"Right in the Eye"

Chapter 1
Right in the Eye, ch 1A

By Wayne Fowler

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

This segment follows One Man’s Calling and Another Is Called. It begins in 1886 in the Colorado gold country. Ben Persons left Creede following God’s leading. Slim becomes the protagonist.
Chapter 1

“Just as well to give it up, old man,” one of the claim jumpers yelled, the last muffled by another shot fired by his thieving, bushwhacking partner.

Slim Diddleknopper ducked lower into his mine, a rough, unsupported scrape of a hole in the side of Bachelor Mountain. He didn’t answer, hoping they’d be stupid enough to believe him dead and walk out from their cover.

Another shot fired, this one more muted, muffled-like, a popping sound. In the space of milliseconds, Slim surmised that the claim jumper loaded his own and shorted this one of powder. Whether imagined or not, his mind told him that he saw the slug’s approach and that he’d be well-advised to duck aside. Which he did, but apparently in the wrong direction. A bullet that might have produced the mother of all headaches, instead plunged directly into his eye socket, finally settling embedded at his brain stem. It was lanterns out for Slim. His other injuries came incrementally as he cascaded down the sixty-degree embankment when the no-goods rolled him off.

It had been the best, richest dig of his life, his finest prospect. And he’d been circumspect in his behavior: not showing out, spending very little, keeping his jubilation to himself. He hoped that no one would learn of his strike until he could afford to bolster and protect the operation. In the few months since filing his claim, he’d scratched out enough gold to estimate a life’s earnings. Had he worked his brother’s farm as asked, and borrowed a lot of money from a bank, he could have eked out a meager living on a farm of his own and died of old age, broke but with the same life-long earnings as he now had, unspent. Instead, he chose to seek his fortune. He could now return to the Ozarks and buy that same farm and die of old age, land rich, but penniless.

Trying to convince himself that he had made the right choice, he scanned his lonely camp, knowing that an Ozark living would more than likely be replete with squalling young’uns, first his, then them theirs. Those were his thoughts as the rifle shots caromed and ricocheted all about him just before watching the one that was bound for his eyeball.

In that fleeting instant, his life passed through his mind. He was oblivious to the torment soon to be offered him by the two robbers, unconscious of the bruising and breaking along the hundred-yard rapid cascading descent. He landed wedged between two boulders as if attempting a fat-man squeeze. The only reason his good eye survived plucking out was that a turkey vulture fought and chased off two crows that had just begun feasting on his bloodied skull. And then the vulture exploded.


A miraculously aimed and timed rifle shot from over a hundred yards down the mountainside caught the buzzard midflight, slamming it into a granite slab, feathers flying.

“Can you hear me? You alive?” Ben Persons fairly shouted at the old man as he dislodged him. He didn’t think about the uphill challenge to his shot. He just drew his rifle from the scabbard and fired, hoping to scare the buzzard off and not accidentally hit the man wedged between the boulders.

Ben Persons was a young man with a calling, a man on a mission for God. Though uncertain of anything but the very next step before him, he contentedly marched onward. Barely into his manhood, a man with some horse skills and people skills alike, his eyes were drawn to the beauty of the mountainsides.

The birds’ cawing and screeching had gained Ben’s attention, though he’d heard gunfire from some undetermined direction and was being watchful. The injured man might have been shot, Ben couldn’t be certain, seeing a lot of injury and blood, but no discernable gunshot wound. Getting to the bad guys, assuming this wasn’t a bad guy himself, took low priority. Getting what remained of this unfortunate soul to water and then to medical help was the immediate need. Ben prayed all the while that he un-jammed and manhandled the old codger to the small mountain stream near where he’d tied his horse.

Old codger, Ben mused, studying the weathered prospector, wondering whether his initial guess of the man’s age was right. “Who are you, Mister?” he asked of the unconscious man who could be as young as thirty or so, or well into his fifties.


The claim jumpers heard the rifle shot. As one, they both jerked to a crouch, each searching the small draw’s crests, neither certain of the shot’s direction.

“See anything?” Carl asked his partner, Jud.

“Don’t you think I would’ve said somethin’ if I did? I told you we should have buried him.”

“And have somebody find his grave? You’re stupider today than you were yesterday.” Carl cleared his throat and spit near enough Jud for him to recognize the insult.

“You don’t have to put no cross on it! Now shut up. He might be creepin’ up.” They both moved about, duck-walking as they tried to determine their safety. Had either the courage to stand in the next several minutes they might have seen Ben wrestle Slim from his bind. Neither did.

“Now, like I said. He fell an’ died. In two weeks we file claim on his desertion. We don’t spend no gold until the mine is in our name,” Carl said.

“Yeah, yeah, and one of us stays here all the time. Just one thing – you ain’t the boss.  Now I say we start right now with splittin’ everything down the middle. Start lookin’ for his hide. Pro’lly in the mine. I’ll look there.” Jud turned to walk toward the mine entrance.

“Well, you ain’t givin’ orders. That’s all I’m sayin’. I don’t take orders from nobody.” Carl side-stepped, blocking Jud’s path.

“So that means you think you’re the boss? I’ll start in the mine, I said.” Jud’s glare told Carl to back off.

Carl kicked over Slim’s make-shift lean-to, kneeling to pick through his meager belongings as Jud entered the mine. Not finding anything resembling what might hide wealth, he surveyed the campsite, paying particular attention to trails leading in or out. At the end of the most obvious, he was rewarded with a stench of human waste after kicking over a mound of earth and pebbles. Thinking what better place than that to hide gold, he took a rock and stirred through the mess in a futile attempt to dig beneath.

The only other trail from the mine was down the mountain. No one would hide booty where someone could get it that easily, but he looked nonetheless. Returning to the camp, Carl started into the scrape of a mine, causing Jud to startle, quickly turning around to exit.

“Wha’d you find?” Carl asked.


“Then why’re you spooked?”

“’Cause you spooked me. You numbskull.”

“You’re hidin’ somethin’. You been diggin’.”

“Sure, I dug. Lookin’ for his hideout. Now move an’ let me outta here!”

“Wha’d you find?” Carl demanded. “Empty yer pockets.”

“I ain’t emptyin’ nothin’.” Jud attempted to push past Carl only to get pushed on his butt.

Jud rose with his pistol in hand, unseen by Carl in the semi-darkness, his frame blocking the light. Backing from the entrance, Carl’s hand found Slim’s pick ax. Intending to persuade Jud to show his pockets’ contents, he stood outside the mine, the ax at the ready.

Jud fired twice, missing with the first shot, and catching Carl dead center in the gut with the second. “I told you I didn’t find nothin’!” he yelled. “I scratched around for a soft spot in the floor. Now look! Yer gut-shot!”

“Help me,” Carl mumbled as he tumbled to his back.

“Yer done, an’ you know it,” Jud said. “I’ll get you some water.” He turned to retrace their steps to where their horses were tethered.

Returning with two canteens, Carl was waiting with Slim’s rifle propped on a raised knee. Missing his left eye by an inch too low, Jud crumpled to the ground, kicking and flinching with both arms and feet for what Carl presumed to be an hour or more before finally dying. Carl survived until just before sunrise when the stream of his blood finally reached Jud’s body.     
(chapter 1 to be continued)

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God

I put Cerrillos, New Mexico into Colorado for the story to work later on. Sorry New Mexico.

Being a bit too long, the rest of chapter 1 will be in the chapter 2 posting.

Chapter 2
Right In The Eye, ch 2

By Wayne Fowler

Ch 1B

In the last part Slim was shot off his mountainside gold mine claim, unconscious and left for dead. Ben Persons rescued him. The claim jumpers killed one another.


“What’s yer story, old man?” Ben asked as he prayed not to compound the man’s hurt. Not without great difficulty, Ben managed to get him in the saddle after a quick clean-up and check-over. The accommodating horse allowed Ben to drape him first over his neck, standing still as Ben gained the saddle and then pulling his charge up and into the saddle. Ben managed to fit himself behind the cantle. It was an awkward ordeal made possible only by the horse’s cooperation. Ben thought he’d heard a gunshot, but paid it no mind.

The reins tied to the saddle horn, Ben needed both hands to keep the old man upright, talking to him all the miles to Creede, the Colorado town he’d left just that morning. Ben directed the horse with his knees, allowing him a leisurely pace. Other than probable broken wrists, Ben found no other serious injuries, except his left eye, not sure whether the damage was caused by bullet or rock. Nothing Ben touched, or handled brought a reaction from Slim, the name Ben assigned him. He seemed to be lost to a deep unconsciousness, oblivious to pain or stimuli of any sort.

“You the shooter, or the shootee, old man?” Ben asked, continuing his banter, hoping to get as advanced notice as possible before injuring him further. A rifle’s distant echo preceded his follow-up question. “What’s yer name again? I missed it the first time. You’re a prospector, I know that much. Your knees are worn through and your calloused hands tell the story. Scoundrels wanted your claim, that it? You run from them, jump down the mountain to get away? Or something worse? Tell me your tale. What’s your name, Old Timer?”

Slim heard every word spoken, answering every question, perturbed at having to repeat himself. Pain-free, oblivious to his surroundings, he couldn’t tell whether he was horseback or in a down-filled bed. He saw nothing, and felt nothing, but heard every word spoken, even heard the horse’s snorting and his steel shoes clanking on rocks. Whoever was talking to him was good, a good man. That was the limit of his earthly concern. He felt good: protected and safe. He wished the man would keep talking, even if to repeat himself.

Ben did, arriving in Creede well after all but revelers in the various saloons called it a day and doused their lights. Knowing the town, Ben found the doctor’s house and clinic in the half-moonlight. The door opened before him, the doctor having heard Ben’s commotion.

The next morning, allowing the doctor enough time to get his rest and tend to other patients and such, Ben checked in on who he considered his ward.

“Shot right in the eye. No exit wound. Slug’s still in there. But no one I’ve ever heard of would ever go in after it. Both wrists and one ankle are broken. Some of his cuts needed attention. But he took water and even swallowed a spoon of oatmeal. Seems to be in what we call a coma – more than knocked out, but not dead ... not yet, anyway.”

Anticipating Ben’s question, the doctor continued. “All we can do for him, except for the obvious, is to keep him hydrated and fed as best we can until he comes out of it.” Again anticipating, he added, “Could be the next five minutes, could be never.”

“Could …” Ben began.

“Maybe a day, or two. But his bowels will keep working, and I just don’t have the place, or the help for all that. No, his best chance, assuming he doesn’t come around soon, is the sanitarium in Denver.” Ben was deep in thought at what the doctor offered.

“Look, you check on what the train can do to get him there, and I’ll telegraph the sanitarium. See if they’ll take him.”

Ben thanked the doctor profusely, offering to make it right with him, and then set to his task.
Chapter Two
Sitting in a chair beside Slim’s bed that next afternoon, Ben talked nearly non-stop, not school-girlishly, but fairly constant, perceiving it was a help to the old miner.

“Gonna call you Slim,” Ben said at one point, repeating himself. “No thicker’n one of my legs.”

“Got a last name for him?” the doctor asked, rounding the doorway. “That’s all he needs to get admitted. They said that they were building a new wing and wanted the patient load to justify it to the Board of Directors. They didn’t say all that in the telegram, of course, but that’s the way things work.”

Without a moment’s hesitation Ben offered Goldman as a last name.

“You’re not related. You brought him to me, and you’re going to get him to Denver yourself?”

Ben nodded.

“Well, they want a hundred-dollar deposit. I’ll wire that and we’ll forget about my charges here.”

Ben smiled, sticking out his hand. “Thank you, Doctor. And God bless you.”

“He has, Son, he has.”


The entirety of the trip to Denver, Ben spoke to Slim, pausing to ask questions as if in conversation. Slim was glad for Ben’s attention and help.

“Consarnit Boy! How many times you gonna ask me? And how’d you know my name anyway? Be quiet a minute and I’ll answer you!” Slim knew that he was unconscious, but felt so engaged that he half didn’t understand why people couldn’t hear what he heard in his head – the sound of his voice.

Ben finally dozed off. Slim was as mute as the day he’d been found stuck between the rocks. But he took the opportunity to bring Ben up to date, at least in his head. “I found a little, enough to keep me interested and to have a beer or two every evenin’ at the Yellow Cactus in Cerrillos,” Slim was saying inside himself, half believing Ben might hear him. “That’s down near Mexico, New Mexico, but still in Colorado. I took the Santa Fe Trail and when most everybody else lit north, I went south. Yup. Found a little color the first year out, but just very little. Prob’ly should’ve stayed right there, but I couldn’t. Truth is, I fed myself on the turquoise I brought to town. Found a bluff wall inside a narrow canyon. I prospected for gold, but when I run outta food, well, there was the turquoise. It was on account of LouAnne that I stayed around. Naw, I never took her upstairs. Respected her too much. I really and truly liked that gal. We could talk … well, as long as I had a beer in front of me. And until some buster wanted her. I never waited for her to come down. No sir. I really liked that gal. I knew the hurt in her eyes when at first I waited for her. Only took one time. Her eyes showed her pain. Like she’d just cheated on me, and herself too.

“Yeah. Well, I just couldn’t take it no more. Had a pouch, like I said, but not nearly enough to buy LouAnne outta the Yellow Cactus. She bein’ their main attraction, an’ all. I sold my claim for enough to call myself even an’ follered the crowd north, stoppin’ every little bit to dirty my hands hard rock prospectin’.”

Ben snorted himself awake enough to see Slim as comatose as the rocks that had had him wedged. But for the steady rise and fall of his chest, he would have thought him dead.

 “Thought about her every day, I did. Made me pick harder, dig deeper. I thought about the life we might’ve had. The life we’d never have. About the kids we’d never have. Oh, she was sweet. Like honey on a hot biscuit, like syrup on hot cakes, like a smile on a blistery hot day. Oh Lordy. She was my cold drink of water. I tell you, I split her stove wood, helped in her garden, I labored with her givin’ birth an’ helped in the night with our babies. Wasn’t nothin’ I wouldn’t do for her in my dreamin’.

“And I didn’t leave her in her beautiful youth, either. As pretty as she was, the desire of every man ever saw her, she aged same as me. I saw her grow older in my mind an’ dreams as I grew older myself. Still as pretty as a flower, though. As pretty as a flower. I imagined us together all the time.”

Again, Ben opened his eyes to check on Slim who hadn’t even changed the pace of his breathing, though he did swallow a sip from Ben’s canteen.

“Thankee,” Slim thought, almost believing he’d spoken.


“I’ll say my good-bye now,” Ben said to Slim, patting him on the shoulder. Bound for a return trip to Creede the next day, Ben never again saw Slim, though he’d thought of, and prayed for him often.

Author Notes Concluding the first chapter in a post of the second seemed the only way to deal with a FanStory quirk regarding split chapters. Don't what I'd do of every chapter was too long for reasonable length posts.

Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God

Chapter 3
Right in the Eye, ch 3

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben placed Slim in a Denver long-term care facility, talking to him the whole while. Here, Slim talks to himself.
Loved that gal, I did, I said in my mind to every attendant who saw to my needs. Her name’s LouAnne, one word. Honest to God beautiful. Hurt me in the heart to see her go up those stairs with men who wouldn’t know the difference between love and a sheep. She smiled with her eyes, her entire being. Some scalawag rascal would grab her by the arm, she’d smile, but it wasn’t no smile, just upturned lips. They didn’t even care the difference. All I could do to not grab somebody’s handgun, fill the room with pistol smoke and his back with lead. I’d leave right then, no matter if I had a full glass left or half, just leave. Leavin’ and not even sayin’ goodbye was hard. The time I truly eyed a feller’s gun, seein’ myself usin’ it was the minute I made up my mind. Sold the claim the very next day and lit out to the San Juans.

My mind was as alert and active as everyone around me there in that home. I continued thinking, half believing that I was communicating as I told my tales. People and workers came and went. Most were nice enough. I liked the ones best who talked to me. Didn’t even matter if they interrupted me answering back. Some would smile and talk. Telling me about their families. Tending to me like I was one of them, part of their family. I liked them a lot. It got to where doing their jobs wasn’t humiliating anymore, just doin’ what needed doin’. One mornin’, a little missy of an attendant came up and said, “My, my, ain’t you the happy one this morning. You relax a little bit and I’ll get you a bedpan.” I would’ve been embarrassed to mortification. She would definitely have been someone to spark, if I was her age and in good health. She just did what needed doin’, no more’n wipin’ a kid’s snotty nose.


“Yes!” I wanted to scream. Laying there day after day, night after night. I heard ‘em talk at the foot of my bed. Two doctors talkin’ about operatin’. “Do it!” I screamed. They ignored me like I never said a word. They did the operation. I don’t think they got the bullet. Never anyone said. I think they did something bad, though. I couldn’t see for myself, but I could tell. Takin’ water and soup seemed to be a lot messier after that. They were always wiping the left side of my jaw. I don’t feel nothin’, but somehow I don’t think my smile was right, either. Workers took to hesitating on their return smiles. Always delayed by just a tiny bit. Long enough to feel like they had to get over some sort of shock. Only difference was that I began to see a little bit. Couldn’t move my eye none, but light began to find its way in.


I was born in 1851. Hit the Santa Fe Trail in 1869. I’da gone to the Sierras where the most of us went, but I couldn’t afford the trip, either by boat around the horn, or on an overland trail. The war was a lotta hikin’ and waitin’ around. I liked the idea of the Union and didn’t want no part of slavery. At the same time, I had nothing against those boys who were fighting for their home states. Here in gold country I got shot in ‘86. Thirty-five years old. Old enough to kick a bucket. But here I am, layin’ here like I’m dead, but not.

Time-to-time my attendants shifted about. Seemed like at least one new one all the time. The few I didn’t cotton to were all right, I suppose, just people stuck in the wrong job tryin’ to make a living. I tried not to hold it agin ‘em. Most all the others were fine folk. I learned to time ‘em, fittin’ my comments and conversation between theirs. Wasn’t easy sometimes.  Sometimes I pretended to be asleep. Funny. I don’t think they could tell the difference ‘cause it never seemed to alter their chatter. I could make out faces and things, but still couldn’t shift my sight any.

Sometimes they talked to each other like I wasn’t in the room at all. “Hey! I’m right here! I can hear you!” It never worked.

I watched some of ‘em grow old. Heard about others that I know was young when I got there that were retiring. The new younger ones … Oh boy. What’s happening out there, I wondered. They need to hire kids out of the grades schools? I’ll swear, the new young ones didn’t ‘pear to be old enough to tend puppies, let alone old codgers like me.

The attendants talked about everything: their families, their boyfriends and girlfriends, politics, the news of the state and the country. I finally figured out that it was the turn of the century. And then I heard all about the war-to-end-all-wars. And all the new-fangled inventions and contraptions. Then the fifty-year celebration of Colorado’s statehood. Was a big to-do one day and into the night. By my reckoning, that made me 75 years old. I didn’t see how that was possible. I didn’t feel but thirty-five. Like the bullet to my brain stopped my aging.

In 1936 I was 85. One of the attendants, or aides as they started callin’ them, said I was grandfathered in. I got the notion that the last name of Goldman might’ve helped. One said I got saved from bein’ transferred to someplace that I didn’t want to be transferred to. I didn’t understand none of that – didn’t quite believe it. My real last name is Diddleknopper. Has somethin’ to do with wool, I think.

Oh well, blessed be the saints, as they say.

OASDI, SSI, FBI, OSS, CIA, WPA, CCC. I heard so many letters I thought sometimes I was a child and the things I wasn’t ‘posed to know were bein’ spelt out. Naw, I’m just joshin’. I had an idea about most of it; but my bill was bein’ paid by one of them.

Things got tough for a while those next years. The soup got thinner, the attendants fewer. Baths got more infrequent. I tried not to be no trouble, but … they were troublesome times.

It was 19 and 46 when the Great War was over. Never mind the War To End All Wars, I guess. This was a big deal. Quite a few of the aides were affected one way or another. My calculatin’ said I was 95. But I didn’t give it much thought. I had a bed sore that musta been that old the way they were makin’ over it.

It was along about that time that they moved all of us again. We’d moved into a newer building a long time ago and then we were moved across town. More than half my aides disappeared. I’d liked to’ve said goodbye to them. It became all business, purely by the book for a while. Somebody would come and turn me on one side or the other every few minutes, it seemed. But hardly any of them stayed long enough to say a word. A few did, but not much. Things let up some that next Christmas, though. Some muckety-muck got promoted out of there and things improved.

By my figures, I’d just turned 120. Didn’t seem possible, but there it was. Unless everybody was lyin’ to me about the date. Springtime 1971. Or I was really dead back there in 1886 and all this is the afterlife. How was I to know, layin’ there the last eighty-some years?

Author Notes Please keep in mind that this is written in first person. Slim is telling his story to himself.

Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.

Chapter 4
Right in the Eye, pt 4

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim detailed his long-term care stay, explaining events that led him to be 120 years old in 1971.
“Hey, honey. Is it okay if I clean your teeth?”

It was a voice I’d never heard before. And a question never put before. Her name was Suzanne, I found out later.
“Are you awake, honey?”

‘Course I’m awake! It’s daytime an’ my eye’s open. An’ I ain’tcher honey! Wha’dya mean yer gonna clean my teeth? Cram a sponge in there an’… what? She acted like I hadn’t said nothin’. I didn’t hear me neither.

She touched me on the shoulder and then turned my head to her side just a little. “Can I take a look and see what we’re up against?” she asked.

I could see her fine when she passed across the view of my one good eye; but otherwise, I just saw the top corner of the room.

With both hands she gently pried me open. It was as she leaned into me, her face inches from mine, her wavy hair brushing my ear that I caught it – her smell. I guess I should say her fragrance. She couldn’t see it as much as felt it. The eyelid of my good eye began fluttering to beat the band. My jaw started flappin’ like I was gonna bite her, but I wasn’t. I bellowed a scream. I thought I was just asking her what her fragrance was. They told me later that I let out a screeching growl. See, the thing was, she was LouAnne! Her smell was LouAnne. I oughtta know ‘cause I got as close as I could to her. She said it was a secret passed down from some old Pueblo Indian woman’s family to a cleaning gal back there in Cerrillos. You had ta wash yourself with a hunk of silver sagebrush first. Dip it right in the bath. Then use extract of catmint, some kind of purple flower. It didn’t work on ever’body. On some it puredy stunk awful. But it worked on LouAnne. And it worked on Suzanne, the toothbrush gal that ran out screamin’ for the doctor.

Me? I spent the time before the doctor showed up takin’ inventory of my parts. I was half in the bed and half on the floor when he and Suzanne and two male orderlies rushed in. Orderlies they called ‘em then. The doctor, he went to askin’ things a mile-a-minute. He checked my heart, my eye, my ears, and all over, all the while askin’ all sorts of questions.

The next few days were all a’whirl. They got me workin’ out with people yankin’ an’ pullin’ me every which’a way. Said it was physical therapy. Then was the shocker. They wheeled me into the doctor’s office where I’d never been before. He sat there all serious-like.

“Mr. Goldman, it seems there’s been some kind of mix-up over the years. Probably had to do with the move. Your file shows you arrived at Denver Acres in 1886. It doesn’t say when you were born. You’d suffered head trauma and were comatose. There’s a note that guesses you to be around 50.”

I didn’t say anything, kinda guessin’ at what his mix-up was.

“Even supposing there was an error, a mix-up if you will, when they transcribed the written notes to type, they typed in 1841, splitting the difference between 50 and 60, I suppose. But that would make you 130 years old. We know that Slim Goldman arrived in 1886, but that was 85 years ago and it’s obvious that you aren’t 85 years old, closer to 50 or 60. And it’s also obvious that you arrived a man well into his seniority. Why, today you appear younger than myself, and I was born in 1911. I’m afraid to ask, but when were you born?”

I sort of mumbled, makin’ out that I was a little fuzzy-headed. I didn’t even correct the name, not knowin’ what that would do to me, respectin’ my bill. Finally, I straight out told him, “Eighteen and fifty-one.”

For a full minute he just looked at me. “So, we can only assume there was some kind of, of mix-up. Slim Goldman must have died sometime back, and you were taken for him. But I confess. That doesn’t really work either. Now I know you were comatose when they admitted you, and the next of kin offered your name. I don’t know, perhaps your real name was on a wanted list in those days. But here’s our problem. You exactly match the description of the Slim that was admitted in 1886. The eye injury for starters. Your measurements. Even the x-rays taken years later prove out the broken wrists and ankle. Why, you even have the scarring of the surgical procedure of, what … 1902. And x-rays of you show the bullet they tried to get. Assuming you were an adult at the time of the surgery would make you close to a hundred and twenty, or so.”

I tried to raise a point. Don’t even remember what it was, but it turned out best that I just listened.

“Maybe it was your father was born in 1851? And maybe your condition gave you an advanced appearance? How about we adjust the record to show 1871? I’m tempted, though, to make in 1891, but that wouldn’t correspond to the surgery, or…” The doctor trailed off and then wrote some in the record. “What we’re going to do is get you strong enough to travel, and then transport you to Minnesota where they have people who can figure you out. They’ll do a series of tests …”

That’s when I tuned him out. I wasn’t goin’ to no Swedish wheat farmer doctor who would poke and prod and exeray me outta whatever years I might have left. Might not have a minute left offa their oatmeal, but that minute was mine. I’d get strong, but not for them. First thing I did was enlist Suzanne, the dental gal. She’d taken to me. Guess she took credit for bringin’ me back. That was fine with me ‘cause her fragrance really did.

“Slim,” she said. “They put you on relief, and then on Social Security, then SSI and then at some point they switched you to Medicaid.”

I played like I was followin’.

“That program allows people to keep their home, one car, and a thousand dollars in the bank. Well, you didn’t have a thousand dollars, so somebody in finance figured that the hospital had charged you to your last cent and refunded you the thousand, putting it into an account for you. I checked. That account hasn’t been touched, of course, and now it’s nearly two thousand.”

I looked at her like the ignorant fool that I was. She knew I wasn’t goin’ to the clinic. That was why she was diggin’ into my case.

“I’ll know when they plan to move you. That part’s easy. What won’t be so easy is for me to get your bank book. But I have a plan. The girls in administration are good people. I’ll wheel you down there and you can just start charming them. I’ve seen you.”

Winking at me, she continued. “The morning of the day you’re to leave, you go to them and ask for your personal file and transfer documents. I’m sure they were told to give it to someone who was going with you, but I think they’ll do it. Then you walk out the front door. I’ll be at the gate waiting for you.”

Looking at me intently, she asked, “Do you think you could make it that far, your head up, chest out, like you owned the place? So no one would challenge you?”

I smiled at her with half my face. Later that day she brought clothes that we hid under the bed. It would be all I could do to get from the administration office with my files, back to my room and into the new clothes, and then out to the street by 9:30, the time we agreed should beat the effort to send me to the Mayo Clinic, where they would try to claw around my hypothalamute. Maybe pull out all my brains an’ give ‘em a look over.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Suzanne: long-term care aide who took an interest in Slim's well-being

Chapter 5
Right in the Eye, ch 5

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Suzanne planned to help Slim escape the long-term care facility.


“You made it!” Suzanne had the passenger door open. She took the file folder from me so’s I could get myself into the contraption that warred against even a small-statured feller like me as I fought gettin’ fit into it. I could tell she was bitin’ her tongue to keep from yellin’ at me to hurry. No doubt she’d lose her job as well as whatever license she had, were we caught.

I don’t know why, but I half expected Ben Persons to be waitin’ for me outside the door.

“Why’re you takin’ this big a risk?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was stupid, a kinda sad expression on her face. Her hand on my arm said she forgave me.

“Because you would do it for me. You’ve been in there for longer than I, or my parents put together have been alive. I don’t understand it at all. Maybe humanity would benefit from studying you. But you want to live the rest of your life.
So here we are.

“The problem is … I think they’ll come to my apartment. My neighbors, the nosy cretins, will blab. I’m afraid you need to get completely out of Denver. That won’t be easy.”

We agreed that she would take me to the bank where I could withdraw my fortune. She also agreed that the best way would be for me to get my own automobile. Cars For Less/Low Down/We Tote the Note was where we said our goodbyes and she got my thanks. I’m sure she felt how sincere I was when I wiped at my tears. It helped a lot, her makin' like she was my daughter. The bank prob'ly would have called the law, or the hospital place listed in the paperwork. And the car seller woulda got ever' dime.

Fast Eddie set me up in a Bronco. I thought it only appropriate. Since I couldn’t come up with a driver’s license his side of dickering got a might rough. He did, though, agree to give me a drivin’ lesson and take me to a filling station and show me the ropes. I let him think I’d just escaped from prison. Knowing that the town of Pueblo was the direction I wanted, that’s where I pointed to. Cerrillos was my destination. I had a map (that I couldn't use, not knowing how to even find where I was on it). But Suzanne wrote down the road numbers, so I oughta be fine.
Steerin' that Bronco, though. Why, you'd think it was a real bronco. Plum wore me out.


To say that things, the world I mean, had changed would be a ridiculous statement. It was like I was on a different planet. Some open spaces between developments were a lot like I remembered, except for the cement roads. And all the fences. And what Fast Eddie called blacktop. ‘Course I’d seen, more like heard really, the changes on the TV that they’d kept on in the room that I’d shared with more old codgers than I could remember. Since the television set was mostly out of the direct line to my good eye, I didn’t see much of it. Some of the changes were all right, not too bothersome, I guess. Wasn’t their fault that they were like they were any more’n it was mine. Knowin’ what automobiles were and what they could do was not the same as drivin’. Let me swear to that. Can’t count the folks I put in the ditch the first day out. Sure, they thought I was drunk. Prob’ly called the law soon’s they could get to a telephone. Wouldn’t know how to use one, myself.

The Bronco took a chunk outta my roll. Left enough, though, that I shoulda been able buy a decent rifle. Hah! Fat chance of that. Feller at the store said I could get one easy enough out of the newspaper. Didn’t need one that bad. Thought I’d just wait ‘til I came across one someway.

I wasn’t exactly on the run. Didn’t escape from no prison. I was properly discharged from a hospital – a free man. I don’t think there was a warrant out for me. Or even any kind of hunt, at all. No matter, I didn’t want to advertise myself. Far as I knew, all I was guilty of was traffic stuff, drivin’ the way I did. But I didn’t know, maybe the gov’ment did have some kinda ownership of me. Even if they didn’t, I knew they could shackle me whenever they wanted and all I could do about it was cry in a sock.

Not exactly retracing my route, since I was in a coma while gettin’ to Denver, I passed landmarks that I’d heard of. I saw the butte they called the Castle Rock. I’d heard about it. Couldn’t see it, myself, what, with the curved top. Went through Pueblo where the massacre by the Utes and Apaches wiped out a trading post in ‘54. I missed the gold rush of ’59. I was on my way ‘til Greenhorn Mountain got in my way. Thought maybe I could start my own rush there. No such luck. But joinin’ a crowd a day late ain’t no way to get fresh bread, I can sure you of that. Johnny-come-latelies to a gold rush gotta be real lucky. An’ that ain’t me.

Fort Garland brought back memories like they were yesterd’y. Kit Carson. He was really somethin’. He wanted to do everything. Did most of it, too, I’d guess. Garland was started in ’58 to protect settlers in the San Luis Valley. Abandoned it in ’83 when they put the Utes on the reservation. Never mind that there were bands of Apache that still had their way now and again. Mount Baldy there in the Sangre de Cristo Range was where I had to spend two freezing nights hidin’ from an Indian that was perched as a lookout for somethin’ or other. I was just glad I hadn’t had my burrow with me on that climb. He’da looked me out quick. He prob’ly lit out soon after I got hid real good, makin’ me the fool for stayin’ under that rock for two days.

Alamosa now, was trouble. A good place to get yourself shot, either by some drunk, a bad man, or by a sheriff that should never’a been one. I’d rather pay more at some little pueblo of a town an’ pass Alamosa by. I was low on gas, but that didn’t stop me from passin’ it by this time, either.

So I ran out of gas. There were a few little towns that had no filling stations. I spent a little time watchin’ cars an’ trucks go by while I thought back on Saddleback Mountain off in the distance an’ how some fools wasted their time prospectin’ it. This land was bad for Indians back when I came through in the 60’s, or maybe it was the 70’s. Anyway, wadn’t too long an’ a cowboy in a pick-up truck stopped for me. Took me to La Jara. I’d never heard of it, but here it was, a big town. He was gonna carry me back, but another cowboy goin’ north took me. ‘Cept for runnin’ out of gas, those trucks sure had horses beat to blazes an’ back.

Antonito was once not much more’n a sheep camp and a Catholic church. Couldn’t tell it now.

I dreamed on LouAnne, wonderin’ how bad she had it after I left. Bad enough while I was there. A hunnerd years’ll take a toll, least on everybody else. I scolded myself for even goin’ there. Like she’d be standin’ there at the Yellow Cactus Saloon waitin’ for me.

Hot Springs, Ojo Caliente. I never did get to experience that. Won’t now either. Runnin’ out of gas set me back some. It was gonna be late if I made it to Cerrillos today. I looked for Gallego and El Rito and a few other tradin’ stops, but never saw hide ‘ner hair. Española now, I wasn’t surprised to see that place still there. Been there since the 1500’s. Only it was called somethin’ else then … somethin’-somethin’ caballo, or somethin’. Anyway, I was wantin’ to get to Cerrillos, not take a geography lesson. I was amazed, but not too surprised to see shacks scattered across the desert. I wondered where they got their water, though.

Agua Fria. Like I said, the folks at the hospital left the TV on all day long quite a bit. Heard a radio down the hall, too. There was a singer sang a song that had me goin’. Don’t know his name, or the name of the song, but it sure rang out to me. It’s a thousand wonders it didn’t wake me up. An Arizona ranger went to Agua Fria after Texas Red. Big Iron … that was it. Big iron on his hip. I don’t know if the story was true, but when I passed through, there was saloon talk about it. A ranger and Texas Red. Or … maybe the song put that memory in my head. Who knows. Agua Fria. Cold water. I never drank it. Couple beers, fill my tote, and I was on the road. Just like now, only I didn’t stop.

It was gettin’ dark, would be well after sundown when I got to Cerrillos. Wadn’t nothin’ but to do it, now, though. I had no idea what I’d find, if anything. I hadn’t eaten all day. Never thought about it. Drank some water from a fountain when I got that can of gas, but that was it. If there was a town anymore, I hoped it had a hotel.

It did, but they called it a motel, a motor hotel. Guess we coulda called ours a horse hotel, but maybe that’s where the name came from in the first place.

Author Notes This is actually chapter 4 in my manuscript. I don't know if it's worth trying to correct, or just go with it.

Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God, (1851-1890)
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Suzanne: long-term care aide who took an interest in Slim's well-being

Chapter 6
Right in the Eye, pt 6

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim escaped the long-term care facility and made his way toward Cerrillos where he last saw LouAnne.


I disturbed the man from his TV. Too bad. He should be glad I don’t go out an’ get a stick for the side of his head.

Spent a near sleepless night in the biggest bed I’ve ever seen. My starin’ at the parkin’ lot security light through the flimsy curtains was interrupted by three or four little naps. This world’s gonna take some gettin’ used to. In my day Cerrillos had two dozen saloons. You picked one for all sorts of reasons: closest one on yer side a’ the street, friendliest bartender, prettiest girls, the loudest, or quietest, any number of reasons. Some were only little bars, but there was a lot goin’ on.
I filled up on two cups of coffee, and went for a stroll. Goin’ on twenty years since I was here last… in my mind. Then you have to add all the years when I was out of my mind. I have no idea if the town’s decline started right away, or its prime held out. Pretty run down now, though. LouAnne’s saloon is a beer and pizza place. The wooden Indian out front woulda been shot to splinters in the 70’s – 1870’s. Six blocks and I was worn out. After movin’ the metal lawn chair from the front of another room to mine, I settled back for some rest. The clatter of a cleaning cart gave me a start.

“Sorry, Mister. Didn’t mean to startle you. Care if I tidy up your room? You’re staying another night, right?”

“Yes’m. Sure, but no need. It’s fine.” Her voice was pleasant, not like Suzanne’s whose voice could freeze hot coffee.

“Won’t take a minute. Just a little touching up.”

She smiled. The difference was amazing. She went from a 50–60-year-old woman to a 35-year-old beauty. If I died this very second, I’ve seen LouAnne. Now, don’t get me wrong. She didn’t look nothin’ like her, ‘cept maybe her height. LouAnn’s hair was flaxen. This woman’s was somethin’ between blond and reddish, dark reddish. Had streaks of each color. LouAnne’s waved down to her shoulders. This gal had bangs and a high ponytail with wavy bunches from her temples and below the ponytail. Not a lot, but some. It looked good. Prob’ly helped out while toilet cleanin’.

“Name’s Slim,” I said real loud after she’d cleared the door. “Marian,” I heard back. “You can call me Mary since I see you’ve made your bed.”

I smiled to myself. I think I remember hummin’. Not sure, since I went to sleep. Sleepin’ when she left, too.

She was in the office behind the counter when I stepped in an hour later to inquire about the town. I needed some food and wanted to make more clear how long I’d be stayin’. Had to be mindful how much I knew about the place when I’d last been here. I decided to keep it all to myself. “I took a little walk earlier this mornin’. Was that pizza bar always that?”

“Oh, no. It was full-out saloon until prohibition. Closed down then. They tried to make a come-back, but without a regular train stop there wasn’t much chance. It closed again until just a few years ago.

I just nodded, bitin’ my tongue to keep from blurtin’ out the history I knew.

“You after lunch, The Cousins over on Second Street sets a nice table, makes out a nice plate lunch. I always get the half order. Full comes on a platter.”

“’Bliged.” I tipped the hat I wasn’t wearin’. Her smile ‘bout knocked me down. Made me wish I had more’n a half smile. She didn’t seem to mind at all. Her face didn’t change a speck, ‘cept her smile got even prettier.

I didn’t see her for a few days after that. The place seemed busy enough. And someone cleaned my room. I just missed her whenever I returned from investigatin’ the town. Usually, I set out on foot. I was gradually gettin’ to where I could go a good little ways without overdoin’ too much. Couple times I drove the Bronco. That was when I wanted to cross the rail tracks and see a bit farther that way, up toward the cemetery. I thought about searchin’ out the area I was last prospectin’ from ’75 to ’80 up Cedar Mountain, what’s now Highway 55. There was good water in the Ortiz Mountains.

Finally, I saw her again. She had a fat lip that wasn’t there last we spoke. I didn’t say nothin’.

“I meant to ask, Mr. Goldman, how did you like the Cousins’ lunch?”

“Took your advice ‘bout the half order. Good thing. Can’t say much for what they called meatloaf though. It sounded good. And bein’ on special …”

“Oh dear. I should have warned you. Tell you what. Why don’t you come to my house this evening and I’ll cook you some pork chops.”

“To your home?” I blurted. “I mean …”

“Oh, you’re safe enough. Over the years I’ve learned to tell the difference from a honey locust and a thorny locust before getting scourged. Besides. I’ve fought with the best, or worst, however it should be said.”

I managed not to look at her lip, changing the subject back to food. “Haven’t had a pork chop in over …” I started to say 100 years. “a long, long time.”

“Five o’clock, then?”

I guess I looked confused.

“Follow the path around the office. The house out back. You can see it through the breezeway. Use the door with the flowers.”

I tipped the hat that I wasn’t wearing.


“Mary. That was the best chop I have ever had. I’m sorry I couldn’t eat but one. Haven’t grown into an appetite yet.” Her eyes picked up at that. I let it go. “But your mashed taters – mmmmm-mmm! If I ate nothin’ else for the rest of my life it would be that. (I learned later that she put chives and mayo an’ some kind of seasoning salt in ‘em.)

“Well, thank you, Slim.” The grin she was holdin’ back told me that she was gonna hold her secret recipe tight. I couldn’t cook no-way anyhoo.

We went out back to sit and “watch the morning glories grow”. Her words. First order of conversation, after a spell of flower-watchin’, was to tell one another about ourselves. Somehow, I convinced her to go first and that we could trade off, pieces at a time. She fessed up to ownin’ the motel. It was built by her daddy when she was off to California after bein’ born an’ raised right there in Cerrillos. She cleans rooms when her help has to be off. Ralph tends the counter six nights a week. He works at the feed mill days, trying to get enough money to move away. “He never will,” she added.

When I asked if she’d ever married, she gave me a look that said my turn.

“Naw, I never married. Got to Santa Fe in ’70. Prospectin’.” It bein’ 1971, her confused look was understandable.

“Really? For what?”

“Gold or silver, either one.” I thought it would be safe enough to say that. Surely there were still a few old codgers out there.

“You do know that owning bullion is against the law.”

Her eyes bore into me. “Well, there’s laws, and there’s laws. Anyway, I bought that Bronco and drove here from Denver. Were you married?” I shut my trap, afraid to scare her by revealin’ too much.

“Yes. I married a truck driver that used to deliver to this area. That’s when I moved to California. We had a daughter, MaryLou.”

I physically flinched. She looked at me to see if I was hurt. The name MaryLou was mighty close to LouAnne.

“We lost her in ’64. That’s when I got a divorce and moved back here. I didn’t even know that my mother was sick. She had cancer. I got here in time to help. Then Dad died just a few months after she did. A heartache, is my belief.”

We both sat quiet for a spell. She hadn’t said anything that might explain her busted lip.

“Your side is falling a little short, Slim. It’s like you skipped over the first half, and then skipped over the second half.”

Her smile made me want to open my craw and empty it out at her feet. I felt terrible. I started out at the easiest ‘cause I didn’t want to leave yet.

“I was born in Arkansas.”

I guess I waited too long ‘cause she asked when that was. Not like a lawman would, but gently.

“09,” I told her, thinkin’ up a number that might sound right and me not have to outright lie and say 1900 instead of 1800. “My oldest brother inherited the farm. I chose to go west. Santa Fe first. All around these parts, then a few years here in Cerrillos, workin’ close by.”

She allowed me a little rest before urging me on. I told her about comin’ to Colorado, namin’ the mountain peaks.

“And something happened. You lost your eye, and spent some time in a hospital. You haven’t been in prison, but a hospital long enough to lose your body mass and strength.”

Her analysis was just about dead on. It wasn’t no statement, but a question. I could tell. I just nodded.

“Slim. I don’t believe you would lie to me. Not after enjoying my cooking.” She smiled. “But I know when I’m not hearing the truth. Right now is the time to tell it. I don’t care if you had a stroke, have cancer, if you’re dying this very day. I’ve lived through lying and I won’t anymore.”

I watched the flowers grow for a minute, swallowin’ hard. I think she knew I was workin’ up the strength the way my lips kept openin’ and smackin’ back shut. “Sometimes the truth is hard to believe,” I said, blinkin’ hard enough to stifle back a tear. Her nod told me to go ahead an’ try. So I did. I told her everything, everything except the part about LouAnne and her bein’ why I came back to Cerrillos. I told her about prospectin’, hidin’ from Indians, findin’ gold, gettin’ shot, and about 80 some years in the institution.

“A hundred and twenty, you say. That’ll take a little, I don’t know … something. A hundred and twenty?” She said as if not actually comprehending the number the first time.

“I know there’s more, Slim, but you’ve had a very rough day. Would you come back and see me tomorrow?”

I nodded I would and walked as upright as I could, stopping to thank her for the meal and to say goodnight before rounding the corner. I couldn’t imagine what she thought.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Suzanne: long-term care aide who took an interest in Slim's well-being
Marian (Mary) Cerrillos motel owner

The tune has nothing to do with the story. Just thought I'd pitch it.

Chapter 7
Right in the Eye, ch 7

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary became friends and began to share their histories.
Mary was fascinated with my tales. I made light of some pretty hair-raisin’ episodes. We found that we enjoyed playing at words with each other. Little word games, the way English words can mean so many different things. She described a game she and her friends played whenever they went to Santa Fe. Bowling. We had fun, me kinda not understandin’ the bowl part on purpose. Like after my first bite of her taters: “These’re awful!” She laughed ‘til she had to hold her belly. She explained that I might want to say awesome, knowing I meant good by the expression of my eye. Then we deliberately said awful for things good just to get a laugh. There was a lot of that sort of palaver. After a few drives that we took, both of us preferrin’ that she did the driving, she asked why every bad move by someone labelled them girls: ‘C’mon, girls, don’t take all day. “Why do they have to be girls?”
I just laughed, not havin’ a good answer. Then she started doin’ the same, just to get a response from me. There was a lot of that, too.

I wasn’t tryin’ to make jokes, but a lotta time I have the habit, or style, of repeatin’ her last word. Somehow she thought that was the most hilarious thing: “Don’t you think that’s funny?” – “Funny.” “Let’s have lunch.” – “Lunch.” “Let’s get you a library card. The bookmobile comes every week.” – “Bookmobile.” (Sometimes I tried to trick her up that way. She thought that was funny.) Truth was, she knew lots more words'n I did. And she was a lot quicker thinkin', too.

And she was funny. And not just with wordplay. Like the first time she did a peculiar contortion and then pulled her bra out from her sleeve. I ‘bout died. After finally settlin’ down, she calmly explained that the girls weren’t much into bondage. She just smiled as I fell plumb outta my chair.

We found each other handily the next several days, always somehow crossing paths. I don’t think it was just my stories of bein’ alert while in a coma, either. Or the things about the last century. I think she liked me as much as I did her. We found the same things humorous. She set another lawn chair beside mine and we’d sit and talk for long stretches. We took walks and hikes every day for the next few. She was helping with my PT, as they called it in the hospital. Around town, up and down small hills outside town, and even across the track where she said Thomas Edison and Teddy Roosevelt had lighted. There was music playing a lot, here and there. I’d catch on to a word in our talkin’ that reminded me of a song, prob’ly some I’d heard in the hospital. She could always come back with the second line and often the whole verse or chorus. Then we’d just resume our talkin’, with silly grins in our voices. When I was followin’ on narrow trails I sometimes misquoted: ‘I’m yer butt watcher’, singin’ it … sort of. Without missin’ a beat she’d : ‘Watchin’ girls go by, Oh, my, my.’ She didn’t offend easily. Not that I wanted to, I was just a little more out there than she was.

Mary got me to read a Louis Lamour book. I told her it was accurate enough, but kinda condensed. That sort of action didn’t happen that often. But mostly, the sex stuff wasn’t like that, in my experience anyway. People weren’t that out there about it. The Zane Grey story was a little too tidy for me, too neatly wrapped up. We also watched some westerns on the television. I told her they were nice stories, but I thought that in reality the bad guy wins more often than not. There was one guy who never lost his hat in a fight. Another who got himself beat near to death before he even started fightin’, then won the fight. And of course, I counted the shots. Why, them guns never run outta bullets. But the horses, oh my Lord. There’d be dead horses all over the plains the way they treat ‘em. But they were funny, I’ll give ‘em that for entertainment. Just as long as you don’t go believin’ it.


“There’s more, Slim,” she said after a couple weeks. “I gave you enough time. We know one another well enough now. What is it? Did you get jilted, and you’re still in love? We hold hands and you’re the perfect gentleman. But I can feel it. Did you do something horrible that you’re embarrassed about? Were you a bandit, posing as a prospector? What? Everyone deserves second chances in life. You have the perfect opportunity.

“I’m going to trust you with what I’ve left out, too.” Mary added. "I'll start. Maybe make it easier for you."

 There was a long pause. I was grateful for the time... for lettin’ me decide what to admit to, or figure out how to say it. Whadn’t nothin’ like that. It was her. She was cryin’.

“My ex-husband blamed me for our daughter’s death. MaryLou was what they termed a free spirit.  I didn’t want to break that spirit. You know what I mean?”

Naturally, I thought of my LouAnne. How her free spirit was prob’ly what got her into her situation.

“She went to a party one night. The next we saw her was in the morgue.  Well, I got the beating of my life. Cracked two ribs and broke one. Bruised my face up pretty good, too.”

I remembered her swollen lip. I thought that she’d had a rough time, alright. Somethin’ to keep back. I guess I sighed, or somethin’.

“That’s not it, though. I told you he was a trucker. Well, he still is. Gets a break every two or three weeks. About half of those he’s close enough to come here. He doesn’t accept that we’re divorced.”

I knew what she was sayin’. I squeezed her hand, raisin’ her up to stand. She was nearly the same height as me. We hugged. Right there in the front of the motel. My lips touched her neck, but I didn’t kiss, as much as I wanted to.

We were both quiet a good little bit. She felt when I was about to speak, interrupting my start. “After supper tonight?” she asked. I agreed.

Supper was the smallest steak I’d ever seen on a plate, but it was all I could handle, what with the pile of her mashed taters.

“There was, is … was and is, I guess. There was a woman here in Cerrillos.” I saw a slight nod. “Her name was LouAnne.”

“Oh, my Lord!” she nearly shouted. “In the 1870’s?” She got up and fetched a picture album. After turning a few pages, she stopped at a town scene of a hundred people, or so. She let me look.

I pointed to a blurry gal on a balcony. Although the focus was on the people at street level, I was sure. “That’s the Yellow Cactus. I can’t make out the face, but I recognize the dress.” It was a Mexican flared thing, one shoulder bare. Her hair was a lot lighter than the other ladies’.

Now, I was cryin’. Quiet like, just tears and a little chokin’ an’ clearin’ my throat.

“I know she was a prostitute,” Mary said.

“Not with me, she wasn’t!” I was a little too adamant. “I loved her. I’d never been with a woman.” Mary knew what I meant. “I wouldn’t do that with her. And I never would after with someone I didn’t love as much as I loved her.” Mary’s eyes told me she understood that I was a 120-year-old virgin. “Seein’ other men use her was more’n I could take. It was either kill them, take her away against her will … I think she’d’ve gone with me, but we’d soon be caught. It wouldn’t go well for her. Anyway, I had to leave. Everything else I told you is true, like I said it.”

“I don’t know the story, but she had a baby, a little girl, my grandmother born in 1880. This picture was at the museum here in town that closed twenty or thirty years ago. My mother got a copy.

“My Lord of Mercy! LouAnne Mitchell! The story goes that she died with no teeth at all. Not a one!” Mary stared at the photo along with Slim. “She never did marry. Had her baby, a girl, and then died shortly after. The baby, my grandmother, was taken in by the folks that owned one of the hotels. She married a farmer whose wife passed in delivery. She was only fourteen, my grandmother.”

I stared at LouAnne. After a moment I said, “I came here to try to, I don’t know, to feel her. Then I don’t know, sit down and die, I guess.”

Mary squeezed my hand, raising me to my feet. This time we did kiss.

“Now we have a problem,” Mary said. “Did you kiss LouAnne, or me?”

“LouAnne,” I choked, knowing that she could sense a lie.

She nodded. “I don’t mind, Slim. I don’t hold it against you. But I want you to know. I won’t allow you to ever kiss another woman again.”

We laughed like crazy people. I looked at Mary, not like she was LouAnne, but like she was Mary.

Not wanting to water down the moment, we went to the kitchen for dessert.

“Slim,” she said. “You can’t afford to live at the motel. I have a spare room. I’m not offering to play married, understand, I just want to get to know you better. If you can’t stay at the motel, I might lose you.”

“How ‘bout I fetch my gear right now?” I asked. We both laughed like crazy people.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Marian (Mary): Cerrillos motel owner
MaryLou: Mary's daughter

Chapter 8
Right in the Eye, ch 8

By Wayne Fowler

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

In the last part Slim fully disclosed to Mary and learned that she was his LouAnne’s great granddaughter.


A couple weeks later, while I was waitin’ for Mary to finish fixin’ supper, I heard a diesel rig pull up to the motel parking lot. I could see that it was the same one as preceded Mary’s fat lip. I fetched the 30-30 that I’d been able to buy with Mary’s signature and identification, gettin’ to one of the front yard lawn chairs before he arrived.

“Who’re you?” he demanded. “You think you’re gonna shoot me?” He acted like he thought that would never happen. “Try it. I’ll wrap it around yer head, shot or not.”

I cocked it, ejecting the round that was already chambered. I knew that would happen, but did it for effect anyway. “You haven’t done anything justifyin’ shootin’ you yet,” I said, “But that truck out there has made me mad. I don’t mind blastin’ those tires from here, or from across the street after I leave. And that front windshield puts off a glare I don’t cotton to. I figure by then you’ll have done somethin’ to make me mad at your kneecaps, both of ‘em. I sounded dead serious, even to myself. I guess to him, too, since he turned and walked away.

An hour and a half later I felt the urge to use the bathroom. I once saw a feller that got hung whose bowels emptied during, or just after death. Folks said that was common. Not wantin’ that to happen to me in Mary’s house, I thought that I better take care of that the sooner the better. My timing couldn’t have been worse. Jackson, that was what Mary called him, was in the house when I came out. He was between me an’ the rifle. I didn’t say anything, just set my jaw, thinkin’ about what he’d do after takin’ care of me, him outweighin’ me by eighty pounds and a half foot taller.

He was quick, too. Next thing I knew I was bein’ choked around the neck, fixin’ to pass out. I was wantin’ to gouge his eyes out, but couldn’t get around his thick arms. I tried to kick at his groin, but he just turned a little bit. I would slide to the floor if he’d let me. The slobber comin’ out of his mouth was the last thing my eye saw. Then there was release. I tried to suck in air, but was havin’ a hard time at it. Mary was sitting right on top of Jackson’s head tryin’ to coax air into me. She left and came back with a wet wash rag for my face. There was blood on her hands. Finally, my lungs filled up and I could stand. Jackson lay there in a heap, one bloody spot in the middle of his back and a butcher knife buried to the hilt in another spot where I figure his heart would be.

We kissed, Mary and I, she offering her whole self to me, her arms wrapped around my chest, under my arms.

“No, Slim. We tell it just like it happened and let the chips fall.” She was resolute. I was of a mind to take the blame. Declare that we fought and I stabbed him, twice. Mary wouldn’t hear of it. “And spend the rest of your life in another institution?” I’ll admit, that didn’t sound too appealing.

Turned out the law, a county deputy sheriff showing up first, knew all about ol’ Jackson and his antics. Mary’s bruisin’ tracked pretty regular with Jackson’s visits. People talk. ‘Course the deputy wasn’t the last word on the matter, but that’s how we hoped it would work out in the end – self-defense and the defense of another. Mary saved my life. She said I saved hers. Either way …

Trouble was, even though everybody who came in to investigate – starting from the first deputy to the sheriff, the investigator, the prosecutor, even the coroner – every one of them wanted not just to know who I was, but wanted identification. All I had was a Social Security card. Of course, they wanted to know how I could get that without an I.D.

The next day the deputy came for me to take me to the county investigator’s office in Durango for some questions. I took my Social Security card.

Mary and I talked it through all night long startin’ as soon as the last one left, followin’ Jackson’s body out the door. I again allowed that I could take the blame, but I’ll admit, with the evidence pointin’ to Mary, conflicting with that only confused a pretty simple thing. “The truth was always better,” Mary had said. I could just light out. I knew the hills, where there was water and shacks. No law said I had to hang around. “And just come down every few days to hold my hand? Like you did LouAnne?” Mary’s argument hurt.

“Slim, they already ran your name through the state, prob’ly called the FBI. It’ll get to Denver by tomorrow, sure.”

“I could leave the state,” I said. It sounded about as lame to me as her.

“Why? And your Bronco isn’t tagged. You’d get pulled over wherever you went. I’m sorry, Slim. I should have thought it through. I guess I was living a fantasy, somehow thinking that Jackson would just move on.”

I hugged her. “Mary,” I whispered into her ear, “Ninety years on my back is a small price to pay for helpin’ get him out of your life. Naw. We’ll play it out. The truth, just like you said.”

Then I was in Durango with Detective Albion, bein’ inquisited.

“Mister Goldman, why don’t you tell us your real name? Starting with your first name so we can at least be on more friendly terms here.”

The investigator was one that came to Mary’s and saw it all laid out. He seemed to accept the facts as we told ‘em, seein’ for himself how it was. I was a little too slow, I guess, so he went to talkin’ again. There in Durango he was a bit different.

“Have you had a stroke, Slim? Would you like some water, or anything?”

Too slow again. Guess he was used to people poppin’ off right quick.

“See, way I see it, Marian might have hired you to sit with her … wait for Jackson to show up. Heck, everybody in Cerrillos knew he was beating and using her. She bought the gun after you showed up. You stayed in the motel for a bit for respectability’s sake, then moved into her house. Waitin’ for Jackson. Ralph was minding the motel when Jackson drove up. Ralph said he’d never before left out again after only a few minutes. Then he saw Jackson come back on foot, going around back to Marian’s. Only you messed up and didn't get to the rifle in time.

“See, to an impartial eye, that’s the makings of murder-for-hire. A stranger shows up. And a man is killed.”

I fair jumped outta my seat.

“Another thing: you don’t add up. You are a mystery. And I don’t like mysteries. Maybe in a book, but around here, I wanna know what’s goin’ on, and who’s doin’ it.

“Slim,” he said, real stern like. “That murder-for-hire thing is alive only because I don’t know who you are. See, you put the question to the whole thing. Your name isn’t Slim. We both know that. And no other I.D. but a card that can be doped? Come on, Slim. Now, what’s your name?”

“Herschell Diddleknopper.” I lowered my head in shame, not knowin’ what was next.

He laughed right out loud. I raised my head to share the chuckle.

“Now, Slim, you’ve gone and made it worse. How ‘bout we cool you to talking temperature with a few days in our nice little window-bar motel? I can keep you here until The Millionaire comes with a Philadelphia lawyer. You know, the tax-free million dollars show?

“Look, Herschell, Slim. We’re good with what happened yesterday. We are. But we can’t let someone walk who might be Palladin, off to take his gun and travel to another job. You can understand that, right?

“Now. Your name.” He repositioned his pencil in his hand, ready to write.

“Sir, I’ve been Slim since before I could talk. Only way I knew my real front name was when a school teacher sent me home to learn it. I can’t even spell it. Got shot right in the eye when I was thirty-five.” I held back the year, hopin’ we wouldn’t have to get that far into my tale and go and make things even worse.

“You can take me an’ exeray my head an’ see the slug still in there. I went to Cerrillos for old times’ sake. Met Mary and, well … we hit it off. That’s the whole shebang.”

He dropped his pencil and leaned back, borin’ into my good eye.

Finally, he picked up his pencil, leaned in, pointin’ it at me. “Okay, Slim. Okay. We got something to run with, things we can check on. But tell me. Why didn’t you register your vehicle? Why don’t you have a driver’s license? Why did you have Marian buy the rifle in her name? And why do you use the name Goldman?

“Nope. You’re gonna have a little time to get your story straight.”

He left the room, callin’ out somebody’s name to come get me. He wasn’t gonna much like my answers to those questions anyway.

A couple hours into my drunk-tank stay, a jailer came for me to spell Diddleknopper best I knew, take my picture, and get my fingerprints. I started lookin’ for a way to bust out. That was before noon on a Thursd’y. Frid’y just after my evenin’ gruel, some kinda slop worse’n they fed me durin’ the Great Depression years, Detective Albion came for me. He was the one workin’ the case, the one thought my name was so funny. Made a big deal about wantin’ ta know everything happened in his district.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Marian (Mary) Cerrillos motel owner, LouAnne's great granddaughter
Jackson: Mary's ex-husband
Detective Albion: Colorado state investigator

Hang on, we'll get to Ben Paul soon.

Chapter 9
Right in the Eye, ch 9

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary fall in love. Her ex-husband and Slim fight. Mary kills her ex. Slim is investigated as a possible murder-for-hire suspect.


“Pack your bag, Slim. We’re going for a ride.” It was detective Albion.

I didn’t have a bag, and he knew it. Guess it was just his way. He walked faster’n I could. Had to kinda jog to keep up with him to his car, a personal car it looked like, since it was a green pick-up truck. He hadn’t said another word ‘til we were on the highway.

“Had a real nice visit from your girlfriend, Mrs. Worley. She’s a good one, Slim. Cool-headed, smart, and persuasive. More persuasive than you. Even if she did have a tale that was, well … sort of unbelievable.”

I guessed that Mary told him my story, convinced him.

“We were still talkin’ when I got a call from Denver. Seems you’re pretty important to some Colorado uppity-ups. They called the FBI in on it. There’s only one thing upsets me more’n gettin’ called away from my wife’s dinner table … and that’s for the Feds to take a case away from me. It’s happened twice, and you know what they say.”

I didn’t know what they said. But I think it was workin’ for me.

“I just happen to have a cousin across town that’s a veterinarian. And he has an x-ray machine in his clinic. Now. If you’re willing to let me have a peek inside, I might be convinced to lean in your direction. Not sayin’ I buy everything your Marian said, but it’s proved out so far. And like we’ve said before, all you’re guilty of in Colorado is driving without a license. And the Bronco is illegal to drive.”


“Aren’t you somethin’,” the vet exclaimed toward Albion as he unlocked the door to let me and the detective in. “Missed you at the picnic.”

“Yeah, got a call-out halfway there.”

“That’s what Jean said.”

The vet introduced himself to me, shakin’ my hand.

“This won’t be like when I x-rayed your hand,” he said, lookin’ at Albion. “That was a lot like a dog’s leg. A man’s head will take a stronger burn.

“Oh, sorry Slim. I didn’t mean burn in that sense. Just a stronger, uh, beam. You won’t feel a thing.”

“’Preciate it, Al. Like I said on the phone, I just need a little help in the believing area with this guy.”

“A bullet in the eye, huh, Slim?”

“Right in the eye,” I answered.

After the exeray they plopped me in the waitin’ room. Prob’ly so Albion could tell my story. Payment for the exeray.

It was about twenty minutes before they came out. The vet locked the door behind us after lettin’ us to the parkin’ lot. Albion didn’t say anything until we got in his truck.

He looked at me hard before talkin’. “You have about a hundred years scar tissue growth around that bullet.”

He shook his head an’ stuck to his driving. It was several miles before he spoke again.

“Here’s the deal. Paperwork is gonna show we cut you loose after 24 hours because there was no paper on you, no warrants. Slim Goldman is not wanted in Colorado. Your Herschell secret is safe with me. I happen to know that there are no warrants for that name either, but the Feds don’t need to learn your real name. I want you and your Bronco out of state like right now. And drive so’s you don’t get stopped. You be well advised to go back to Missouri, or Arkansas, or wherever, and get a birth certificate. But that’s up to you. That’s the best way to lose the Goldman name that might get you hauled away. All I’m saying is that Cerrillos is not any place for you to be for a while. Get it? Southern Colorado is my beat. Get it? And I don’t especially care for what I don’t understand.

“See, I… Let’s just say I got a thumb on things around these parts.”

I got it. I was something he didn’t feel he could keep his thumb on. He let me off at an all-night truck stop and gave me his card, Donald Albion. Told me to have anyone call him if I thought it might help some minor entanglement. He called Mary and told her where to find me.

Driving back home, Mary let me out at a motel in Madrid, a little town south of Cerrillos. She’d either call, or come get me in the morning before my check-out time. She was bein’ careful considerin’ who might be at Cerrillos lookin’ for me.

Check-out time came an’ went. No call, no show. I bought a canteen, some beef jerky, and a package of crackers at what passed as a general store and took out to the west hills figurin’ to get around and across the Galisteo River, which was prob’ly dry, unseen. Come dark I could get to the Bronco, which was parked at her place. I left the key in it. Should still be there. If I could get it out without crashin’ into too much I might make it. Call Mary from somewhere.

Despite my still weak condition, I made it fine. Fell a few times. Got hung up on a wire fence that shouldn’ta been there. A piece of deadwood for a walkin’ stick helped a lot.  It was plenty dark to hide, but was light enough to see to walk. Got a lot of stick cactus pricks, though. The other eye mighta helped.

I saw a dark sedan outside Mary’s house. The weather was cold, but I knew a vacant dog house around the corner that I could fit into. The next mornin’ I got ‘em at the Cousins to give Mary a call for me. Told ‘em I turned my ankle an’ needed her to come get me. They handed me the phone. Mary started talkin’ right away.

“No, tell him he can’t have a room today without paying first. He knows the deal. No, we don’t want a check. He could probably cash one at the Starlite Caberet tomorrow at noon when the owner gets there. They serve a decent lunch, anyway. Good luck.”

That was all I needed to know. Either the FBI, or Denver, or both were there lookin’ for me. At noon the next day, after another night in the doghouse, I was at the Starlite. Across the street an’ down just a little was an auto repair shop. That’s where Mary stopped an’ got out of her car to go into the shop for a minute. I’d spoken with Ray, the mechanic, before. You couldn’t say nothin’ to him in just a minute. Tellin’ him it wouldn’t start would take ten, at least. Mary knocked on the sedan window, it having stopped just behind her. Then she took off at a brisk walk back toward the motel and her home. I saw the sedan driver spin like a top, tryin’ to decide whether she’d brought the car out for me to escape in, or if she was going to meet me somewhere else, or what. He stayed with the car, letting her get out of sight around a corner.

That’s when I thanked the kind lady at the Starlite and ran myself out the back headin’ for my Bronco at Mary’s. Once there, it was quick work to get on the highway pointed north. Didn’t even look for Mary to wave. Next time I called her, she said, “Tell him we should have room for his group in a couple weeks. To try back then.” I sure wish we coulda spoke.

I don’t know how she did it, but there was a tote in the front seat with some clothes and some money. And a note that said she loved me. My eye leaked like a holey bucket.

Alamosa was just as bad as I’d remembered. First thing I saw was a public drunk. Then a cop car racin’ down the road with lights and sirens goin’. There was a military surplus store, so I bought a pup tent and sleepin’ bag. A grocery had what I needed to keep outta sight for a couple weeks. There’d be plenty hideouts on Medano Creek up Mount Herard outside a’ Alamosa.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Marian (Mary) Cerrillos motel owner, LouAnne's great granddaughter
Detective Albion: Colorado state investigator

Chapter 10
Right in the Eye, ch 10

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Detective Albion proved Slim to be ancient with an x-ray. Slim slipped into hiding to avoid the FBI or any Denver authorities.


We were livin’ together, gettin’ to know each other by the middle of the next month. That past ordeal behind us. People would think what they wanted, but we were respectful of boundaries. I could live with it, or not live at all. That was the way I felt about it. I told her that I loved her one day. Truth was that I was likin’ her more every single day. I even considered it close enough to love to count. She changed a little bit after the Jackson affair, but not a lot. The furrow in her brow disappeared altogether. I think she felt more free to be herself. But she felt the same about me as I her. I knew it.

I didn’t much even think about Mary bein’ my LouAnne’s great granddaughter anymore.

“What’s going to happen?” Mary asked after I bit into the first pizza I ever had in my life. The pizza I thought was a tad short on peppers to be Mex, and a bit heavy on tamater to be Arkansas food. Might take a bit a' gettin' used to.

I think I knew what she meant - what was gonna happen. I was 120, but looked 55, and not showin’ any sign of aging. She was 61, looked and acted 50, but knew that she would change a lot in the next ten years, or so. Not havin'n answer, I didn't. I think she knew I didn't, so she didn't ask again.

“I love how you wake up.” I gently laid my arm over Mary’s side the next morning as we lay facing one another. “You stir just a might, here and there. Take a short breath, and just so casually open your eyes. Then, boom, you’re awake and alert, ready to go.”

Mary smiled. “You’ve been studying me?”

“Every mornin’. The same way. I could get up and make the coffee, but then I’d miss your sunrise. You know, I thought I loved your great grandmother.”

“Oh, go on,” Mary chided, reaching and poking me in his ribs. “You say the most romantic things.”

I chuckled at the absurdity. “But I didn’t even know her, not really. Oh, she was beautiful, sure enough. She’d put a smile on my face in a quick. But you, Mary Darlin’, you put a smile in my heart. You make my eye happy, my ears happy, happy all over. My fingers and toes go all tingly. I could dance a jig layin’ here beside you.”

“Slim, only one thing I know to do about all that,” Mary replied.

My eye popped.

Grinning, Mary continued. “And that’s that we get married. Sooner the better. Today.”

After a few exchanges I told her that I fell in love with her, not a spring chick that I could only have fun with. Her. I like the packaging, but wanted the prize inside. Her. I would not leave an old hen for any other spring chick. As bad as the words were, I think she read my heart. “Mary, my heart is a hunnerd an’ twenty years old, no matter what my skin does. My old heart could quit before I finish this sentence. It’s no more fair for me to ask you to risk that, than for you to risk marryin’ what could, I guess, turn out to look like your son. I don’t know, could you follow any of that? What I’m sayin’ is, I’m willin’ if you are.

“Darlin’,” I started out again, prob’ly the way I should have before. “You are the most beautiful woman in the world. I’d be so proud I couldn’t stand it if you’d be my beautiful bride. I like everything about you – your smile, your lips, your hair, your shape (She blushed at that. I moved along without lingering), your mashed taters, your business sense. We have so much other stuff in common it ain’t funny. I like your moral convictions. We maybe don’t agree on everything, but I like that you have beliefs and convictions. Darlin’, I’m sayin’ that all adds up to I love you. I can’t stand that we waste any more time before gettin’ married and declarin’ our commitment to each other.”

It was June, 1971. Her birthday was July 4, believe it or not. “How about 7-1-71?” she asked. “We could celebrate my birthday, Independence Day, and our anniversary all at once.”

We kissed, she offering her whole self to me. I felt giddy like a 120-year-old teenager. On July first, we cleaned up real good, wearin’ our best, and drove over to the parsonage of the church in Cerrillos that preached the way we believed. We told the pastor that we’d take care of the recordin’ and all if he’d marry us. He did. We did, too. Framed it over the bed.

Oh, and while I was up on Mount Herard? Well, with the Bronco I wasn’t all that far from the mine where I got shot right in the eye. Yup. I’d been prepared for claim jumpers. Stashed my bootie some fifty yards up a real hard embankment. It was right there, too. Close to six pounds of nearly pure nuggets, only a little quartz clingin’ here an’ there. Mary and I should be fine!

An’ no sign that the claim jumpers made another scratch. Guess that made ‘em simple robbers.

I took good note of the terrain and landmarks just in case Mary and I wanted to do a little serious minin’. Prob’ly not, though. I figure I already had the mother-load kissin’ me good night and good mornin’ every day.

Author Notes Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben Persons rescued in 1886
Ben Persons: young man with a calling from God
LouAnne: Saloon girl that Slim loved/idolized.
Marian (Mary): Cerrillos motel owner, LouAnne's great granddaughter
Detective Albion: Colorado police investigator

Ben Paul soon, I promise.

Chapter 11
Right in tthe Eye, ch 11

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary were married.


“You know, Mary,” I started out, sittin’ in the chill on the porch with our coffee steamin’, the cups keeping our hands warm.

Mary waited me out.

“I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about the man that pulled me out of the rocks, off the mountain. Ben Persons. Nearly a hunnerd years ago an’ it’s like it was last week. Actually, take away the coma years and Ben was only a few months back.

“He talked to me all the while he took me to help. When he wasn’t talkin’, he was prayin’. You know? Like, to God, like he was his friend. Oh, he asked God to favor me quite a bit, but mostly he thanked him for this an’ that: his horse, the weather holdin’ out, the food he ate, ‘bout everything. And he quoted Bible right to God. Yeah, he did. Right from his head, reminded God what all he’d said and what all he’d promised. Like God needed remindin’. But it was good, not all high and mighty, but like between friends. Here’s some I remember: “God, you said you’d guide my steps, guide me with your counsel, be a lamp to my feet, you are my strength, who should I be afraid of.” I might not have it all right, but he’d go on, and on.

“Mary, I need to know who Ben was talkin’ to. I feel like my bein’ alive today is ‘cause of his prayin’.”

“I would too, Slim, like to know who he was praying to. I don’t believe you’ve been spared and cared for all these years just to enjoy my taters.”

We both laughed, spillin’ our coffee, the both of us.


Only way I knew to find Ben Persons’ God was to find Ben Persons. Mary was game. We both knew that Ben would likely be 110 or 120 years old. Most likely gone on. But if his prayers, if that’s what done it for me, could give me years, maybe that same power would do the same for him. But maybe too, that bullet in my brain was affecting the aging thing. We didn’t care. We would go up to Creede where we knew Ben was at one time.

“Some pretty rough roads up there,” I said.

Mary just smiled at me. I smiled back. I think the lazy part of my face might have smiled along with the good side. It felt like it, and was getting more tingly all the time. Anyway, I knew she was probably right, that the roads, even if dirt, were much improved over the last 80-90 years. I let her do the packing since I really had no idea how to do it. I did insist on the 30-30, though. The world would never be rid of varmints.

“How ‘bout the assay office?” I asked, thinking maybe Ben might have registered my claim in his name. Who wouldn’t? It had promise. Just bury them two scoundrels and start filling your pouch while digging for the vein.

“Won’t be any of those,” Mary said. “Big business, big mining just about took over. They have mineral rights pretty much sewed up.”

For a minute there I have to admit I was glad I’d brought the rifle.

I won’t be sharing this with Mary; I love her too much. But when she checked us into a room at a hotel that coulda been over a hunnerd years old… Oh my quiverin’ loins. I really thought I could be took back to the days of LouAnne. If I let it, my mind would see LouAnne checking us into a hotel.

“Are you okay?” Mary asked.

Her concern for my health might not be the same if she only knew that I was thinking about seeing her great grandmother naked and in my arms. I took a few deep breaths and thought about Mary, seein’ her for herself.

“Uh, yeah. Memories, I guess.”

Mary’s concern for me held on. We were gonna start in right off with our investigating, but decided to clean up and have a nap. Only we didn’t do no sleeping. Lord, have mercy. After a hunnerd an’ twenty years for things to just start working like this. Nobody’d believe it. But that’s all right; ‘cause we ain’t tellin’.

“No Persons in the phone book,” Mary said after she got dressed. “We’ll go to the library in the morning.”

“How ‘bout the livery, or what serves as one? Everybody’s horse gets shod, or what serves for horses. Every automobile needs somethin’.”

Mary nodded. “Okay…”

That word is beginning to get into my list of words… O.K. I knew about the OK corral, but we just didn’t use the initials like they was a word.

“… We’ll go to the garages first, since the library doesn’t open until nine.”

Since we got up so early, we decided to take a stroll through the graveyard. I was a little disappointed. There were a lot of plain rocks that served as markers where there might have been folks I knew underneath ‘em.

“Lotta babies,” I said.

“Sad, isn’t it? Still far too many that don’t live to be adults, even in this modern age of medicine,” Mary replied.

“Look Here!” I was really excited. “John D. Watson, 1821-1899. He was the sheriff here in Creede. I didn’t know him, but I knew who he was. I tried my hand just up there on Bachelor Loop. Watson was sheriff. I c’n almost see young Ben as a deputy. But I might just be wantin’ to, know what I mean? Like it ain’t a real memory.”

“Well, maybe they have historical records at the sheriff’s office. We’ll add that to our investigation.”

I felt a pull to a modest stone with the name Howard Jones, 1828- 1902, but had no recollection at all. The same with one for Rev. Lester Parnell, 1856-1928, to the same result.

We were through with the graveyard. Then while we walked past one that our heads must’ve been turned from the first time by, there it was Benjamin Persons, ‘A Good Man’ 1861-1886. I was torn up, sobbin’ inside. 25 years old. And not long after he helped me. But somethin’ wasn’t right. The pull I had at other stones wasn’t there. That was too odd.
“Could we keep on with our investigatin’?” I asked Mary.

“Slim, we didn’t expect he’d still be alive, right?”

I finally said no, but she knew I didn’t mean it.

After looking at every stone and marker, we drove to the two garages. One was owned by a man named Jon Tolsen, but he was in a nursing home in Alamosa. Wouldn’t do no good to go there, though. He was in for some kind of dementedness. Didn’t know his own name.

“Yes, ma’am, yes sir. J.D. Watson was the sheriff from 1866 to 1889. Our photo gallery pictures only go back to 1899, though. There’s no record here if he retired, or was voted out. And there’re no records at all of deputies. Maybe at the library?”

Mary thanked the officer and we headed for the library. Funny word. Hard for me to say like Mary does. Most ever’body just makes one r in it: libary. The manager gave us a Creede history book that we could only look at inside the libary.  

“It looks like it’s vanity press, Slim. So it isn’t going to be official, somebody named Sylvia Adams. I’m sure she did her best, but no one had to tell her the truth.”

We sat down at a table to look it over. Trouble was, I was just a passin’ though prospector. Names didn’t mean hardly nothin’ to me. There were a few old pictures, but you couldn’t hardly make nothin’ out. The portraits were all strangers to me. We didn’t see the name Persons anywhere. And then we did. A whole chapter about him and three others going after a man named Salinger, Mason Salinger. That was where Ben died, in a cave-in that killed him and Salinger, both. It was a big deal for the town. Sylvia Adams said the church had a big revival starting with his memorial service.

There wasn’t any more about Ben, of course, since he was dead. The last page of the book gave the author’s address. Guess where we were headed next.

Chapter 12
Right in the Eye, ch 12

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary decided to investigate in order to discover Ben’s God. They found his Creede gravestone and learn much of Creede’s history. They look up the local historian, Livvy’s granddaughter.


“Yes, my grandmother was Livvy Ferlonson. She knew Ben Persons. She told me that she would have married him. I remember when we buried her husband up on the hill, William Ferlonson. We were walking past the gravestone of a man that I noticed Grandma looked at. I asked her about the A Good Man inscription. That was when she told me the story – about Ben not being under the stone.”

We waited for her to tell us the story.

I let out a sigh that you could call a groan when she said there wasn’t anyone under that stone.

“He was a good man!” Mary exclaimed.

Sylvia nodded her head.

I was cryin’. Not sobbin’, but tears were flowin’ pretty good. I couldn’t talk.

Finally, Sylvia asked, “Were you related to Ben Persons? Do you know of him?”

“Slim knew him,” Mary said for me.

Sylvia just looked at us like we were crazy. “He would … Oh, my!”

We didn’t tell her that I was an old man, Ol’ Timer, when I knew him.

“California was all Grandma would say about his whereabouts. The day was about Grandpa, so we never talked anymore about the Good Man.”

We thanked her and promised to let her know if we learned anything that might help her with her Creede history project.


It was a powerful long drive, but we done it. We went to the Sacramento Archives building where they kept old records. The information desk was a big help. That was after we checked in to a motel. It was gettin’ easier to check in to a room and be with Mary instead of LouAnne. I think it was the old timiness of that hotel that triggered LouAnne.

Don’t know why we didn’t start with birth certificates. Maybe ‘cause we knew Ben was born in Arkansas. One of the things Ben said as he rambled along to me.

Goin’ by the oldest Ben Person recordings, we found his conviction of murder, and nearly died ourselves. It couldn’t be. Next was his retrial and acquittal. More like it. With nothing else official, we went to micro-fish copies of a newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, of the dates before and after the arrests and trial. We found his name associated with a series of meetings by D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. We also read an article about him escaping prison before executed, or exonerated. Whooie. Poor Ben, God loving, God-fearing Ben.

“What do we do, Mary? Ben was in trouble, and workin’ his ministry all at the same time.”

“Well, it was all in San Francisco. I suppose we go there. The article said Henry Halleck was his lawyer. And the San Francisco phone book has a Halleck Law Firm.”

So we went there, but not until a night of my sweet, sweet Mary consoling me. It jist about killed me that Ben almost hanged. I had gotten myself good ‘n attached to a hunnerd year old memory.


“Sir, Ma’am, that would be in archives, filed away in boxes in another building. I’m sorry.”

It was a receptionist who just answered phones and steered customers in various directions.

Mary took over. “We’ll see your boss. You do have a supervisor, dear.” I’ll swar if it didn’t sound like LouAnne tellin’ a drunk miner to get his hands off her.

The gal hit a buzzer and directly appeared a man in a suit better even than Inspector Albion, that Colorado investigator wore. Soon’s we got into his office, Mary pulled out one of our gold nuggets, the big one that was mixed with quartz. It wasn’t as valuable as some of the others, but shore was purty. She set it on his desk in front of him, Mr. Franks.

Picking it up and gawking at it as he turned it over and over, he asked what he could do for us. Mary told him.

“Ben Persons, you say? 1880s? You come back here tomorrow, say after the lunch hour. And bring this with you. Might have something for you.” He handed the nugget back.

We would be there. We shore would.


We left the well-dressed lawyer admiring his rock as we left with a thick folder of copies. Copies. Can you imagine that?

“Listen to this,” Mary said. She was doin’ all the readin’. She was teachin’ me ta read better. I mean, I could, but not much.

“It says here in what’s called attorney notes that the judge wouldn’t let Ben’s character witnesses testify. Then he lists about thirty people and what they would say.” She put that whole set down and started on another. “Well lookie here. The policemen recanted.”

“Re-canted? Like a horse?”

Mary smiled. “Sort of. They backed up all right. They changed their testimony to seeing Ben attacked first and just struggling to get free of two men, the Chicago gangsters.”

“Chicago? Wha’d Ben have to do with Chicago?”

“Oh my. Here, Slim. Hold this one. See what you can make out.”

I looked at it a minute. “Lotta STOPs.”  I struggled a bit. “It’s a tough one fer me.”

It says that God’s call is taking them to Alaska. I guess someone is with him.”


“Whar were they?”

“Fortuna. The way it reads, the sheriff there didn’t know that Ben had been cleared. So they were going to Alaska.
“Oh dear.”

“Somethin’ wrong?” I asked.

“It’s just that a lot of men on the run went to Alaska. There was a gold rush about that time, too.”

“That sounds like something Ben would go to, where there was a buncha men that needed preachin’ to.”

“How far’s Alaska?” I asked.

“Too far. Our 49th state.”

“49? Why I did miss a lot. We only had 38.”

“Well now there’s 50. All the ones from coast to coast, and then Alaska and Hawaii. Hawaii’s a group of islands 2,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean.”

“You don’t say?”

“Up to Alaska is even farther.”

I just looked her in her right eye with mine. “Whadda we gonna do?”

“You mean after we see that Golden Gate Bridge I’ve heard about all my life?”

I smiled with both sides of my face.

“Then we go get some more juice outta that rock.”

Sounded good to me. Seeing the Golden Gate, we were close to the Presidio, so we had the taxi run us through there. It was mighty nice. I imagined Ben bein’ there. We coulda drove, but after we started to, Mary parked, declaring she wasn’t doin’ no driving on those crazy streets.

“Mrs. Diddleknopper…”

We were back at the Halleck Law Offices. Mary didn’t mind my last name. She coulda kept her maiden name, the one she took back after divorcin’ the truck driver. But she thought Diddleknopper was cute. And dared anybody make fun of it. Hah! My kind of woman, just like her great grandma. Anyway, the lawyer who would squeeze juice outta that nugget was offerin’ ta help.

“… Let’s make a phone call.” The fancy-dressed San Francisco lawyer picked up the phone and called Sacramento. After a few minutes he put his hand over the phone and told us that there were no death certificates for Ben Persons. The only Persons at all was Elizabeth up in Santa Rosa.

He started talking again. Then after listening a bit, he said, “You don’t say. Thank you, Miss…? Miss, Throgmorten. I’ll be sure to put in a word for you to the governor.” He hung up, staring at us like we were ‘posed to guess. Up in the San Juans I’da banged him on his ear with a pickax.

“Your lucky day, folks. Benjamin Paul Persons was born in Santa Rosa, fifty miles or so north of here in 1890. Would make him 81. And we know he’s still alive because there were no death certificates for anyone but Elizabeth, who would have been his mother.

We stood up, thanking Fancy Pants.

After a proper celebration that night in our hotel room, we were drivin’ to Santa Rosa, drove right across that big ol’ bridge. That was sumpin’.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great-granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Does anyone know why the font appears more gray than black?

Chapter 13
Right in the Eye, ch 13

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary met Livvy’s granddaughter. They also traveled to the Halleck law office in San Francisco, learning a great deal of Ben Persons, and that Ben had a son living in Santa Rosa, California. Warning – much preaching in this chapter.


“Rev. Ben Persons. The phone book doesn’t give an address,” Mary said sitting at the desk of our hotel room. It was an older hotel fairly near the train station. And yes, it made me see Mary as LouAnne. I didn’t say anything about it, though.

“Here, he’s the pastor of the King Jesus Church. Right here on Santa Rosa Avenue. We passed it coming in. Luther Burbank’s home and garden is here. I’ve always admired him. Let’s go there tomorrow, and Ben’s church on Sunday."
Whatever Mary wanted, suited me just fine. We were just minutes away from Ben’s son, his namesake. I’ve waited 80 years. I could wait.


We were a bit early, but not early enough. Most of the pews were occupied. There were a lot of young people there – people in their teens or early twenties. Wanting to see and hear good, we asked the kids in the second row from the front if they would scoot over a bit. They were happy to, all giggles and smiles.

It was a bit odd. In the television news, what little I saw, the youngsters were protestin’ a war, marchin’, carryin’ signs, even gettin’ into fusses with police. These ones were right pleasant.

There was a lotta singin’ first. Everybody stood up, so we did too. ‘Course I didn’t know none a’ their tunes, but they were lively. Kids were into ‘em. So was Mary… swayin’ an’ such. Finally, an old codger took the podium. He coulda been Ben’s kid. I could maybe feel it a little.

Once he got through thankin’ ever’body for bein’ there, acknowledging certain ones, he announced that this was his last sermon, at least as pastor. He added the last like they hadn’t seen the end of him yet. Mary and I snapped our eyes together: her two to my one. Later she said as how it had ta be God workin’ the timing.

“Folks, I’ve prayed long and hard about what I should preach today. The worst thing I could do is speak from my head, or even my mind on this, my last sermon. What you need to hear, is what God wants you to hear, whether it’s a fitting last sermon, or my first."

There was some clapping, but the kids around us were quiet, like they were sad it was Ben’s last sermon.

“Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that he gave his life for you. God loves you so much, and he wants you so much that he made a way for you to escape Satan’s clutches. He purified you with Jesus Christ’s pure blood, paying the price for your redemption, paying the price to redeem you from the guilt of your sins. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done … from disobeying your parents, to murder, stabbing someone in the back with a butcher knife.”

That’s when Mary lost it. I woulda, too. She kept it mostly to herself, though, lettin’ Ben keep on preachin’.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a miry pit you can’t climb, or dying on a mountaintop with buzzards about to eat your eyes. God has made a way. Jesus said, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’"
The preacher cleared his throat and kept on a'goin'.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’

“Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?' Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

“'If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, 'But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.'

“'All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’”

He preached some more after that. I couldn’t catch none of it; my heart was too full of what I’d already heard.

What I did hear was him sayin’ that it didn’t matter if you were twenty, or a hundred and twenty, if God was speaking to us, we should come forward. Mary and I were there, surrounded by people, but all by ourselves before God Almighty. Once again I heard Ben Persons praying for me, his hand on my head praying in the name of Jesus.

After a while I sensed Mary getting up from her knees. I don’t know how we got there. Most everybody was gone. The preacher, Ben Persons' son, stood when we did. He was with us.

“Would you come to my house for dinner? I don’t have much, but I’ll share. I need to hear your stories.”

We agreed and followed him out. A young man in a suit locked the church doors behind us. The new pastor, more’n likely. He smiled with questioning eyes. He’d have to hear it from Ben, not from us.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great-granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

John 14:1-25 (Ben Paul's sermon) (Jesus revolution movie)

Chapter 14
Right in the Eye, ch 14

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary get to Santa Rosa, California, in time to attend Ben Paul Persons (81 years old) preach his last sermon. They accepted an invitation to his house.


We waited until he had the table set, cold ham slices, a serving of potato salad split three ways, and what looked like homemade bread and some butter. I could see most of a pie sitting on the counter. I was glad for the small portions of the meal. We didn’t come to eat, anyway.

“Reverend Persons …” We’d exchanged names on the church steps, but that was all.

“Ben. Ben. I knew your father. I saw his eyes widen, but it wasn’t disbelief, it was wonder. "He saved my life.”

Ben chuckled as he handed me the piece of bread he’d buttered. “Your eye,” he said as he extended his hand. “Try this. My sister made it from my mother’s recipe.”

It was delicious. I couldn’t wait to get to the pie.

“Slim, my father has saved and helped a great many people. But I’ve never had the privilege of meeting any of them. Well, one maybe. La Lama. The Blade.”

“It was in 1886. Now hold on to your silver ‘cause this’s gonna be tough ta hear like it was tough fer me half an hour ago.

“I was all broke up on top of a mountain with a buzzard ‘bout ta eat my good eye when your daddy shot that bird outta the sky from a hunnerd yards down the mountainside. He got me offa there somehow and to a doctor. Then to a sanitarium where I laid for eighty years.

“Now you c’n call me a liar, but by the God that you interduced me to back at the altar of yer church, it’s the truth.”

He sat there tearin’ up.

I nodded to Mary.

“Pastor, two-and-a-half months ago, I stabbed my ex-husband in the back with a butcher knife. Twice. He was killing Slim.”

I mean to tell you! That old man jumped outta his chair an’ spun like a top, praisin’ God, his hands high over his head. I feared for his life.

We both told him everything we knew, which wasn’t much. All I really had was how Ben talked while gettin’ me put in that nursing home.

Then it was his turn. He told us what his mother had told him: Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, the road north, Alaska, and back here to Santa Rosa where she never remarried, but after a couple trips to St Louis to help friends of Ben, adopted a local girl. They baked pies for a roadside stand, and a few shops and restaurants. Ben didn’t speak of shootin’ a man dead with a shotgun when he was twelve helpin’ those St. Louis friends. Not then, anyway.

Ben told us about all the kids at the church, the Jesus Revolution, he called it, showed a magazine article of it on the front cover.

Ben wanted to hear the rest of our stories, the current stuff.

I told him about a crave to know the one Ben, his father, was talkin’ to like he was his friend. That got a fistful a’ tears and a sob outta the old man.

He turned to Mary. “And you needed forgiveness, though the law found it justified.”

Mary nodded to rattle her brain. “Thank you,” she said.

“Not me. The one who now lives in your heart. Let’s pray again. We did. He did mostly – just like I’d heard Ben do … talkin’ to God like he was right there, like he was his friend, praisin’ him for saving and forgiving Mary, and for keeping me alive so’s Ben Paul could meet me.

Oh, my Lord, them Ben Personses! I was wishin’ there was one in every town, in every church, on every street corner.
Then I thought: there is. Jesus, the same one as Ben had given his whole life to, was there, everywhere I wanted him to be.

We said our goodbyes. Hugged enough to near fall down. Ben said he might take a train to Creede, meet that Sylvia woman.

I hope he did. She’d like to meet the son of the man that her grandmother loved, the son of the man who was loved by near ever’body that knew him.


“Honey!” Mary was starin’ at my face. We were gettin’ ready to head back to Cerrillos. Home. “Look in the mirror.”

“Well, I’ll be!” My mustache was completely white. Not even a stage of changing, like salt and pepper, and then all gray. “Darlin’, maybe this means that I’ll age right along with you! Won’t that be great?”

Mary smiled. I don’t think she was in a hurry for me to wither away, but me looking like I was her son didn’t sit good, either.

We took the mountain and Death Valley route home. It was fun. I told Mary some mountain and western stories. She told me a lot of stories about cultural changes I’d missed. We decided to take more road trips.

When we got home, there was some mail from the Halleck Law offices. They were going to help me get identification. We might have to drive to Arkansas, but that would be all right.

I took up a hobby prospectin’. Ain’t that a funny one? Seriously, I was just foolin’ around and in the canyons in the hills above the cemetery, I knocked away a chunk of sandstone, and behind it was a bit of turquoise. Then a bit more. I worked it a bit, and Mary bought me one of those polisher things, like a spinning buffer contraption. She liked the stones.

Of course, I had my eye out for gold. Who wouldn’t. You never know where a foot-wide vein might show itself. Hah!
Mary came and saw my dig. Whooie, boy! About twenty feet down and no timbering supports, just deadwood laddering. I thought she was mad enough to chuck a stick of dynamite down after me.

“Oh, all right. You’re right, Mary.” So a stick of dynamite went in there, but I was with Mary around the side.


After the dust settled, we picked up gold nuggets for half an hour, just lookin’ at each other while doin’ it, each of us sportin’ a hint of a grin.

Ah, Mary, I do love that gal!

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great-granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother (Jesus revolution movie)

Chapter 15
Right in the Eye, ch 15

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary met Ben’s son, Benjamin Paul, who preached his last sermon at age 81 and prayed for Slim and Mary. At this point, Ben Paul leads.


From Santa Rosa, Ben took a Greyhound bus to San Francisco, shading his eyes against a morning sun in order to see San Quentin as they crossed the Golden Gate bridg. He was a bit surprised that it was still in operation all these years since his father’s escape. Ben had to wait a few hours, but Greyhound had an express that would take him all the way to Denver. From Denver, another Greyhound would deliver him to Walsenburg. A Trailways bus completed his journey to Creede, a hub of his father’s early history.

It was a chilly, May day; but Ben would tour the graveyard and then wait for the taxi driver to return. He wanted to see the Good Man stone. Then he would have plenty of time to check into his reserved room at the Creede Hotel on Main Street and his set meeting time with Sylvia Adams at the hotel restaurant. By the time he’d seen the marker and meditated on what it stood for … what it meant to those who’d erected it, he walked the graveyard out, looking at the names that meant nothing to him. There was one small stone that might have been his father’s Jones, Ben's tormentor-turned-helper: Robert Jones 1836- 1903.

He was glad to see the taxi arrive five minutes early.

Seeing a woman looking across him twice, obviously searching for someone, he stood from the table to walk toward her.

“Ben Persons?” she asked. “I’m sorry, I was looking for Mr. Ben Persons, an older man.”

Ben smiled. He heard often that he didn’t look his age. Lately, it was most often when newer members of his church inquired as to why he would retire before reaching the age for Social Security.

“That’s me. I can show you some ex-rays of 81-year-old joints, if you’d like.”

Sylvia returned his smile and allowed him to guide her to their table. “Hope you don’t mind a table instead of a booth. In a booth I’m either too far away, or too close.”

“I prefer tables myself, actually. Every time I have to sit at a booth I sink so low that I feel like a six-year-old.”

Ben smiled. “Well, I’m Ben Persons, Benjamin Paul Persons.”

“I can see it. I mean, well, I can feel it. My grandmother and I had a very limited conversation the day I asked her about your father’s grave stone, the day she told me that there was no one buried there. She said Ben was tall, and handsome, maybe the most handsome man ever was, even including her husband, my grandfather who we’d just buried.”

Ben didn’t comment on the handsome part. “Well, that’s why I’m here, to learn all I can about my father. He died nine months before my birth.”

Slyvia blushed.

“I’m sorry. I’m a pastor, was, I should be more circumspect. He died before I was born.” Ben smiled.

“Well, it’s odd. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but after the couple who went to see you had come here…”

“Slim and Mary,” Ben supplied.

“Yes. Well, I’m embarrassed because after they left, I did the digging that I should have done before writing my unofficial history of Creede and Mineral County. You know,” she said as if Ben could possibly know, “that Livvy, my grandmother, and her husband Bill moved to Telluride for quite some time. They moved back here when they retired. My mother moved to Los Angeles, California, about the same time. I left California to come back here to help grandma. She was alone after grandpa died. He was over building that Million Dollar Highway from Durango to Silverton. Anyway, all that to say I’ve been here goin’ on twenty years.”

“Married, children?” Ben asked.

Sylvia shook her head. "Moving here got me away from a man that would have done all that. And not a minute too soon. He was an actor, in the movie business … and off the movie business, too, an actor, I mean. Got shut a’ him and never looked back. Or ahead, either, I guess.” Sylvia smiled as if that answered the question. “Okay, I did. Now you.”

“Never married. Married my church, I suppose. Never found anyone I wanted to divide the time with.”

Sylvia’s smile faded.

“Now I’m retired.”

“And alone. Oh, I’m sorry, that was cruel.” Sylvia’s chagrin was real.

“So we are,” Ben replied, smiling.

“This is forward, but we haven’t ordered yet. And to be honest, the food here isn’t all that great.” The last Sylvia said conspiratorially. “Let’s go to my house. I have half a meat loaf left and I can whip up some mashed potatoes real quick.”

Ben stood and extended his hand. He overpaid, leaving a dollar for their waters, and guided her to the door.


Supper finished, the two shared iced tea as they waited to watch the sunset on Sylvia’s south-facing deck. Supper conversation centered on the lovely couple that connected them, Slim and Mary.

“So what did you make of his story?” Sylvia asked. “That he knew your father? He would have had to have been at least a hundred years old. But he didn’t look sixty. Kinda like you. Oops. Sorry.”

Ben smiled. “Eighty-one ...”

“And you have the x-rays to prove it.” Sylvia raised her glass in toast.

“I found them to be quite credible,” Ben said. “But you’re right. There is something else to his story.” Ben paused. “I was thinking about a bus to Cerrillos to find out.” Ben grinned like a youth on an adventure.

Sylvia looked to Ben and then to the sunset. “There’s weirdness all over our stories. You were conceived a minute before your father died, my mother was in the oven when she was kidnapped and rescued by your father, we both met the man that has to be somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty years old, and here you are, looking younger than me and twenty years my senior.”


Sylvia stared at him.

“Your birthday is on your bio page in your book. Slim told me.”

Sylvia nodded her head, smiling.

After a moment, Sylvia asked if Ben wanted more tea.

“I’ll be up at least twice with what I’ve already had. Thank you, though.”

Sylvia blushed, knowing why he would be up at least twice. “Well, like I said. I wrote the book before I properly researched. After Slim and Mary left, I did a search that I’m embarrassed to say I had not already done. I looked in my mother’s big family Bible. It was one that my father got her for Christmas one year. It wasn’t one that you read from every day. And certainly not one you take to church. Mom didn’t ever do anything with it except write their wedding day and my birthday in it. But I again went through Mom’s boxes of odds and ends. This time, I opened that Bible. In between every few pages were writings from my grandmother, sheets of paper.”

Ben perked up in his seat.

“My guess is that she put them in there to keep them preserved and safe. They’re individual sheets of stationary paper. You know, the fancy writing paper you get in a set with envelopes and a real fancy pen? There’s forty-three sheets related to your father. Some are on both sides. There were more, but I took out the ones only having to do with us kids and our father.

“I want to share them with you, but it’s too late to start on them. Would tomorrow be all right?”

Ben’s hand stuttered as if reaching. “Uh, yes, of course. But… yes, certainly.” He wanted desperately to take them to the hotel with him. “My mother wanted me to know as much about my father as possible. Maybe we can meld the stories.”

“I’d like that. Is seven too early?”

Ben looked at her like she was crazy.

“Surely you’re up by that time, and the hotel’s breakfast isn’t any good either. They cook fried eggs finished off in water, like they want to steam them! Come over here at seven and I’ll have coffee and breakfast ready.” Rethinking, Sylvia corrected herself. “No, I’ll come get you. You came in by bus.”

“No, no, no. I’ll walk. I saw the route when we came here from the hotel. The walk will do me good.”

“Keep you young looking,” Sylvia chirped, instantly blushing.

Ben smiled.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Chapter 16
Right in the Eye, ch 16

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben Paul traveled to Creede, Colorado, where he met Sylvia, Livvy’s granddaughter. They agree to share notes.


Ben prayed there would be no fires anywhere in Creede, but especially at Sylvia’s house.

The Creede Hotel was the oldest in town. There was no doubt that it had been there when his father called it home, when his father rode the stage as shotgun guard. And when he was deputy sheriff. Ben Paul’s mother, Beth, told him many of the stories that his father had related. Many of them happened right here in the very town, maybe involving that very hotel, that very room.

Ben Paul would have done just about anything to have known his father. He’d asked God many, many times if maybe God couldn’t find a way to give him the calling he’d given his father.

Then Ben Paul worried that he wasn’t worthy.

Sure, he’d made him a preacher, a pretty decent one by all accounts. And then, after short apprenticeships in neighboring towns, he became the pastor of his local church, the one he’d grown up in. Ben felt blessed, wonderfully blessed. He was a leader in the community, influential. The church had grown and undergone three different renovation additions. People were being saved. All was good. God was good. Ben considered his calling request to be vanity and pride.

But that never stopped him from at least wanting to know all he could about his father, the first Ben Persons. Tony Bertelli of St Louis helped him greatly. The few weeks Ben spent in St Louis culminating with his shooting the attacker was life-changing. That was when he grew up and first began to truly understand his father.

Ben Paul’s room in the Creede Hotel didn’t have a clock, so he looked at his watch about every forty-five minutes all night long. Sylvia knew things that he didn’t.

And she was such a pleasant person.

He looked at his watch for the last time at 4:30 and decided he didn’t dare remain in bed and finally drop off for a decent sleep… and risk being late. He cleaned up and walked Main Street, wondering what it would have been like to walk it with a gun –  at night, with a dozen or more saloons of men in varying degrees of drunkenness. He wondered how many of the townsmen, with no church at the time, were saved. He wondered what that knowledge would do to a man with a calling.


“Right on time. Come in! Put anything in your coffee?”

“Believe it or not, I often put in an ice cube, especially when I want to drink it the same day as my company.”

“Well, come in, come in. If it’s too hot, well, there’s the ice cube, or we’ll just wait for it to cool. I have all day. I see you have a notebook. You came prepared.”

“’Fraid it’s empty. In case I needed to write something down? Ordinarily, I have a very good memory, but when emotions kick in … well, you never know.”

“I would imagine, learning that your father, who you never met, had been a cowboy and a sheriff’s deputy back in the gunslinger days.” We both let that lay.

Breakfast finished, it was all Ben could do not to suggest they get right into the papers.

“Well let’s get started. The kitchen table, or my little umbrella table out back?” Sylvia asked.

“Awfully nice outdoors this morning,” Ben replied. “But you may want a wrap, or something.”

Sylvia took a sweater from a hook near the back door. She was halfway out the door before remembering that she needed her mother’s papers. Her turning into Ben was a moment of embarrassment for both of them, with Sylvia’s face planted into Ben’s chest.

Ben steadied her before backing out of the way. “Oops” was all he could manage. If compelled, he would admit to enjoying the momentary contact.

“I’m a goofball. Sorry. I forgot Mom’s notes.”

“Mustn’t forget those.”

Sylvia looked at him askew, thinking to herself, who says mustn’t?

Settled in, Sylvia held the papers close to her chest, holding them with both hands. Ben felt like a kid promised a puppy, or an ice cream, and the parent holding on, waiting until he was calm enough to handle such treasure without making a mess. Ben maintained control, inwardly begging to see the precious notes.

“Well, I guess the best way would be for you to just read them, and comment at appropriate intervals when you can add what your mother can add to what my mother remembered.” She handed the set to Ben, who first looked at the expensive paper, and fancy cursive, obviously written with a fountain pen that flowed a little too freely. Then he read the first line:

 I thought I was going to die!

Ben Paul understood that Livvy’s daughter wrote those words as if projecting herself into her mother’s situation, that she felt her mother’s feelings. It was too raw, too … something. His father’s first love, a girl, a woman, who thought she was going to die. Death was all too … This person was dead. His mother was dead, and the man he desperately wanted to know was long dead. And the girl he loved thought she was going to die. Ben realized that he would have to read the notes with a less personal eye, try to become a little bit more objective or he wouldn’t make it through. Maybe it was because he was 81 and closer to death that he fought for control. He couldn’t say.

“I, I didn’t think it would be like this,” Ben said, emotion obvious in his voice.

Sylvia looked at him with eyes of compassion. “Take your time, dear.” She rested her hand on his arm. “I cried most of the way through them.” She hadn’t, but she did cry through parts and thought it the right thing to say.

Ben took a deep breath and continued reading:

Mom was still in Alpine. She walked the Gold Stake Saloon side due to it’s being less onerous than the bawdy Queen and Avalanche. She must have been in shock because the first thing she recalled was a putrid smell and a man brushing her breasts of his vomit. And then the most wonderful thing, an angel appeared, a big, strong, beautiful boy, man really.
Most men want to fight. It seems it their first impulse. One woman, two men, a fight ensues – boxing, punching, throwing to the ground and wallering. At least decent girls could use the opportunity to flee. Mom’s savior angel gently removed the drunken beast’s hands and blithely suggested he hobble to the creek to clean up. ‘Hobble’ was what Mom said he said.

Ben wondered at the woman’s language, at her generationally removed position as she wrote from memory her mother’s memories - memories offered to him here by Livvy's grand-daughter.

Then he looked at her and she thought she was truly going to die. She had Sandy (the kitten) in one arm and what was left of a sack of flour in the other. And she was covered, even in her hair with filth. I believe had she another arm she would have shed her dress and run home completely exposed. No, I jest, but Mom said that she was in a horrid condition.
Ben indeed brought replacement flour as promised. Next she saw him, he was finishing shoeing a troubled horse for Mr. Hobbs.
She thought he was an angel.

Ben laid aside the page. It took him a moment. Sylvia allowed him peace.

“Mother never knew this story, how God prevailed upon my dad to arrive at that exact moment.”

Sylvia hadn’t thought of the encounter in those terms.

Ben picked up the next page:

It was after their first real kiss. She loved him and would happily spend her life with him, knowing that he had a calling from God. My mother said that it was ‘puppy love’. It might have been, then. But it would have matured, as would both of them. Even after falling in love with William. Mother said that she loved Ben to this day, wherever he is, despite her undying love for William.

Ben managed to overcome the point of view issue, Sylvia’s mother writing the events and feelings of her mother. "William was your father?"
"My grandfather."
Ben nodded understanding, ackowledging the fact he should have surmised.

Sylvia knew where Ben was in his reading when he looked up from the page. “I’ve never known love like that.” She glanced into Ben’s eyes, but quickly looked away. “My grandmother was blessed.”

“She was,” Ben agreed. “As was my father. And my mother. You know she was married to him less than a year?”

“No, I didn’t. I’m sorry.”

Ben made a quick dismissive hand gesture, not meaning anything in particular. He pulled the paper back into his vision range.

Grandpa bought and then sold the Alpine livery. They then moved to Creede. Mom was in a tizzy, knowing that Ben was a deputy sheriff there. But alas, he’d moved on – his calling. She heard several stories of his Creede exploits, however. Billy, the sheriff’s helper told Mom several of them.

“Excuse me, Ben. Please keep reading. I’ll be in the kitchen. Just yell for me when you reach a place where you can fill in some blanks for me.”

“I will, Sylvia, I will.” Ben caught himself, nearly calling her dear.

Ben read Billy’s accounts of Ben’s ministering to himself and others who were put in jail. How Billy was a jailed jailer, his sentence to run until Ben returned to Creede to witness to him. Ben did, and Billy got saved. And released from jail.

Ben knew this to be the Billy that helped his father take care of an evil man named Mason Salinger at Clabber Creek.

Billy also told Livvy’s daughter, Martha, about Ben’s campaign to rescue wayward women, finding them homes, and in many cases, husbands.

Ben marveled that his father seemed to have that particular ministry in addition to his preaching and helping people get saved. He’d heard all the Chicago events that his father had related to his mother, Beth. Ben made a mental note to share those with Sylvia, as well as the stagecoach robbery that Ben interrupted, the one that caused James Coley, also known as Thomas Coleman to get saved and become a preacher.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Billy Harper: young man helped by Ben who helped Ben kill Salinger
James Coley (Thomas Coleman): outlaw turned preacher who assisted in the Clobber Creek incident where Be Persons was killed the first time

Chapter 17
Right in the Eye, ch 17

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben Paul read some of Martha’s account of what Livvy had told her. Martha was Livvy and William’s daughter, Sylvia’s mother. Sylvia nfound her mother's notes and allowed Ben Paul to read them.


Ben relayed as many of his father’s Chicago activities as he could remember: the bordello women rescued, the street preaching, and the battle with the gangster resulting with him getting run over and killed. Then he told of Ben’s being shanghaied. Sylvia was gaining increased respect for the man of God, Ben Persons, Sr.

Feeling he’d earned the right, Ben resumed reading Martha’s pages.

Mother was pregnant with me when Max and Jones kidnapped her and took her to Ophir, a new mining town. Mason Salinger was behind it. His plan was to kill Ben. Ben was shot in the chest. Jones had a head wound. Max was killed, and Salinger wounded, but he got away. Jones recovered but lost his speech. He became a devoted helper to Ben. Ben’s friend Arville Johnston was a man Ben prayed for his healing. He was a stagecoach shotgun and would have died. Arville and Ben were in business together and Arville and Mother and Jones tried to get Ben to a doctor in Silverton. Ophir Pass was impossible with a swollen Mineral Creek. That’s when a band of Ute Indians took Ben to heal him. Ben had befriended them some time back. They kept Ben all winter and he got them converted.

Ben had heard part of this, but not all, certainly not the part of how Jones came to be his helper, or anything of Arville. Ben’s pain over never having the pleasure and privilege of meeting his father was growing worse. He and Sylvia were making a full story from two points of view when her phone rang, a friend of Sylvia’s who lived closer to Main Street. The Creede Hotel was on fire.

“Let’s go, Ben. Maybe they’ll throw your things out and you can retrieve them.”

“Let’s pray first. I have a bad feeling.”

Sylvia was both antsy and non-committal about praying when there was action to take. Nevertheless, she joined with Ben’s outstretched hands as he prayed for any lives in potential harm.
“Oh! We have to go!” Ben said, running to Sylvia’s car, jumping in the passenger seat as he willed her to hurry.

They had to stop a block from the hotel, but Ben ran on as if forty years younger. Naturally, since Ben was just some old man, and an outsider at that, no one would stop and listen to him. “You have to get into the attic!” he insisted.

The building was full of smoke, but without visible flames.

Since all occupants had been accounted for, their only interest was trying to figure out why the electricity failed to disconnect. What they didn’t know was that when the building was electrified, someone connected a line to the neighboring building through the shared wall. Upstairs in the attic was a young girl that God had shown Ben. Someone had tapped the stolen line and connected it to a hotel line to make a 220-volt outlet for a hot plate, alternating to use for a space heater in the winter. Though there were visible sparks in an attic dormer, they were making every effort to control the issue without chopping a hole in the roof, or unnecessarily dousing the historic building.

Ben ran to the back of the building. Behind the shared wall he found a half of a wooden extension ladder. It was old, but he figured it would hold his lanky frame. He made it to the first floor of the hotel fire escape. From there, he made it to the third floor, the hotel’s highest. The fire escape only reached the top floor, not the attic. Ben broke the glass and entered, choking on smoke as he made his way to the attic.

“Hey! Anyone?” Ben yelled as he inched his way across the space, glad that it had wooden slats for decking. Toward the front, there was a wall with a door. Inside the door was a room filled with acrid smoke. Sparks were zapping from a wall plug near the front window. Ben picked up a chair and threw it out the window, shattering it.

“Hey! There’s someone up there!” a spectator shouted.

Ben quickly found a small person who was on the floor, unconscious. He didn’t know until he picked the person up that it was a girl, a young lady, probably Indian or Mexican. With her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, he made his way down the staircase. It was more like a ladder, but about a third of the way down, doing his best not to rake her on the sides, a man came to his aid from below, taking the girl to rush her out to safety and medical assistance.  Another firefighter helped Ben out of the building. Ben was sweaty and filthy, and cut fairly deeply across his back where window glass cut him.

“There’s an ambulance on its way from Alamosa,” a firefighter told Ben. “They can take you both.”

“I don’t need…”

“Yes sir, you do.”

Just at that time, Sylvia made it to Ben, having heard the fireman. “Ben! You need stitches in your back. And you’re …”

“81 years old,” he finished for her.

“And you have the x-rays to prove it.”

Someone wanted Ben’s name and contact information. Partway through, another firefighter interrupted. “Ben Persons?
You’re Ben Persons?” His incredulity was apparent. “I’m Oroville Johnston. Arville was my grandfather.”

Ben figured that Oroville was about 50 or 60 years old. The age matched.

“I have a mine up Bachelor Loop. I’m a volunteer firefighter.” He had his hand out to shake Ben’s. “Can I talk to you before you leave town?”

“He’ll be at my place,” Sylvia said.

Oroville smiled. “Kinda figures, doesn’t it?” Sylvia and Oroville both smiled.

Ben was just then beginning to feel pain in his back, feeling Sylvia’s pressure on the cuts across the back of his shoulder.
It was late when they finally returned to Creede in Sylvia’s car.

“Now, not one word of argument,” Sylvia said. “It’s a one-bedroom and that’s that. We’ll clean you up. They should have at the hospital, but they didn’t. We’ll clean you up and get you into bed. Your pain medicine will be wearing off. Probably is already. A pill, and you won’t even know I’m beside you.”

Ben raised his head slightly.

“Ah, ah. You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine.” Sylvia had a slight smirk in her tone.

Ben smiled, knowing that his virginity would remain intact.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Jones: hired thus of Salinger turned mute helper for Ben after headshot
Billy Harper: young man helped by Ben who helped Ben kill Salinger
Thomas Coleman/ James Coley: stagecoach robber turned preacher thanks to Ben. He then helped Ben kill Salinger
Arville Johnston: stagecoach shotgun that Ben prayed for. Became Ben's friend and business partner. Helped save Ben when he was shot
Oroville Johnston: Arville's Creede resident. Grandson of Arville

Chapter 18
Right in the Eye, ch. 18

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben read more of Martha’s notes. God showed Ben that someone was trapped in a burning hotel. He saved her. Oroville Johnston met Ben.


Martha’s notes had a pretty accurate description, as far as Ben knew, of the Clabber Creek incident. Martha, of course, being Sylvia’s mother, Livvy’s daughter. Ben Paul and Sylvia were both anxious to hear whether Oroville knew anymore. After that, though, it was pretty much Ben telling Sylvia what Beth knew of Ben’s experiences: being shanghaied and in San Francisco. Being imprisoned in San Quentin, their through northern California and then on to Alaska.

Sylvia, and Oroville were amazed, but not surprised that God continued to work through Ben as he had.

Once Ben Paul was off the pain pills, his back having given him fits more relative to the activity of saving the girl than the cuts and stitches, they wanted to hear more about God showing him where the girl was, and who she was. Ben was only able to tell them what he knew, the where part.

“Okay, Oroville. Now that I’m clear-headed, let’s hear what you know about my dad.” Ben, Sylvia, and Oroville were sitting on her back deck sipping iced tea.

“He was not well, my Grandpa said. Healed of the gunshot to his chest, and his mind was fine, but his strength and stability … Sometimes he even needed help walking. He said they were scared to death that he would fall off his horse from Grand Junction up to Clabber Creek and the mine where Salinger and Ben died.

“That was the hardest day of his life, getting back to Creede and reporting that Ben had died, Grandpa said. And he thought getting him from Ophir to Silverton was gonna be hard. Then the Utes took him.”

Oroville dabbed at his eyes. “Hah! And I never even met the man, your dad.”

The next day, meant to be a parting gesture, Ben Paul offered to bake a pie of whatever fruit was in season. It so happened that Palisade peaches were ripe. “For my fiftieth birthday, my mother, Beth, told me that she’d given up on having a daughter-in-law to teach, so I was it. She made the best crusts anywhere.”

Ben and Sylvia made two pies. She knew that he would announce his departure the next morning since his stitches were removed that day. She was expecting it. And when it came, she was ready.


“I’m coming with you.”

“But you don’t…”

“You’re going to Cerrillos. And you have no idea how to get there. I’m driving. We’re going. Now, would you like for us to leave tomorrow, or after we finish one of your pies and freeze the other?”

Ben’s expression was one of perplexity.

“Look, Ben. We get along great. We share the same daily schedule. We both want to know a little more about our ancestors. And particularly how God worked in one Ben Persons … without the Paul. And most importantly, in my car we can stop and limber up any time you want. And by-the-way, Cerrillos is only a four-hour drive; but you would have to take a bus and then rent a car – two days. And then deal with the car getting yourself back home. Whereas, I could drive you anywhere you would like.”

Ben thought a moment. “Sylvia, you would put Greyhound out of business with a sales pitch like that.”

That was when the two exchanged their first kiss, the tiniest peck, barely catching the edges of their lips. Though totally without romance, it made going to bed that night a little bit more awkward.



It was just short of midnight. Both Ben and Sylvia awakened instantly. Both took a moment to orient themselves. Both of them were up in time to hear the demand repeated.


The front door was spotlighted with Jeep headlights and rollbar lights.

“You recognize the voice?” Ben asked to Sylvia’s shaking her head.

There was no way that they could see anything out the front door, or through a front window.

“Let’s try the back.”

Sylvia had beaten Ben to the idea, already looking through the back door window. The motion instantly alerted two pit bulls – tied, but able to reach anyone exiting that door.

“Are the windows all crank?” Ben asked, knowing that some of them were and that crank-out windows would be too challenging for him to escape from.

Sylvia nodded.

“Will the law respond?” Ben asked.

“I can try, but a dollar to a donut he’s out of town responding to a traffic accident staged by whoever’s out front.”


“Now he’s gone and made me mad,” Sylvia said.

“Make the phone call.” Ben looked at her, pointing to the kitchen with his head where her phone was hung on the wall. As soon as he heard the receiver being lifted from the hook, Ben reached for the front door handle, quickly opening it to step out and close it behind him. He was blinded by the lights.

“She was mine, Persons. I rented her out. People came from Durango, Pueblo, all over to get that. You owe me a million dollars. And if she comes out of whatever it is has her under at the hospital… Before I go down, you go in the ground.”

Ben figured that the man was outside the Jeep on the driver’s side.

All of a sudden there were four deafening roars as if a shotgun went off in his ears. All four lights exploded. Ben figured that Sylvia had a semi-automatic 12 gauge.

But Ben didn’t remain in the doorway to watch Sylvia shoot out the lights. By the time the third one exploded, he was close enough to the Jeep to catch some of the shards of glass. When the last light burst, Ben was on top of the ruffian who was ducking beside the wheel well.

“Mister, I expect the old lady is headed to the back to neutralize those two dogs. If you get in this Jeep and drive away now, I’ll go try to keep her from blowing their heads off.” Ben waved for him to leave.

“I, I’m leavin’. I’ll just git my…”

“No, you won’t just anything. I expect to hear two shots any second, now go!”

He did. Hopped into his Jeep and drove away in the moonlight.

Sylvia was in the doorway, tracking the Jeep with the shotgun.

“How’s your shoulder?” Ben asked.

“Bad enough to cry, but that’ll wait until he’s gone.”

Ben took the shotgun from her and leaned it on the wall before taking her into his arms for their first embrace. He had a pretty good idea as to how she felt about the shooting, remembering St. Louis and Al Fresco when he was a youth.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Jones: hired thug of Salinger turned mute helper for Ben after headshot
Billy Harper: young man helped by Ben who helped Ben kill Salinger
Arville Johnston: stagecoach shotgun that Ben prayed for. Became Ben's friend and business partner. Helped save Ben when he was shot
Oroville Johnston: Arville's Creede resident. Grandson of Arville
Mason Salinger: bad man who Ben killed in a mine cave-in

Chapter 19
Right in the Eye, ch 19

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben and Sylvia exchanged memories with Oroville Johnston. Sylvia talked Ben into letting her drive him to Cerrilos. The pimp of the girl in the hotel threatened Ben and Sylvia in her home.


“So, like father, like son. You Personses just can’t help yourselves from rescuing wayward women,” Sylvia said.

Ben smiled.

“You think he’ll be back?”

“He won’t want to give up those dogs. And he won’t stop disliking me, or you either, now that you’ve shot up his Jeep.”

“If we leave, he’s likely to burn the house down,” Sylvia said.

Ben nodded. “I think my father would be praying for direction right now.”

“The sheriff is down to Spar City. A probable arson on a mountaintop cabin. It was vacant.” Sylvia had called the sheriff’s number, but let the receiver hang while she got her shotgun and blasted the lights. After the Jeep drove away, she’d gone back to the phone and spoken with the sheriff’s wife. She promised to send him when he again made radio contact. “It might be an hour, or so,” she told Ben.

“Well, why don’t you reload that thing and I’ll sit up and wait. Watch and wait.”

Sylvia looked at him through squinting eyes. “Like I’d just go to sleep?” She chuckled. “We’ll both sit up. We already know he can use matches.”

“But he won’t burn up his dogs.”

“Prob’ly not,” Sylvia agreed. “Think they need water?”

“Nah, but it wouldn’t hurt anything to show them that we’re friendly.”

They went to the back door to see what they could do for the dogs.

“Well, that answers whether he can be stealthy,” Ben said, stepping aside to let Sylvia see that the dogs were gone. “The ropes are gone too, so they didn’t just escape.”

“I’d say our boy is sneaky,” Ben said. “I’ll watch the back.” He settled into a kitchen chair, waving for Sylvia to watch the front.

Both of them startled at a knock on the door several minutes later.

“I’ll blow a hole right through that door!” Sylvia said loud enough for the knocker to hear.

“Sylvia, Ben, it’s me, Oroville.”

After letting him in, he told the story. “Alice radioed the volunteers while you were shootin’ up your neighborhood. I parked down the road a bit. I’m here for the night. Somebody else will relieve me in the morning. ‘Til whoever it is, is caught.”

Ben and Sylvia looked to one another.

“Well, can’t say we don’t appreciate it.” She’d already resolved not to argue. “He’s quiet and sneaky. Got back here within minutes of us running him off to untie and get his dogs that were keeping us from going out the back.”

“What was he driving?” Oroville asked.

“A Jeep,” Ben answered. “White.”

“With four shattered lights,” Sylvia added.

“I think I saw it while I was comin’ over here. Didn’t know what to look for. Woulda come here anyway. I’m glad you didn’t disable it, really. Even if you were able to shoot him, he might’ve been able to hurt you. You know, shootin’ in the dark at a moving target.”

Oroville’s attempt to temper his doubt of Sylvia’s shooting abilities was accepted with nods by both Sylvia and Ben.

“Well… you want a piece a’ pie?” Sylvia asked.

Oroville smiled. “And coffee? Might be a long night.”

At 3:30 Sylvia gave it up and went to bed. Ben and Oroville talked Ben Persons stories. When Oroville’s replacement came, Ben had been asleep in a living room chair for some time. He woke only to the sound of Sylvia’s voice from the kitchen asking Marion, Oroville’s replacement, if he’d like a piece of pie.

“The sheriff will be by in a little while,” Sylvia said, seeing Ben rouse. “I talked to him on the phone. He thinks he might know who it was, but a lot of people have Jeeps that they leave at home, using other vehicles for every day.”

Sheriff Tate arrived just as Ben and Sylvia finished cleaning the kitchen of their breakfast dishes.

“Still have a problem,” Tate said. Turning to the day’s guard, another firefighter volunteer, he said, “Was your windshield shattered when you drove it last?”

The man looked startled, shaking his head. “Naw, Sheriff.”

“Didn’t think so, what with glass on the hood and in the wiper blades. Be hard to drive like it is.

Looks like the boys mighta saved you another visit. Only this one woulda been in daylight. What time you get here?” Sheriff Tate asked Marion.

It was after daybreak.

“Here’s the way it lays,” Sheriff Tate started, squaring himself to Ben and Sylvia, his thumbs tucked into his service belt. “We’re not gonna be able to protect you, not absolute. A rifle, even a shotgun from any distance, a person could pepper this place and scoot off without ever bein’ seen. A person with a kid’s toy could put a stick of dynamite through a window.”

Marion was nodding his head in agreement.

“My advice is for the both of you to be absent until we catch this guy. Any idea who it is?”

Ben felt the question a bit late, but didn’t say anything other than to repeat what the man had said himself, indicating he was the unconscious girl’s pimp.

Sheriff Tate nodded his head. “If you wouldn’t mind, both of you, write down whatever you can remember and drop it off at my office on your way out of town. Check in with me when you get where yer goin’, an’ we’ll git this varmit.”

Marion nodded agreement.

Ben and Sylvia exchanged looks.

“We’ll pack Sylvia’s important things and be on the road by noon,” Ben said.

Sylvia smiled. “I’m nearly already packed,” Sylvia said, winking toward Ben.


Sylvia was no slouch behind the wheel, but there was little she could do when a black Suburban contacted her left front fender and forced her off the road. Before Ben could get properly balanced outside his door, a 300-pounder of a man cut his legs from under him and laid his knee on Ben’s stomach, making breathing difficult. Another man approached, slamming Ben’s door shut, watching Sylvia to make sure she didn’t pull out a gun.

The 300-pounder spoke to Ben. “The one what owns that girl? We own him. And a lot more. You didn’t see nothin’. Mr. Old Timer Do-gooder. You don’t know nothin’. Capice? Verstehe? Comprende voo? Got it?”

Ben could only nod.

“Say it! Tell me you got the message.”

Ben grunted a guttural yes, hardly any breath behind it, but good enough for the two thugs. As the 300-pounder rounded Sylvia’s car for the Suburban, the other man shot the right rear tire of Sylvia’s car.

Coming to Ben’s aid, Sylvia asked, “You think your father had this much trouble following his calling?”

After three deep breaths, Ben answered, “I haven’t been shot, beaten, or whipped yet.” He smiled, accepting Sylvia’s whole-body hug.

“My spare’s flat. I couldn’t ever catch Pete at his shop to fix it.

Ben looked at the bullet-flattened tire. “Well, we might just as well put on the flashers. I’ll open the hood. Someone will stop and take us and the spare where we can get it fixed.

While in town, they made a report to the County Sheriff’s office.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Oroville Johnston: Arville's Creede resident grandson
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great-granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Chapter 20
Right in the Eye, ch 20

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben and Sylvia went to Cerrillos after the sheriff informed them that they couldn’t be protected. They were then harassed and threatened on their drive by two thugs claiming to own the Creede pimp.


It was after five before they finally got to the Turquoise Trail, the road to Cerrillos.

“What do you think?” Ben asked Sylvia, meaning in general terms.

“What do I think? I think we should get married our first opportunity.”

Ben thought a moment. “Wait a minute! What did you say?”

“The way I see it, we’ve slept together for a week, eight days. We’re a good match. You know I can shoot. And I’ve already seen you naked.”

“You what?”

“You think a girl isn’t going to peek?” Sylvia looked at Ben, grinning.

Ben’s lower jaw flapped a few times, his eyes blinking. “I, I didn’t…”

“Of course, you didn’t. It just happens. Now, we have people that would like to see us dead. One: If we’re only injured, being married, we can visit and sign, and so forth at a hospital. And two: I have no one to leave anything to. Do you? And three: If I let you go, Grandma Livvy’s ghost would torment me all my days.”

“Sylvia, I’m …”

“Thirteen years my senior who can get into a hotel third floor and rescue a fifteen-year-old, brave enough to charge outside into who-knows-what, survive King Kong on top of him, and can still get up and go on. ‘Bout cover it?”

“Sylvia, I’ve never …”

“By the way, people that love me call me Sylvie.”

Ben looked over at her as she muscled her ’65 Impala around a bend. “Thank you, Sylvie.”

They both grinned, Sylvia with both eyes on the road.


Ben and Sylvia rolled up to Slim and Mary’s in Cerrillos. After bringing them up to date, Slim said, “Well now, we’ve both had a little experience with the rougher side a’ life,” Slim said to Ben and Sylvia as he glanced to Mary.

Mary nodded.

“Well, we aren’t planning any shootout at the OK Corral,” Ben said.

“I remember that one like it was yesterd’y,” Slim said. “Wasn’t there, a’ course. But rumor was Earp cheated, had a gun in his hand hid behind his back with his Buntline Special still in his holster. An’ he just started shootin’.”

Everyone nodded.

Ben thought about his father, who was a lawman during part of that time.

“Ah! Speaking of shooting.” Ben looked to Sylvia. “We completely forgot to check in with Sheriff Tate!”

They did then, giving him Mary’s number, neglecting to tell him that they would be out-of-pocket for as long as it took to go to a Justice of the Peace in Durango.

Ben and Sylvia opted to pay for a motel room rather than impose on Mary and Slim. They would gladly spend the daytime with them, though. Neither Ben, nor Sylvia gave a single thought to renting two rooms.

Retiring to the room a couple hours before sunset, Ben looked to Sylvia. “I need to pray. There’s a cemetery over there I saw. I’ll walk over. Done a lot of praying as I walked. Keep the shotgun handy. And don’t open the door unless you hear one knock, followed by two more, even if you hear my voice.”

Sylvia studied Ben’s face, understanding the seriousness of their situation.


Just after sundown Ben knocked once, and then twice more, announcing himself as he waited for Sylvia to open the door. She looked to him expectantly. Seeing that she was waiting for him to speak, Ben motioned her to go ahead and take the room’s only seat.

“First, God loves you and approves of our marriage.”

Sylvia gasped, her eyes widening.

Ben waited for her.

“I, I was never really sure,” she said, dabbing at her eyes. “About God loving me. How can a person know?”

Ben let that go for the moment, making a mental note to return to the subject on another occasion.

“Then he said that we should sit back and watch him work.”


Ben raised both hands, palms out as if surrendering. “Argue with him, not me.”

“We do nothing?” Sylvia asked.

“Oh, no. Not at all. We watch God. We pay attention. We behave with boldness and courage. A bear is charging us. We don’t pick up sticks and try to defend ourselves, but neither do we run. We stand and watch God.”

“That sounds like it takes more guts than fighting.”

Ben smiled.


“I do,” Ben replied to the JP, as did Sylvia a moment later.

They kissed, the second of their relationship, their first wet one.


“Hello, Sheriff Tate?” Sylvia called him from Slim and Mary’s place in Cerrillos. “How goes the investigation?” She expected that her house had not been burned down, since he hadn’t called her.

Sylvia listened a moment. Interrupting him, she told him that they would be returning home the next day, intending to arrive in the afternoon. They intended to shop in Pagosa Springs, an hour away, for lunch and groceries, buying a cooler for any perishables. That next day, at the edge of the grocery parking lot near the street sat two kids with a large box between them, a big Free sign on the box.

“Shall we?” Ben asked.

Sylvia knew what was in the box. “I’ve never owned a dog before.”

“My last one died eight or nine years ago,” Ben said.

“Tell you what,” Sylvia said. “Let’s shop, and buy puppy food. And if they still have one left when we’re ready to go …”

“Sounds like as good a plan as any; so long as we buy puppy food that we’d like to eat in case they gave away the last one before we get there.”

Sylvia paused a moment. “We’ll hurry.”

Inside the store, Sylvia asked Ben. “You don’t suppose God would tell us that we should have, you know, that his will was for us to pick a puppy while we thought of it, and waiting until they were all gone was out of his will, do you? That we missed God’s will?”

Ben thought a minute. “No.”

“That’s all? No?” Sylvia stopped walking and turned to face Ben.

“It’ll make for good conversation the rest of the way home,” Ben said satisfying Sylvia for the moment.

There were no puppies left. Both Ben and Sylvia were disappointed.


“I won’t minimize it, Sylvie. It’s not always easy to sense the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, living in the middle of his will. I don’t know how my father did it, going from one situation to another nearly blind, simply trusting God and looking for his opportunity to minister.

“Once, when I needed a car, I just about went crazy. There was one on the street corner with a sign on it. The price was within my budget. I thought, There! God’s will. I need one, and God put one right in my path. But I was going to be late for an appointment if I stopped just then. Okay, if it’s still there when I come back, then that’s a sign that it’s the one God intends for me. Of course, it wasn’t. There! That’s a sign that it was not the car for me! Or did I miss God’s will and whatever I ended up with would be a bucket of trouble? Then, the very next day, the car was back on the same corner. Now, was the devil tempting me to buy what looked good, but wasn’t, or was God giving me another chance?”

Giving Ben more than enough time to end the suspense, Sylvia demanded “Well?”

“It was gone the next day. Then I realized that I actually needed a pick-up truck, and was then able to be a blessing to dozens of parishioners over the next several years. It was quite helpful for church work, as well.”

 Oroville was at the house when they arrived. “Heard you were returning. No… Ben, Sylvia? Do I see a blush? And new rings on third fingers?” Oroville was like a schoolgirl, all excitement for the two. “Well, I guess what I have qualifies for a wedding present, then. We went out on a courtesy call. Someone in California hadn’t heard from their relative in too long and asked the sheriff’s office to check on ‘em. We had to call an ambulance to take them to a hospital and from there, they’ll be going to a rest home. And well, you go on in and I’ll bring your groceries.”

Inside was a beautiful, four-year-old Border Collie, in obvious need of a bath, but otherwise very happy to meet Ben and Sylvia.

When Oroville came in, before even setting bags down, Sylvia hugged him as tightly as possible, covering his neck with kisses.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Arville Johnston: stagecoach shotgun who became Ben's friend and business partner, helped save Ben when he was shot
Oroville Johnston: Arville's Creede resident grandson
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Benji was the name of the dog owned by a man who helped Ben Senior after the San Quentin prison break.

Chapter 21
Right in the Eye, ch 21

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben and Sylvia were married. God spoke to Ben telling him to sit back and watch Him work. Trying to decide whether to get a dog, the two returned to Sylvia’s house to find one given to them, God’s handiwork.


When Sheriff Tate finally tracked down his Jeep suspect, the lights on the Jeep had been replaced. Due to Sylvia’s excellent aim, there were no obvious buckshot markings anywhere visible. The backside of the headlight parts would have evidence, but the sheriff couldn’t get a warrant for such a search.

The suspect had fingerprints on file due to an arrest over an incident a year past, but didn’t match any found in the hotel attic. And Ben could not positively identify him, despite the man’s size.

Sheriff Tate favored interrogating the suspect with Ben in the same room, hoping to get a confession. But with the state involved following Ben and Sylvia’s highway incident, that was not an option.

Neither Ben nor Sylvia could identify anyone from the photos provided by the state.


For the first few days Ben and Sylvia, resolved never to allow the other one to be alone as long as danger lurked. Together, they walked Benji on a leash often, teaching him their perimeter.

At two in the morning of the fourth day, Benji let out a deep groaning growl, his head and ears perked up from a mat beside their bed. Both Ben and Sylvia snapped alert, Sylvia reaching for her shotgun.

After calming Benji, assuring him that they would check out what he’d heard, the two stood before the front door where all three were certain someone stood. Soon enough, there was a fierce crash against the dead-bolted door. Ben raised his hand asking Sylvia not to blast a hole through the steel entry door.

They heard what sounded like a man collapse to the porch deck, followed by groaning. Ben cautiously opened the door to see a man writhing in obvious pain before growing still.

“Think he broke his shoulder?” Sylvia asked, her shotgun trained on him as Benji growled.

“Maybe.” By this time Ben was outside and looking the man in the face. “But I’m pretty sure he’s had a heart attack, also. Hand me the shotgun, and you can call Sheriff Tate. An ambulance, too.”


Sheriff Tate scratched his head. “Never would’ve believed it. Guy built like that should have been able to splinter that door frame. Huh. Walt Thomas. And way too young to die of a heart attack. Just goes to show you …”

“What God can do,” Sylvia interrupted.

“Huh? Uh, yeah.”

“Benji helped, too. Woke us. We mighta laid there and both had heart attacks, woke up with him crashing the door like he did.”

Tate looked at Sylvia and then the dog. “He looks like a good one, all right. Well, the state will be by. They want their mugs into everything once they start. Bring more mug shots, more’n likely.”

“Thank you, Sheriff,” Ben said. “Would you give us a ring when you know they’re on their way. We’ll probably go back to bed and try for a couple hour’s sleep. It’s been a long night.”

“Uh-huh. Wish I could.”

“There’s a couch, Sheriff,” Sylvia offered, only half joking.

“Wish I could. Wish I could.”

They did… go back to sleep, after a pleasurable wind-down.

The mob sent out-of-state muscle to deal with the Persons for the very reason that they not be identified. The state of Colorado did not have their pictures on file, either mug shots, or photos taken outside known gangster hangouts. But they knew that eventually the state investigators could get lucky and get cooperation from Chicago authorities. Also, having heard of the death of their man at the doorstep of the Persons’s home, the boss wanted a vendetta, revenge. He didn’t believe the heart attack story, but rather believed that Colorado was trying to cover up and protect the old couple.

At two a.m. they parked their Suburban five hundred yards of the house. As they reached the front property line, the smaller of the two proceeded further to watch the opposite side, as well as to create a crossfire. The neighboring house in that direction was far enough away that though they would hear gunfire, they wouldn’t be able to see anything. Once in place, the two began to edge toward the house.

Benji again sprang alert, this time barking ferociously. Ben and Sylvia moved to where they could see outside, Sylvia with the Remington.

Benji jumped onto the sofa where he could poke his nose through the center of the curtains. It was plain to see that he was barking at intruders both left and right. Ben and Sylvia could see them clearly when she threw on the porch lights. Both men froze in place.

When Sylvia opened the door and shot into the air, both evildoers dropped, or fell, to the ground. One fell backward as if shot, the other crumpling sideways as if having a heart attack or stroke. Both immediately got back up and ran to the Suburban.

“Boss,” one of them said into a hotel phone, “we gotta have more people out here.”


“Hello, Detective Donald Albion?”

“That’s me.”

“Don’t know as you would recall, but I’m Agent Isaac Fisher, FBI.”

“Sure, I do. The Slim Goldman case. Don’t tell me the Feds still want to dissect his brain.”

Fisher laughed. “No. Look, I’d like to try to square the books a bit. Give you a case instead of taking one away.”

“It would take more than one case.”

Fisher laughed. “Yeah, probably so.”

They agreed to meet. An hour later in Albion’s office, an unspoken, but acknowledged concession by Fisher, the F.B.I. agent laid it out. “Don’t know if you’ll recall, but the name Benjamin Persons came up in the Slim Goldman, aka Herschel Diddleknopper case.”

“Got it right here.” Albion opened the file on Slim.

“Well, we don’t like untied tentacles. Like to connect every dot.”

Albion smiled at the mixed metaphor as well as the tentacle visual.

“Diddleknopper mentioned a certain Ben Persons, crediting him with helping him. Got him to help after being shot …”

“Right in the eye,” Albion finished, fondly recalling his work with the old codger.

“Yeah. Well, Ben Persons killed Jefferson Randolph Smith up in Alaska.”

“Soapy Smith? That was last century!” Albion expressed his confusion.

“Right. But we, you, the state of Colorado, has Ben Persons involved with a killing down in Creede.”

“The Ben Persons who killed Soapy Smith, if I recall from ancient history, died himself from that gunfight.”

“So we’re told,” Fisher agreed. “But you and I both know a little historic peculiarity with respect to one Slim Goldman, aka Herschel Diddleknopper, who recently married a woman named Marian Jackson. The two of them, on a side note, killed Curtis Jackson, Marian’s ex-husband. Justifiable, no charges.”

“One of those tentacles? That was my case.”

Fisher grinned. “All of a sudden, it got complicated. Ben Persons, who recently married Sylvia Adams of Creede. Born in Santa Rosa, California, on May 19, 1890.”

“Ah, back to Creede and Slim Goldman.”

“Yes, Creede,” Fisher continued. “A certain fire, rescue of a child prostitute, by Ben Persons, by the way, followed by the death of the prostitute’s alleged pimp, Walter Thomas.”

“Those pesky tentacles.”

Agent Fisher grinned. “Which finally brings me to the case I don’t want to steal from you. It would seem, there is a contract on your Ben Persons, whoever he is.”

“A rescued child prostitute, a dead pimp, and mob involvement. And dead crime boss, even if the last century, a dead ex-husband, a… what do you call a man a hundred and twenty years old?

“Why is it you want to give me this case?”

Fisher laughed out loud.

“Ah,” Detective Albion said. “You want to serve out a full career, not be laughed out of the service, knowing that your report will be used at the academy in the How to Protect the FBI from Embarrassment class.”

“I prefer to call it good cooperative law enforcement,” Agent Fisher said, grinning. He handed Albion a manilla folder.
“Here’s a copy of everything we have, including photos of the two we think have already been harassing your Ben Persons and his new bride. Call me if I can help, especially with any outside muscle that might come to join the two already here.”

Detective Albion nodded, already figuring when he could fit a trip to Creede into his schedule. First the mysterious Slim Goldman, now another mystery man intruding and stirring his personal honeypot.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Jones: hired thug of Salinger turned mute helper for Ben after headshot
Billy Harper: young man helped by Ben who helped Ben kill Salinger
Arville Johnston: stagecoach shotgun that Ben prayed for a healed, became Ben's friend and business partner, helped save Ben when he was shot
Oroville Johnston: Arville's Creede resident grandson
Walter Thomas: pimp of the child prostitute in the Creede Hotel
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)
Isaac Fisher: FBI Agent
Donald Albion: Colorado State Trooper detective

4 more chapters

Chapter 22
Right in the Eye, ch 22

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben and Sylvia witnessed the pimp’s death at their door - a heart attack. The two gangsters failed to approach Sylvia’s house and called for help. The FBI Agent involved with Slim’s case contacted the Colorado detective who’d had Slim’s case when he awoke from his coma. The FBI gave the mobster contact case to Colorado.



Ben looked to his new bride who was obviously in deep thought, her coffee cup suspended halfway to her lips for some time.

“Do you think… You remember saying that we were to stand back and watch God work?”

“I do.” Ben’s words caused both of them to smile toward one another.

“Do you think my shooting the shotgun was, you know, somehow violating that deal? You know, like God’s gonna say, ‘I told you to watch, but now you’ve gone and done it. It’s all yours now.”

Ben smiled. “Oh, I rather think it was more on the order of Benji barking. God probably had that blast in his plan, humiliating those two.”

“They’ll be back, though, won’t they?”

Ben nodded before responding. “I expect. Maybe with help.”

“Help? Aren’t you worried?”

“You think God is worried?”

“Ben Persons, you are your father’s son, aren’t you?”

Ben’s eyes teared. “I’ve always prayed to be. But it’s been clear from very early on that I do not have his calling. I was called to be a pastor. I know that. But my father was special.”

Sylvia nodded, perking her head at the sound of an approaching car.

Benji’s ear straightened and bent toward the road, but he didn’t bark an alert, but rather quietly growled. Hearing the car pull into the driveway, Ben and Sylvia rose to greet whoever deigned to visit.


“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Persons, I’m Detective Donald Albion.”

Albion explained his familiarity with Slim, otherwise known as, Herschel Diddleknopper, his purpose being to let Ben and Sylvia know that he was in on the secret of his age and perfectly willing to allow it to continue to be their secret. Albion also wanted them to know that he was aware of Ben’s father’s history, including his exoneration and manner of death in Alaska. He endeavored to allow Ben and Sylvia to understand that he was versed in their affairs.

“Now, would you bring me up to date on everything you know, and/or suspect is going on, and then I’ll tell you why I’m here.”

They did, including the truth of Walter Thomas’s death at their door, as well as the two running from Sylvia’s shotgun blast the other night. “Detective Albion,” Ben said. “God told us to stand back and watch him work, but nothing in that tells me not to cooperate with law enforcement.”

“Ben, I have to be honest with you. I haven’t attended church since Sunday School, but I believe…” Albion nipped his inclination to accept the direction of Ben’s thoughts, returning to matters important to himself.

“That Walter Thomas, and his little hotel girlfriend… Well, that business had some far-reaching ramifications. And well, … just after you chased those two off, they called for reinforcements. And we believe that they are on their way. My best advice is for the two of you to make a tactical retreat, maybe to your home in California.”

Ben and Sylvia smiled. “Now Detective, how could we watch God work from a thousand miles away?”

Donald Albion paused a moment and then sighed before reaching for his briefcase. “All right then, let’s go to work. I have some pictures to show you.” There being only four photos provided by Agent Fisher, Albion dutifully passed them to Ben.

It wasn’t long before they pointed out the two that they’d seen in the Suburban, the same two as the porch lights exposed.

Albion nodded. “All right. Those others are men we expect might be responding to the call. The local Denver talent may become involved now, as well. The minute I see the need, which I hope…”

“… and pray,” Ben added.

“… and pray won’t be too late, we’ll have a company of state troopers at our disposal. In the meanwhile, we’ll just have two on hand, one patrolling, the other in plain clothes. My plan is for him to make himself a blind out in your back field somewhere.

“Now, since you choose not to leave, how comfortable are you…” Albion hesitated in his delivery.

“In making ourselves targets?”

Albion nodded. “See, we can act normal, encouraging them to come to us, or we can light this place up, discouraging attacks.” He looked at them as if leading them into following his train of thought.

Sylvia obliged. “And wonder when and where they would catch us: at the grocery, a restaurant, out for a walk…”


“And there’s no telling how long all that might take, or who all else might get caught up in it.”

Albion nodded. “This is desolate country. We should be able to spot them, but if we were to pull over a Suburban, say… And the people inside were not our two… We can arrest our two for your highway incident, maybe even for trespassing into your yard, though that one would be a stretch. But if we stop the new ones, we would have nothing to charge them with. Odds are, they would leave and be replaced with others that we might not know. And they might come in next time looking more like tourists than gangsters.

“And another sad reality… my boss won’t let me just move to Creede forever. If I don’t have anything to show, I’ll be assigned cases where I’ll … Anyway, I will be pulled.”

“We stay,” Sylvia said. “With the porch lights off. But the dog on.” Sylvia added to everyone’s grin.


Detective Albion spent the rest of the day coordinating with Sheriff Tate and his two troopers. The undercover officer came to the house to introduce himself before setting up netting in the back not too far from the house. He declined their kind hospitality, insisting that once in place, he had to convince anyone that he was not there, including anyone with binoculars. His hours of total camouflage they had worked out, would be from ten until four.

“One thing,” he said, his eyes on Sylvia, “Please don’t shoot me.”

They all laughed, though the officer kept his eyes on Sylvia.

Once alone, Ben looked to Sylvia, “Albion.”

“You too? You see his expression change when he turned away?”

They both grimaced, unsure what to make of the matter.


Of course, nothing happened that day, or that night, or the next. The officer with the backyard duty walked to the house to check out with Ben, seeing him on the back porch with coffee at four on the second morning. He finally accepted a cup.

Both stayed their cups in midair as a car slowly drove past the house. They couldn’t see it, but by the sound, it had a V-8 engine. The officer jumped up to inch around the house from the side of the car’s advance, hoping to see the back of it as it drove on. He was too late, as the car continued on.

“No idea,” he told Ben upon his return. “But I’ll stay around until daybreak. Ed, the front side man isn’t there. He probably left at four, not knowing we were back here having coffee.”

Sylvia joined them, having been roused by Benji’s growl.

“Might’ve been one of the sheriff’s volunteers,” the trooper said, doubting it as he mouthed the words.

It was Sheriff Tate who found the errant brick in the front yard later in the morning. The attached note read: by the time you read this 980 Santa Rosa Avenue will be ashes.

A phone call proved the note to be true. Arson was more than suspected since there were multiple origins of the fire.
Ben was filled with remorse.

“I didn’t lose anything of value, no photos of my dad at all. But there were a few of Mom I would have kept. And of course my old Bibles. I’d like to have those even if I never opened them again. But what hurts most was that it was my mother’s home, the house her father built. The town is probably glad that it’s gone, but Mom loved it. It was where she fell in love with my father.”

Sylvia expressed her confusion. “How could these men travel so fast. Be here and there, and back here?” She laid her hand on his arm, sitting on the sofa beside him.

The sheriff, interrupted the solemn moment. “They have a long reach, Sylvia. A phone call and houses can get torched anywhere in the country. I’m sorry, Ben. But these boys are mean, and they won’t stop until they get their way, or … Well, I just don’t know what it will take. Looks like they’re willing to spend real dough. Not sure Mineral County, or the state of Colorado is up to that kind of war. It’s way easier to tear down than to build, or protect.”

Ben and Sylvia nodded in agreement.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Oroville Johnston: grandson of Arville, Ben Sr's friend
Walter Thomas: pimp of the child prostitute in the Creede Hotel
Isaac Fisher: FBI Agent
Donald Albion: Colorado State Trooper detective
Sheriff Tate: sheriff of Creede and Mineral County, Colorado
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

3 more chapters

Chapter 23
Right in the Eye, ch 23

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part the FBI turned the case over to Colorado. Ben and Sylvia decided not to run. Ben’s California house was burned.


Sylvia’s Creede house was on Highway number 149, but folks referred to it as Mammoth Mountain Road, even though it wasn’t. A little more than a quarter mile south of town, Mammoth Mountain Road turned off 149 curving to ascend the mountain behind the house. The mountain road terminated on private property, though some maps showed it looping and returning to the north side of Creede.

No one saw the Jeep turn up Mammoth Mountain Road off Number 149 from the south, slowly driving up the dirt road without the use of their headlights. No one saw a man getting out of the Jeep and setting up a firing nest above Sylvia’s house about four hundred yards from the back porch umbrella table.

At about 5:30 in the morning, the backyard trooper long gone, the sniper with his Winchester M70 .30-06 aimed at Ben as he sat at the table, coffee cup in hand. The sniper loaded the first of the magazine’s five rounds with the bolt action. He aimed, breathed in, exhaling about half, squeezed and watched for Ben to drop. The crack of the explosion echoed across the valley. The sniper quickly chambered another round. Three seconds later, he fired again to the same result.
The sniper watched for any indication of where his round had struck – nothing. Four seconds later, after another obviously failed shot since Ben rose and returned to the house, the sniper inched back to his Jeep and raced down the mountain road, turning south on Number 149, unseen by anyone.

Ben was prepared to tell the sheriff where the rounds landed, in a yucca plant ten feet from the porch.

“Pretty simple, really,” the sheriff said. “Downhill shots strike higher. Aim low. Our shooter up there is a flat lander. He knew the rule, all right. He just mis-judged the slope – people do. He should have practiced. Gonna need to dig up your yucca,” he said to Sylvia. "Get those bullets.”

Sylvia gave him a nonchalant wave.

“But you, Ben, sitting there letting him adjust his aim…”

“Just watching God work, Sheriff.” Ben chose to believe that an obvious pro who could strike the same spot twice in a row and knew the trick of downhill shooting would have adjusted his aim for the second shot. "Somehow, God affected his aim, or the trajectory of the bullets. Or more obviously, this shooter was a city boy."

“The good news is that he won’t dare try the same shot again,” Tate said. “The bad news is that Schmidt Mining reported a burglary. A case of dynamite was stolen. We’re going to set up a speed trap, you know a man with a hair dryer like he’s using radar. We’ll stop every suspicious car on your road the next couple days.”

“Not a very effective way to do us in,” Sylvia commented. “Lob a few sticks from the road would tear up the house, but likely not kill us.”

“Might get you out where they could ram your car and then shoot you, though,” Tate replied.


Detective Albion called that afternoon to suggest Ben and Sylvia tune in to the evening local news on television. He didn’t elaborate, merely said that he would be by the next day.
“Stay tuned for news from our John Peters from Alamosa. John, what do you have for us?”
“Well, Stan, I’m outside of the Motel 6 here in Alamosa. As you can see, the entire west end of the structure is nothing but rubble. Local authorities believe that only two people have been injured, as the building was empty of most occupants at that hour. The mangled vehicle you see was a Chevrolet Suburban. The state police and the Colorado Bureau of investigations is on the scene. We’re told that they are sifting through the debris in search of fingers that they can use to make identification of what they are saying was at least two bodies. Back to you, Stan.”
“God at work, darlin?” Syvia asked.

Ben tilted his head and opened his eyes wide. “Maybe. I’m not saying that God kills people, but he does allow them to be as stupid and careless as they choose to be. Everyone should know that dynamite is volatile stuff.”


“Hello, Donald, offer you something?” Sylvia said.

“No … well, some cold water would be good.”

“Iced tea?”

“Even better. Lemon, no sugar?”

“Coming up.”

Detective Albion started right in, speaking to Ben loudly enough for Sylvia to hear him. “We’re pretty sure that the whole case of dynamite blew. They might have given a couple sticks to somebody, but that’s doubtful. And it was the Schmidt Mining dynamite.

“The victims were the two that had accosted you. We’re checking hotels and motels all around for suspicious characters that might have come in from out of state.”

Albion sipped Sylvia’s tea, accepting an offered seat while thanking her.

“The bad news is that we did not find a rifle of any kind.”

“So, someone is still out there,” Ben said, stating the obvious.

Albion and the tea glass nodded together as he sipped. “What would you folks say to a couple days at the Antler’s Rio Grande Resort?”

“Just up the road?” Sylvia asked. “Suppose it would be all right for us to hike around a bit. We’re getting a bit house cramped.”

“Don’t see why not, long as you avoid the road. Only thing is… well, your house might get a bit shot up.”

Ben and Sylvia’s eyes widened.

“These boys who we think came in… We’re sure one of them used the .30-06, but they like to think themselves old-timey gangsters. They like those old Tommy guns you see in the movies. You know, the Thompson machine gun.”
Ben and Sylvia nodded understanding.

“We’ll set up mannequins. Make it look like it’s you and you’re home sitting in front of the window. Your car will have to be here, of course. We’ll have a camera set up and hidden cars at both ends of the road. Once the shooting starts, nobody gets away.”

Ben and Sylvia agreed. Just after lunch, they were driven to The Antlers, Benji along with. As soon as they checked in, Sylvia gained permission and used the office phone to invite Slim and Mary to join them for a holiday. Slim and Mary were there by suppertime.

After a shared table in the Antlers’ restaurant, the four caught each other up with a recounting of events over a game of dominoes. Slim and Mary were amazed at the story of the puppies and Benji.

“Let’s go across the footbridge for a little walk,” Sylvia suggested. All four were breathing hard by the time they’d managed the knoll behind the resort up the foothills of Bristol Head Mountain.

“That’s east, right?” Ben asked, pointing down the river valley.

“It would be a pretty sunrise,” Mary said.

“About six,” Sylvia suggested, “Breakfast after?”

All four agreed as they began the descent, ready to settle in for the night.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Isaac Fisher: FBI Agent
Donald Albion: Colorado state detective
Sheriff Tate: sheriff of Creede and Mineral County, Colorado
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

2 more chapters

Chapter 24
Right in the Eye, ch 24

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part a sniper shot at Ben, but missed. The two local gangsters stole a case of dynamite. It exploded in their motel room, killing them. A plan was hatched to hide Ben and Sylvia at a local resort, setting a trap for the bad guys. Slim and Mary joined Ben and Sylvia at the resort.


Two men wearing newly purchased fishing attire exited one of the cabins on the opposite side of the Rio Grande. They followed behind the four sunrise observers. The two, for no legitimate reason, carried trombone cases. The two took note of one of the men they were following carrying a rifle.

Ben nodded acceptance of Slim carrying his 30-30.

“Benji tired this morning?” Mary asked.

Sylvia, leading the dog with a leash, stopped to consider Benji’s behavior. “He does seem more interested in behind us than ahead, doesn’t he?”

The two following men stopped as well.

“Back in the Colorados, we were tuned to our critters’ senses pretty good,” Slim said, “Animal’s hearing and smell, and all. You watch where they watch, pay attention to their ears. Might save you from a mountain lion.”

“Or two-legged varmint,” Ben added. “Why don’t I take Benji and check out what might be getting his interest?” Ben said, reaching for Benji’s leash.

“I’d lend ya my 30-30, but I’m thinkin’ yer better armed with a Bible.”

Ben looked to Slim and then the women, “I am. A Bible and prayer.” Never once had Ben in all his years, spoken of killing the man in St Louis. Ben and Benji carefully made their way back down. All four heard Benji’s growling.

“But even David knew to take a sling when he went against Goliath,” Slim said. “Goliath and his sword and spear. Don’t suppose you two would wait here?” Slim looked at the women’s expressions. “Didn’t think so.” The three cautiously made their way down, following Ben just out of sight.

Benji’s growl became ferocious. Then he barked, assuming a sort of bird dog’s point.

Ben stopped beside the dog, watching. Slim and the women stopped as well.

Presently, the two gangsters dressed as fishermen rounded a bend, stopping when they saw Ben.

“You boys looking for your seventy-four friends in the big parade?” Ben asked, his subtle reference to The Music Man tune.

The two looked to one another, befuddled. Both of them looked back to see whether they were sufficiently out of sight of anyone at the resort. Satisfied that they were hidden, they spoke to each other in tones Ben couldn’t hear. From their actions, Ben figured they spoke of an exit route after doing what they’d come to do. Soon after their talk, they each kneeled, laying their trombone cases on the ground.

Benji’s charge startled Ben, causing the leash to slip from his hand. Benji covered the distance in the time it took for each of the two men to unsnap one of their trombone case latches. Benji chose the closer of the two to bite his hand as he attempted a second latch. As that man quickly flinched and drew back his pained and bleeding hand, Benji leaped to reward the other man with the same treatment as he attempted the third trombone case latch.

As the already-bitten man managed to get his case opened, the crack of rifle fire echoed from behind Ben. Slim’s shot, finding steel within the case, shattered, sending at least one bullet fragment into the gun owner’s leg, causing him to fall sideways to the ground.

The other man finally managed to shake Benji off, ripping skin in the doing. With his bleeding hand, he scooped up his trombone case. With his other hand, he helped his partner up, taking the time for him to scoop up the wreck of his gun and case. The four, by then all assembled, watched as the two clowned their way back toward their cabin. Benji proudly strutted to Sylvia for rewarding pats.

They all watched the two make their escape.

“Could still put one in the back of each one’s head,” Slim said.

Ben smiled. “No doubt you could, Slim. No doubt you could. No, if God wanted you to kill them, they would already be dead. You snapped off the shot he told you to.”

“Didn’t really think about the shot,” Slim agreed.

“Oh my, Ben! This is better than shooting headlights! But…” Sylvia was beginning to be anxious. “I mean … there are people over there. Down there fishing. In the restaurant, others will be coming out after the rifle shot…”

“Shouldn’t we go after those two?” Mary asked. “They’re dangerous!”

“They have guns, honey. Maybe sidearms, too. We don’t want a shootout with them cornered and us with only this rifle,” Slim said.

“We need to let God work, I think,” Ben added. “Let’s give them time to clear out, which they will as quick as they can.”

“Oh, look at the sunrise!” Mary exclaimed.

“It’s beautiful,” agreed the other three.

After rewarding Benji with rubs and pets, Ben suggested they get to where they could see the walking bridge across the Rio Grande.

“Prob’ly a bad idea to cross it until we see those two get to where they’re headed,” Slim said.

That very moment they could hear the two as they stumbled their way over the wooden planks.

“I’ll run on ahead an’ try ta see if they still have their trombones, or if they’re high-tailin’ it, or what,” Slim said.

“Be careful,” Ben warned. “You’re a bit old to be running.”

All four laughed.

It was mid-morning before Detective Albion arrived to get their statements. “Nothing from any hospital or clinic in Alamosa, Pagosa, Durango… If they made it to I-25, it would be harder to find ‘em. My guess is that they took care of the dog bites individually, one at one facility, the leg injury at another. Less conspicuous. They probably didn’t do anything but wrap the leg ‘til they got outta state. Or, they might be in Denver where their social club has a doctor on some sort of retainer, some doctor who … well, never mind. Bottom line, they’re gone, but we’re searching the room. The state boys are going through it now.

“Shot their trombone, did you, Slim?” Albion wasn’t smiling.

The two couples all smiled anyway.

“Way I see this, the Outfit sees a huge negative cash flow. The whole mess not worth one whore… prostitute, and one low-level pimp set-up. Or to the contrary, they take umbrage at the insult, afraid that if word got out, they’d appear weak and vulnerable.

“With burning your house in California down…” At this Albion nodded toward Ben. “… and sending two teams out here, it’s public enough that without a couple heads to mount on a wall somewhere, they would look bad. And that’s not to speak of the pride of the four already de-nutted. Sorry ladies.”

“So we can go back home?” Sylvia asked.

“Well, I really would hate to say yes, and then you all… Let’s just say, I don’t know. Tonight might be safe, but they could have people from Denver here this afternoon. Or more from New Jersey, or wherever tomorrow, or the next day. Los Cerrillos is looking pretty good to me.”

The four exchanged glances.

“Mary, the town looks out for you pretty well, as I remember.”

“Better now that you-know-who doesn’t come around anymore,” she replied.

Detective Albion grimaced and nodded.

Ben wondered why Albion avoided how anyone knew of their hiding at Antlers.

“Well, then… I hate to admit that the state of Colorado can’t protect you, but we really can’t. Your dog and quick shooting saved the day today, but…”

“How about another day of dominoes, tomorrow’s sunrise, and then off to Cerrillos after tomorrow’s breakfast?”

All agreed.

“Ben and I will just run over to my place to pack a few more things,” Sylvia said.

“I’ll follow you over, let the boys over there know what’s up. I’ll stop in and tell Sheriff Tate first,” Albion said.


“Only thing that bothers me,” Ben said to Sylvia in the car to her place, “is how I’m leaving God out of our decisions. We’re making plans without asking first.”

Sylvia didn’t say anything, unversed in the practice of asking God anything at all. Finally, she asked, “Doesn’t God expect you to use your best judgment, take advice from expert authorities?”

“He does,” Ben replied. “But not to neglect him altogether.”

“I don’t see you ever doing that.”

“Still yet. Would you mind packing my things while I spend time on the back porch?”

Sylvia smiled as she glanced toward him, just as she pulled into her driveway. Neither thought it odd that there didn’t seem to be anyone there, or that Albion was not behind them.

Ben called the sheriff’s office using the number taped to the phone. “… Yeah, ask him to run by Sylvia’s place, would you? … Uh, yes. This is Ben Persons.”

Ben had barely begun praying, not yet through with praise and thanksgiving for all God had done for them recently when he was interrupted by Detective Albion. “Oh, sorry. I heard talking, thought you were both out here.”

“Just me and God,” Ben said, his smile not returned.

From far behind the house, two undercover officers came running up toward the house, their guns drawn. Albion nodded toward them. “Must be shift change.”

Benji came from Sylvia’s side, barking and snarling, looking from Albion to the backyard, and then to the driveway where the sheriff was just pulling in.

“Okay, then. I’ll be off, have to get the findings from the cabin search and finish my report.” Albion was out of the house before Sheriff Tate entered. Looking out the window, Ben saw a brief exchange between the two.

“Morning, folks,” the sheriff said. “I got your message, Mr. Persons, lucky I was just outside. Them the state boys out back?” The sheriff wrinkled his brow at them. “Haven’t seen those two before. But, can’t know everybody. Still…” The sheriff walked to the back door, opening it to greet the two men who seemed more interested in what went on inside than out back.

Neither Ben nor Sylvia heard the mumbled exchange between them.

“Everything all right then? I see you have a suitcase. Everything calmed down out to The Antlers?”

“Yes Sheriff, we won’t go to Cerrillos until tomorrow.”

“Oh? Sounds like a good idea. The same contact number as before?”

“Yes, Sheriff. And be sure to thank all your volunteers for us.”

“I’ll sure do that. Watch yourselves, now.”

“We will, Sheriff. And thanks again.”

Ben gestured for the sheriff to leave, which he was in process of.

“Just gonna say a word to the two out back,” Ben said. “And I’ll be ready to go. I’ll carry the bags.”

“I can get one of them,” Sylvia said, taking it out to her car, the suitcase in one hand and her Remington in the other.

“Hello, men. I’m Ben Persons. You gentlemen State, or County?”

Both shot nearly unseen glances to one another. “County,” they said in unison.

Ben nodded. After thanking them and telling them that they were leaving, they did.

Ben pondered their bizarre response.

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Isaac Fisher: FBI Agent
Donald Albion: Colorado State Trooper detective
Sheriff Tate: sheriff of Creede and Mineral County, Colorado
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

1 more chapter

Chapter 25
Right in the Eye, ch 25

By Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben, Sylvia, Slim, and Mary were warned of danger by Benji as they began an early morning hike to watch the sunrise. Benji bit them both and Slim shot one of their guns.


“Sylvie,” Ben began, “I’m thinking that we go to Los Cerrillos now, right this minute. I’m feeling it.”

They had just arrived at The Antlers and were about to call Slim and Mary.

“What about what we told the sheriff and Detective Albion? And the room’s already paid for.”

Ben looked at her with an expression of earnestness.

“Okay, honey,” Sylvia agreed. “You want to call Mary and Slim’s room and tell them? You know, have them make sure there’s a room for us at their motel while I pack up?”

Ben reached for the phone, but changed his mind. “I’ll take Benji for a walk, and tell them in person,” Ben said to Sylvia’s confused, but resigned, look.

Ben knocked on Slim and Mary’s door.

“Ready for dominoes?” Slim asked.

“Well, actually, we’re packing.”

Slim studied Ben as Mary walked to Slim’s side. “The Holy Spirit moving ya?”

“Guess you could say that. Thing is, until you two came along, I haven’t had to do much more than decide on eggs or cereal for breakfast.”

“I’m sure that’s not a hundred percent true,” Mary said.

“But we get your point,” Slim finished. “You gettin’ some kinda feelin’?”

“Yeah. Not feeling too safe around here. My first thought would be to send the ladies to Cerrillos. You and I deal with whatever the threat is. But that wouldn’t be right for you.”

“And we wouldn’t do it,” Mary said with a degree of finality.

“So, we all stay here where none of us might not be safe…” Ben knew he’d misspoken, but also knew that they understood him. “And maybe get picked off whenever one was alone, or we all head to Cerrillos and see if we can’t winnow down the potential culprits.”

Neither Slim nor Mary quite understood who Ben wanted to winnow, but that point didn’t matter to them.

“Also, I thought that maybe you girls would allow Slim and I to go in one car, and let you two get away in a different route.”

“But you couldn’t be sure they would follow us, and not the women, using them as hostages.”

Ben nodded. “And the same thing, they could use you two as hostages.”

Mary gasped just the tiniest bit.

“So we need to caravan. Hold tight. Not one get ahead, or too far behind.”

“I wish I knew what my father would do.”

“Or what Jesus would do,” Slim added, a smile on his face.

“Watch God work?” Mary offered. “Might be why they burned down your California home. At least one reason… Keep you right here close.”

Ben nodded. “How about right after lunch. We get all packed and loaded up. You two stay together. And when we finish eating we sneak to the parking lot and zip outta here.

“Like a thief in the night,” Slim said.

“Well, I would use a different analogy, but, yeah. So, on the road, you lead. If we’re followed, we’ll flash our headlights twice. That’ll mean for you to slow down, and we’ll let whoever it is pass us, if they will. Another flash will mean speed up, as fast as you can go safely, and we’ll try to get a policeman to pull us over.”

Slim nodded the whole time as he thought about Ben’s plan. Not finding fault, he continued nodding.

“He means all right,” Mary said, shouldering Slim, grinning.

At lunch, the four kept conversation to a minimum, the women attempting the weather, the food, and maybe a clothes shopping trip to Albuquerque in the future.

There were others in the restaurant, but they didn’t recognize any of them.

As they drove out, Slim and Mary in the lead, Ben told Sylvia of the driving plan. It was a few moments later that Sylvia groaned. “Uh-oh. We’re not real low on gas, but we won’t make it far.”

“Sign back there said South Fork was 21 miles.”

“We should make that, easy enough. Just have to signal Mary.”

“How about if we flash our lights, meaning to slow down, and then use your turn signal and pull over? They should get the message.”

“Yeah, but that might keep us from making the gas station. If it stalls and we have to restart.…”

“Okay, flash your lights twice, and slow down. They’ll think we’re being followed and will slow down like we planned.
We’ll just keep going and when we see the service station, we’ll use our turn signal. They’ll figure it out.”

The plan didn’t work out. With less than two miles to go to get to town, they felt the first chugging of a starved-for-fuel engine. Sylvia shifted to neutral and allowed the car to coast to a stop.

“Turn on your lights,” Ben said. But by then, Mary and Slim were out of sight.

“Do we have any water?” Ben asked. Seeing Sylvia’s confusion, Ben said, “For the gas tank. Water will raise the level of the gas that’s still in the tank. As long as ….”

“There’s a car coming behind us. I think it’s pulling over,” Sylvia said.

“Quick, change places with me. Hop over. Hurry.”

Sylvia did, allowing Ben to scoot under the steering wheel.

“Reach over and get your shotgun, Sylvie. Be careful with it, though.” Ben saw who was getting out of the car that had pulled up behind them. “He’s getting out to come up here.” Ben positioned the barrel of the shotgun across his lap under the steering wheel. He rolled down his window.

Just then, Benji alerted. He’d been disturbed from a sleep by Sylvia’s reaching for the shotgun, but had settled back down. Benji leaped over the seat back and onto Sylvia’s lap. As soon as Donald spoke, stepping close to Ben’s open window, Benji leaped onto Sylvia’s lap growling and snarling.

“Hello Donald,” Ben said as Sylvia attempted to quiet Benji.

“Ben. Thought you weren’t leaving until tomorrow, and then I see your cars are missing. Both cars missing means leaving Creede.”

BOOM! The noise was near deafening as the shotgun erupted, firing into and through the driver’s door and directly into Detective Donald Albion’s abdomen when in Benji’s excitement he kicked at Sylvia’s hand. Albion was blasted backwards into the street.

As Albion fell, Slim and Mary drove up from the opposite direction. Sylvia was nearly hysterical.

Ben opened his door, climbing out carefully to avoid stepping on Albion. “It’s all right, Sylvie! Come around! Mary, would you park where no one will run over Albion? Sylvie, I need you!”

Sylvia was sobbing, but attentive to Ben’s call.

“Donald, Donald!” Ben called. Ben surveyed his wound, a huge, hideous hole right where his belt buckle should have been.

Albion was conscious, his mouth flapping soundlessly.

Having nothing handy to use as a pillow, Ben sat on the ground, stretching out his leg for Albion’s head.

“How’d you know?” Albion finally groaned out, Slim and the two women looked from Ben and one another, confused about Albion’s question.

“You were going to do it at Sylvia’s house yesterday, weren’t you?” Ben asked.

“Didn’t know where she was with her shotgun.” Albion’s eyes glanced toward Sylvia. “How’d you know?” he groaned.

“One thing: you didn’t go to the sheriff’s like you said.”

“Huh,” Albion choked, racking in pain. “And for that, you shoot me?” Albion gasped with pain.

“And those weren’t state or county men at the house. They were FBI. And you had all the hotels and motels canvassed for the out-of-state men, but not the resorts. Not the resort where we were staying.”

“Ben, isn’t there something we could do?” Mary asked.

“He’ll be gone before we could get him anywhere. But thank you, Mary.

“Donald, do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Would you like me to pray with you?”

Albion choked again. Looking from one to the other of the four. When he got back to Ben, he flinched and bucked, his legs kicking as he screamed. As he settled back Slim saw that he’d drawn his revolver. Slim took a half step with his left and firmly planted his right on Albion’s wrist. As he did, the pistol fired, the slug sent harmlessly underneath Sylvia’s car.

As the echo of the shot faded, the four heard the sirens from Creede.


“Folks, I’m awful sorry the way things turned out. You were never… we didn’t intend to put you in so much danger.”
Agent Fisher snapped a glance toward Sheriff Tate. “We’ve been on this case from the start.” Fisher pointed to Albion’s corpse. “He was a dirty cop. We let him think he was in charge, but put our men out there. It didn’t go quite as we mapped it out. Shoulda had you folks more involved. I apologize.” Another eye dart toward Tate.

“Albion pulled up to your disabled car. You shot him in the guts. He fired his weapon, hitting the bottom of the car frame on the opposite side. Then Albion bled out and died.”

Sylvia gulped, choking on what went down wrong. Mary gasped at the report.

“But here’s the way it’s going to be written up.” FBI Agent Fisher donned a voice of authority, Sheriff Tate leaned in with as much a posture of attention as he was capable. “I’ve interviewed all four of you. Detective Albion pulled up to your car. And in the melee of events, Albion fired his gun, and was prevented from harming any of you by a shotgun blast to his gut. That about cover it?”

The four looked to one another.

Ben began to speak, but was interrupted by Slim. “Agent Fisher, there might be, you know, in the confusion, a nit-pickin’ ‘bout the sequence, but that’s what happened. Albion was kept from hurtin’ anybody by that shotgun.”

“That’s the way it’s going to be then. I have all your contact information, but I doubt if there will be a need for any follow-up. Any questions? I didn’t think so. Have a good day.” His dialogue left no room for comment.

“Just one thing,” Ben called to the law officer’s retreat. “You wouldn’t have a gallon of gas, would you?”

Sheriff Tate did.

“You know, Ben,” Slim said. “Believe I’ll make us a sign fer the sittin’ room wall: Sit Back an’ Watch God Work.” Slim exaggerated a wink with his good eye.

The end

Author Notes Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Isaac Fisher: FBI Agent
Donald Albion: Colorado State Trooper detective
Sheriff Tate: sheriff of Creede and Mineral County, Colorado
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Thank you to each reviewer. I have greatly appreciated your many helps and your tremendous support throughout the Ben Persons/Tony Bertelli/Ben Paul Persons saga. Now, if only we could watch it in a movie.
My prayer is that someone might see that all it takes is faith and a willing heart to answer God's call. The call may be great, or small. That the rewards may never be seen is of no consequence.
I wanted so much to run the rabbit trails of every life affected by the three main characters, Slim, being the only one I allowed.

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