Chapter 21, Shootout
“You boys might just as well turn around and head on back,” Jed Thornton yelled across, “Ain’t gonna be no party today.”
A big, burly man, a couple of riders to the left of Dan, stood in his stirrups and answered back, “You badges just get outa the way. We mean to settle things our way. The governor’s authority is mighty thin in these parts. The Gatlin’s shot up some of our guys last night and we mean to ‘talk’ to them today.” He and Jed continued to discuss the situation in louder and louder ways…
Dan Greene shifted in his saddle. He hadn’t signed on to face down lawmen. This was getting out of hand. He was beginning to wonder if it was a good idea to have singed on with the Perkins’ spread. It was just an opportune time that they had come across the spread and they were hiring. So they joined up before making it to the town they were headed too. Carlton had said to lay low for a while and they figured this was just as good a place as any when they came across it. He wasn’t too worried when they took the job. This little standoff wasn’t very troubling either. Even though they were facing down Rangers there were fourteen of them and it looked like only five lawmen. It should be over pretty quick if they could take out a couple of the Ranges early. The two back behind would probably have rifles and be supporting the three up front. That might have been a problem, but he could take them out with his rifle before they could do much damage. He stared hard at the two lawmen further back behind the Rangers, picking out his targets. Something didn’t seem right though, leaning to his right he asked “Hey, Pierre. Do you recognize those two back there in the shade of that tree? Behind the rangers, I want to make sure I am see it right.”
Pierre looked and broke into a grin, “That’s Kelvin and Luke. What the hell they doing over there?”
Joe Stokes, to the right of Pierre, rubbed his whiskered chin, “I wonder where Carlton and Donni are?” Dan had an uncomfortable feeling and glanced at Pierre. Pierre’s eyes were wide open as it dawned on him who was missing. Dan and Pierre both began scanning the hill on the far side, this changed everything.
“I would bet they’re up there… yep, got’em,” Dan said softly as he saw a small glint of light and movement on top of the hill, “Looks like we’re on the wrong side of the river, boys. There isn’t any place to get under cover over here. Besides I don’t want to be facing down no Rangers. Especially if Donni is going to be firing down on us from the high ground. Even with the numbers in our favor this is a bad bet now.”
Pierre looked around and frowned, “I sure hope that Donni’s eyesight is good today. We’re sitting ducks here.”
“Hopefully we get out of this before any shooting starts. It is not sounding good though.” The yelling between the big man and the ranger was getting louder. It was obvious that he was pumping up the other men to charge the Rangers. Looked like the Rangers knew it too. What none of the rest of them on this side of the river knew was that Donni and Carlton were on the hill. That would change the numbers in the first few seconds of the fight. Dan turned in his saddle, feeling a cold trickle of sweat run down the middle of his back. This was not the right place to be. He caught Bear’s eye where he had reigned up behind them. “Sam… follow my lead. Donni, Carlton and the others are over there. If shooting starts we’re getting out. Just hold back and go slow if we go forward.” Bear nodded, placing a hand over his holstered gun. Dan gathered in his reins and waited.
“Dan’s talking to them,” Donni said, “I bet he spotted Kelvin. I know he was looking around the hills too. He probably knows we are up here. I bet when the shooting starts they get out of the way.”
Carlton nodded, “Let’s hope so. Shoot for the others. Try and cover them as best you can and hope that they do turn and leave. If they hang back and don’t charge right away, the Rangers probably won’t shoot them. Especially if they ride off. Rangers won’t shoot them in the back. Just hope that Kelvin and Luke know who they are shooting at.”
“Looks like the shooting is going to start soon. Get ready to get down behind some cover and shoot the guys that head into the river,” Kelvin said. “They will have to get their horses rushing forward before and won’t be aiming well while firing. Shoot at the ones in the lead, but Carlton said to let the Rangers shoot first.”
“Got it pard,” Luke replied. Kelvin grimaced.
The big man and Jed Thornton had quit yelling at each other, instead he yelled a command to the riders, “Let’s go!” and motioned forward as the riders pulled out their rifles and ten horses spurred down into the water. Jed and the other two Rangers pulled out their pistols and spread out. Kelvin scrambled over behind a boulder and Luke crouched beside him.
“What’re those damn Rangers waiting for?” Kelvin asked, “They oughta be shooting not waiting for them to cross the ford.”
Luke shrugged, “Maybe they’re giving them a chance.”
“That’s bullshit.” Kelvin said as he sighted in on a man entering the river.
Carlton and Donni watched as the men on the other side of the river surged forward. Four horses held back and only slowly advanced as the other ten charged at the Rangers, Kelvin, and Luke. Looked like it was going to be ten against seven and they had much better position and cover. This should be over quick, almost before it started. The Rangers were continuing to wait.
Donni sighted the big, burly man before he was halfway across the ford and fired. Carlton fired at almost the same time. The only thought going through is mind was “Dammit Donni.” The big man threw up his arms and tumbled backwards off of his horse. The man beside him was thrown from his horse and disappeared in the water. The two Holts switched to their Henry’s and began firing in earnest. With gunfire having started the Rangers took their time and fired steadily, making their shots count. Experienced in gun battles they were not easily rattled. Kelvin and Luke fired sporadically at the edges of the group advancing. Being careful to not hit the Rangers in front of them. The quick loss of their leader and finding that they were not just facing five gunmen at the rivers edge, but an unknown force with snipers, quickly routed the remaining raiders. Under the heavy gunfire the group turned back and fled, leaving four bodies in the stream. At least four others were wounded but they had managed to leave with the other six.
Jed and Jim stopped firing as soon as the raiders were routed and turn to flee. Don Mathers continued to fire a couple more rounds at the retreating horsemen before remembering to stop. One final shot from the hill could be heard after that and a man on a retreating horse slumped forward.