerto Palomas Mister Torrensen. We are aware of your problem and offer our condolences." Lefty was taken aback at the excellent English spoken by his greeter.
"I came for my intended wife. I don't mean to cause any trouble. We will leave and there will be no hard feelings."
There was a brief conversation between the two representatives in Mexican. Slowly the English speaking one turned. "I am sorry Senor Torrensen, but you have arrived too late."
"What do you mean, 'too late'? Are you saying that she is no longer here?"
"No. I am saying that the blonde lady is dead."
The scream of anguish that came from the Swede was heard throughout the entire village. Everyone stopped and looked at the one armed giant as he climbed down from his wagon.
"Pancho Gomez! Te quiero a ti!"
The Federales both stepped back as he turned toward them.
"Why haven't you arrested him?"
"He did not do anything Senor."
"He kidnapped her."
"Si, but he did not kill her. She killed herself."
His rage was growing and the two local officials were clearly aware of it. After a short rapid conversation, one of the officers rapidly walked across the dusty street to the cantina. Lefty was taking a large drink of warm water as he watched the man return with a young girl.
"Senor Torrensen. This girl speaks some English and she can tell you what happened.
Lefty was trying desperately to control his temper. He was angry with the Federales. He was angry with the US Army and he was angry with Pancho Gomez. As far as he knew, the girl had done nothing so he politely listened as she spoke. She was scared and spoke very softly.
Pancho had brought Hilda to Puerto Palomas and was bragging that he was going to make the golden haired senorita the mother of his children. Every time he touched her or tried to get close to her, she would lash out, any way that she could. She scratched and threw things, and each time Pancho would laugh and brag about her fire. The time finally came when he decided to take her to his room and consummate the relationship. As he was dragging her from the barroom, one of the girls slipped Hilda a knife, so that she could defend herself. Ten minutes later, Pancho came back into the bar, extremely upset, and demanded that some of the girls go and help her.
When the girls found Hilda she was still alive. Her dress was ripped and there was a large red blood spot in the middle of her stomach. They did not understand her English very well, but they were able to determine that she had stabbed herself rather than let Pancho violate her. They stayed with her for the rest of the night. She died early this morning. They were not sure what to do with her body, so they just cleaned her up and put a nice dress on her.
It all made sense. Lefty did not like what he heard, but it all made sense. Hilda tried her best. She did everything she could and made the only decision she could think of at the time. He could not fault her.
"Pancho Gomez! Te quiero a ti!"
The young girl stepped back. She stood behind the Federales who had also moved away from the large angry man.
The mid-day sun was blazing hot as Lefty moved to the middle of the dusty street. Most of the people had gone indoors. Lefty planted his feet just as a three-legged dog scampered out from under the wagon. He was getting ready to call out again, when Pancho emerged from behind the smithies at the far end of town. It wasn't that far, but out of the range of the shotgun or Pancho's .45.
The finish of this showdown was inevitable: one, or both of them would have to die. Lefty grew up with his 10 gauge and knew its limitations. Pancho was comfortable with his favorite sidearm, but not with his ability to hit a target that was out of range. The .45 would put a big hole in a man, but he had to hit him first. Hitting anything over fifty feet away was strictly luck.
Neither man moved. Lefty felt his hatred grow and tried not to let it overwhelm him. In order to kill this man, he had to remain calm. There would be no opportunity to reload if he missed the first time. As experienced as he was with the Remington it would still be difficult to do anything fast enough. It didn't matter if he died, now that Hilda was gone, but he would not allow himself to die if Pancho was left standing.
Pancho was still under the influence of too much liquor. The hot sun and the alcohol made him dizzy. He was mad: not at the large gringo, but at himself. What he did was stupid. Life was good until he decided that he wanted the blonde girl with the milky skin. Now, she was dead and he had to kill the man that came for her. As long as he didn't let the shotgun get too close, he would be okay. Even if some of the buckshot hit him, it would probably not be fatal. He had six shots and the large angry man only had two. By the time the gringo got close enough to use the shotgun, Pancho would be close enough to use his Colt, with some degree of accuracy.
Lefty could tell that Pancho was not going to come towards him. He had taken a few steps and seemed to be unsteady from too much drink. As he started towards him, Lefty noticed the silver conchos on his belt and hatband. The large Colt on his hip was silver also. He didn't wear his weapon like a gunslinger, but more like a lawman: up high and tight. It was a safe secure arrangement, but not designed for quick draw.
As Lefty started to walk, he carefully cocked each of the hammers on his goose gun. He carried the gun by his side, leaving a small trail of dust as he proceeded down the street. It wasn't from the barrels, but from the wires that were hanging from them. Two piano wires, fastened together, dragged in the dust. The gun was heavy, but he never noticed.
Pancho watched the big man come closer. Everything was going just as he had hoped it would. As soon as the gringo was in range he would draw his weapon and end this stupidity. He needed a drink and a soft bed. As the Swede got closer, Pancho noticed the wires dragging on the ground. He cocked his head slightly, trying to figure out what it was. He decided that he did not want to wait to find out what was going on. The large man was still out of range, but close enough to take a chance.
When Pancho's hand started for his gun, Lefty turned his body and raised his arm. As soon as the shotgun was level, both barrels erupted in a cloud of black powder smoke. Pancho hesitated, just for a moment, surprised by the speed of his adversary. It was too late.
The lead shot came out of the Damascus barrels pulling the piano wire with it. As the pellets spread out, the wire did also, and by the time it reached Pancho, it was as taut as a sword blade. The piano wire cut threw Panchos body about six inches above his waist. His right hand was cut off at the wrist. The upper part of his body hit the ground first and then seconds later his legs just sort of toppled over.
Lefty turned without going any closer. He walked back to the wagon and turned to the Federales.
"I need a box for my wife, pronto!"
When he got to El Paso, Lefty was able to get Hilda embalmed. The Union Pacific let him ride in the baggage car with his beloved. Word had spread what happened in Puerto Palomas, and when the train reached Odessa, a Texas Ranger got on and stayed with him until they arrived at Fort Worth. The porters made sure that Lefty had food and water for the entire trip. There was no obligation on their part, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.
The funeral back in Ohio was a somber affair. Lefty did not stay with either of the families, but moved to Cleveland. He got a job at a small, downtown hardware store and found an apartment within walking distance. A few years later a dime novel was published about a one-armed man who gunned down a Mexican bandito with a shotgun. Nobody realized that it was Lefty. He worked for the hardware store for forty-two years and died alone, on a cold December night in his Cleveland apartment.
The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty's livin' in a cheap hotel
The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold
So the story ends we're told
Pancho needs your prayers it's true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he's growing old