Western Fiction posted February 7, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
A prequel to Tin Stars and Yankee Gold

Pistol Packin' Petticoat

by Earl Corp

St. Louis, Missouri
 “You can go in now,” the doctor told her.

Dolly Madison Fergusocelebrated her twentieth birthday a week earlier. She entered the bedchamber where her grandmother was dying

“Grandmother, how are you?”

 “My race is nearly run, child, but before I go to my reward, I had to tell you the truth.” 

“What truth?”

 “The truth about who you really are, it all started about 30 years ago….."
St Louis, Missouri

Andrew Jackson Tyler had just hit town from a season of trapping. He was pretty disillusioned with his take. The money he’d made wasn’t nearly enough for him to finance next year’s trapping. He didn’t want to spend another season hip-deep in ice cold mountain streams waiting to take a Blackfoot arrow in the back.
He was walking from the warehouse along the waterfront when he passed a store with a Help Wanted sign in the window. His curiosity got the better of him so he went inside. Immediately his nostrils were attacked with the smell of leather, pickles, and gun oil. Behind the counter was a tall dark-haired girl of maybe seventeen years.
“Howdy, I’m Andy Tyler and I seen your sign and am declarin’ myself for the job.”
The girl’s gaze met Andy’s and a shiver went up and down his spine.
I’m goin’ to marry that gal, he thought.
She giggled at his formality.
“You’re declaring your intentions and you don’t even know what the job is.”
“No, ma’am, I don’t,” but he suddenly became bolder than he ever did in his life. “But if it means workin’ near you, I’m in.”
“My but you are a fresh one, Andy Tyler. We’ll see if you’re so bold when you talk to my father.” She turned and yelled, “Papa, someone is applying for the job.”
A big man stepped from the back room. Andy Tyler didn’t have to look up at many men, being he was over six feet tall himself. This man could have been Goliath out of the bible. He was layered in muscle from head to toe which was topped by a mane that was starting to get some streaks of gray at the temples, a moustache drooped over the corners of his mouth.
He stuck out a hand that seemed as big as a grizzly paw which swallowed up Andy’s in a firm, but  surprisingly gentle, grip .
“Howdy, Sir, I’m Andy Tyler fresh from the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been bit by a Grizz, chased by Blackfoot Injuns and I know how to work cain’t see to cain’t see.”
“Pleased to meet you, young man. I’m Logan Ferguson and this is my daughter, Sarah.”
The girl had a bemused look on her face as she nodded a greeting to Andy.
“He’s declaring himself, Papa.” 

“For what? Your hand in marriage?”
Sarah’s cheeks started to color red at this remark.
“No sir, just the job for now." 
“Tell me, boy, kin you read and do your sums?”
Andy thought this over for a minute.
“I kin read some of the Bible because that was the only book we had at home. I know my sums up to the fives tables.”
“I think I can work with that,” Ferguson said.

“Then I have the job?”

“Not so fast, I have to tell you what your duties will be. Are you familiar with the Rendezvous they hold each year on the Green River?”

Yessir I been to the last two, they’re a good time drinkin, games and…” He looked sheepishly at Sarah before he finished the thought. “Tradin’ with the Injuns.”

Logan knew what trading went on with the Indians between the Mountain Men, but he didn’t press the young man. He was obviously smitten with his daughter, and from the glances she was throwing, it was mutual. This could be beneficial two ways. He’d gain an employee he could trust to take wagon loads of goods to the Rendezvous and a son-in-law to boot.

“Mister Ferguson, I’d be proud to do that for you. Does that mean you won’t be needin’ me until Rendezvous?"

“Not at all. You’re going to need to learn the stock and how to keep books before you go.”

“I hate to ask, but how much does it pay?”

“How about a dollar a day and room and board, Sarah here is a fair to middlin’ cook?"

Andy stuck his hand out.
“Sir, you got a deal, I’m yore man here’s my hand on it.”

Ferguson’s paw gripped Andy’s hand and the agreement was reached.
The following July when Andy took the wagon train of goods to the Rendezvous he left his pregnant bride with her parents.
St. Louis, Missouri

Andy had taken to the store business like a duck to water. After he married Sarah, Logan had cut him in for 10 percent of the profits from the Rendezvous. But when the  bottom fell out from the beaver trade Andy found himself working for straight wages again .

Ferguson wasn’t exactly tight-fisted, but raises weren’t always forthcoming. Andy and Sarah had three sons now and they ate up their weight in vittles. Andy also was getting restless.

Then gold was discovered at Sutter’s Fork in California.

“I’m tellin’ you Sarah this could be our big break. They’re pickin’ nuggets the size of your head right off the ground. I could go and get us a stake, and we’ll be able to open our own store... and move out of yore parents’ house.”
“Andy, this isn’t a good time. I’m with child again.”

“All the more reason for me to do this. I’ll be out and back with a load of money quicker than a wink of yore eye.”

Sarah had a bad feeling about this trip, but Andy was set on going, she finally surrendered her blessing.
Shasta County, California

Andy Tyler was disillusioned to say the least. He couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong with his plan. Come to California, pick up a bunch of nuggets, and get rich. The only problem was half a million other fellers had the same idea.

So here he was standing hip-deep in an ice-cold mountain stream panning for color. This was exactly the same reason he’d quit trapping. Sure, he had found a little gold but it wasn’t the bonanza he’d expected.

He’d partnered up with Jake Sloan and his 15-year-old half- Shoshone son, Buffalo Calf. Jake was also a former Mountain Man and had come west for easy riches. The three had kept claim jumpers at bay for the past six months.

Jake had gone to town for supplies, this left Andy and Buffalo Calf taking turns between panning and standing guard over the only trail leading into the claim. Andy detected some movement at the tail head. He sighed a breath of relief when he saw it was Jake  leading the pack mule.

“Buffler Calf, yore pa’s comin,”

The boy barely nodded he’d heard Andy as he kept panning.

As Jake got to the campsite, he swung down from his horse went to the fire and poured himself a cup of coffee from the ever-present pot that was always boiling. Jake  squatted down and blew on the top of the cup to cool it. Jake reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out an envelope.
“Letter here for you, Andy.”
Andy took the envelope from Jake and looked at it.

“It ain’t in Sarah’s hand.”

He sat down, opened it, and began to read.
Dear Andy,
It is with heavy heart I take pen in hand to give you some bad news, your dearest Sarah died in childbirth, The baby was a little girl and is doing fine. Your children need you to come home. Logan and I will keep them with us until you get back. May God see you back here quickly.
Your Mother-in-law,
Thelma Ferguson
Andy dropped the paper. The anguish he felt was all over his face. Jake noticed right away.

“Andy, whut’s wrong?"

“S-S-Sarah’s dead.”

“Whut’re you gonna do?”

“I guess I’ll have to git home and take care of my young’uns. How much gold we got cached?”

“I reckon about $3,000. It’s yore’s.”

“No, I’ll jest take my third, you boys worked for yore share too.”

Andy got up and started gathering his meager belongings into his possible sack.

“I’m sure, I do have a favor to ask and it’s a big’un.”

“Whut’s thet?

“I’m goin’ to need a good gun for the trip. I know you set a lot of store by thet Walker Colt but I’m gonna need somethin’ besides my old Hawken."
“It’s yore’s.”

“Preciate it, Hoss.”

Andy went over and got his chestnut gelding from the corral. He threw on the blanket, then the saddle. He was tightening the cinch when Jake and Buffalo Calf came over to say goodbye.
Jake handed Andy a poke of gold dust and the Walker Colt.

“Here you go, Andy.”

“Much obliged, Hoss,” he then turned to Buffalo Calf and said, “You be a good boy and mind yore Pa.”

“Yessir, I will.”

Andy clasped arms with Jake.
“Watch yore topknot.”
“You do the same, safe trip and Godspeed.”
Ferguson’s Store
St. Louis, Missouri

“Are you sure about this?” Logan asked.

“As sure as about anything in my life,’ Andy answered.

“What about your young’uns?"

“The boys will go with me but I ain’t equipped to deal with an infant.”

The three boys were now of an age they could help on the frontier. The oldest, Daniel Boone or Boone, at age 12 was already Hell on Wheels in a fight and a crack shot. James Bowie, or, Bowie as the middle son was known, was now nine and becoming strong as a bull. His youngest, Kit Carson, was named after his mountain man mentor. At eight he was rough and tumbling with his brothers and holding his own.

“We’ll keep her until you are.”

“I appreciate that, sir.”

“Nonsense, you are family, and you all will always have a home here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
St.  Louis

The Fergusons raised the little girl, Dolly Madison, as their own. As the years went by little was said about her father or brothers. Andy never sent for her, or even bothered to write. They decided to give her the last name Ferguson instead of Tyler.

Logan and Thelma made sure she didn’t want for anything. She attended school and learned to read and write. They also sent her to a finishing school to learn how to be a lady. Over Thelma's objections Logan made sure she also knew how to shoot, rope, play poker, and ride a horse.

She had grown into a beauty that reminded them of their daughter, Sarah. But she also had the Tyler independent streak in her. She much preferred the lessons her grandfather had given her than attending the tea parties her Granny had made her attend.

But Logan had died the previous winter. Now Thelma was getting ready to join him.

“You see, child, your real name is Tyler,” Thelma said at the end of the tale.

“What became of my father and brothers?”

“Your father opened a mercantile in Kansas. Brother Boone is an outlaw. Ironically Brother Bowie is a deputy marshal under Wild Bill Hickok in Dodge City. I think Kit is working on a ranch in Texas.”

“Why are you telling me this now, Granny?”

“Because I’m about to leave you alone in the world and I wanted you to know you have kin.”

The feelings swirled inside her as she digested this revelation. At that moment Thelma gave a little gasp. Her eyes were open but she wasn’t seeing anything, at least not in this world. Dolly Madison bent over and kissed her departed grandmother on the forehead. She then folded her hands across her body.

“Bye Granny. You’re now with Mama and Grandpa.”

She turned and left the room. The doctor and the maid were standing right outside the door.
“She’s gone.”

“Is there anything I can do, Miss Ferguson?” the doctor asked.
“Just call me Miss Maddie,” she said as she walked past them and went to her room to pack.
On a stagecoach outside Muleshoe Texas
A month later
Maddie tried to get comfortable on the seat. Dust was pouring through the windows putting a thin layer on everything inside the coach. She was the only passenger on the stage to Amarillo. She had no clear destination in mind when she boarded. Her first thought had been to find her father and brothers, but that had gone by the wayside.

Now she was riding a stage west. She picked up the dime novel she’d been reading, Boone Tyler Saves the Sioux Princess. Ned Buntline had written several novels about Brother Boone.
All of a sudden, the stagecoach jerked to a stop.

“Stand and deliver!”

The stage was being robbed. She didn’t dare peek out the window, as she heard the driver being told to throw down the strongbox. She then heard a shot. The door jerked open and a man with a kerchief over his nose stuck a gun in the door.

“There ain’t but one passenger here, Elmer. Step outside, Missy.”

Maddie stepped out onto the step. She was wearing a blue traveling dress trimmed in white topped with a Butterwick hat.

“C’mon down here, Missy,” the outlaw motioned with his Colt. Maddie reluctantly obeyed. She heard the outlaw’s breath catch as he gazed upon her beauty.
“Thunderation, ain’t you a pretty filly.”

“Keep yore mind on the task at hand, Abner,” the other outlaw admonished.

“That’s right, whut you got in that purse there, Missy?”

These guys are dumb, Maddie thought. 

She reached in the purse and pulled out her .32 and shot Abner desd center in the chest. Elmer was in shock and didn’t react right away. By the time he got his wits about him and started aiming at her Maddie was quicker and nailed him in the forehead.

Maddie checked the driver but the shot she’d heard had taken him dead center. Now all alone on the road to Amarillo she climbed onto the box and looked for her suitcase. Pulling out a pair of jeans, a light blue shirt, her gun belt, and a pair of boots then looked for a bush to change behind. Quickly dismissing that idea as silly. There was no one there to see her undress.

As she put on the clothes she mulled over a situation. By the time she’d tugged the boots on she knew what she would do. Not sure she could handle the coach. Taking the Green River knife off her gun belt and cut the lines of the harness to free the horses. Keeping ahold of one while she shooed the others, they headed west.
Maddie put a low crown black hat on then mounted the stage horse bareback. She started following the other horses. Riding the horse bareback wasn’t pleasant. She didn’t know how far she she'd have to do so.

Maybe I’ll come across a ranch and get help,’ she thought.

As the miles went by, the sun got higher in the sky, and she started thinking maybe trying to drive the stage wouldn’t have been that difficult. She was sore and thirsty. All of a sudden, a grove of cottonwoods appeared on the right.

And lo and behold, a saddled horse was cropping grass beneath one of them. She didn’t see a soul in sight. Maybe one of the outlaws’ horses got loose she reasoned as she approached it.
Brady Ford instantly jolted awake when he heard his horse nicker. After four years in the Civil War and five years on the Owlhoot Trail his senses were keenly aware of his surroundings and had kept him alive so far.
He sat up to get a look at what had disturbed his nap. Someone was stealing his horse! He quicky got to his feet and approached the horse thief from behind. Just as the would-be thief was swinging into the saddle Brady grasped ahold of the middle of thief’s gun belt and yanked.
Maddie was just getting on the horse when she flew backwards and landed flat on her back and knocked the wind out of her. Her attacker was right on top of her, she struggled with all her might to get out from under him. Arching her back, she tried to turn him to one side. He got her arms pinned to either side.

“Yore a gal!”

“You're durned right I am and if I get loose, I’m going to kill you,” she seethed.

“Hold still and I’ll let ya go.”

“Not likely.”

Maddie tried throwing him again, but he must have been a bronc rider the way he stayed atop her. After one last crawfish she saw it was useless and settled down.

“There, that’s better,” Brady said and let go of her wrists.

He got up off her and she sat up, Brady said, “Don’t get up just yet. Now tell me how a she-cat like you got stuck out here and why you were trying to steal my hoss.”

Maddie told the story of the botched stagecoach robbery and how she’d seen his horse by itself.
“I didn’t know anyone else was around,” she finished the tale.

“You figgered the Good Lord just put a saddled horse there as a Gift?”

“Well, no, I thought it might belong to one of the outlaws.”

“It belongs to an outlaw all right, me. You really shot Abner and Elmer?”

“Yes, I did.”

“That’s a shame, them two old boys wouldn’t have hurt you none.”

"I didn’t know that; they shot the driver and I figured I was next.”

“He probably made a move, the Skelton boys never shot anybody unless they deserved it thet I know of.”

“You knew them?”


“I didn’t catch your name sir.”

“Didn’t throw it. I’m Brady Ford.”

“The outlaw who rides with Boone Tyler?”

“The very same. Let’s go, Gal, we got to light a shuck.”

“What do you mean we?”

“There’s a stagecoach strongbox to collect and somebody ought to give Elmer and Abner a Christian burial.”

“I’m not going back there.”

“Well, ma’am, since it was you whut shot’em, I figger ya ought to help bury’em.”

“I am not a step and fetch it woman and I’m not an outlaw queen."

“Didn’t figger ya were. Help me bury’em and I’ll part ways with you."

“What about the strongbox?”

“No sense lettin’ it go to waste.”

“Don’t be so hasty, maybe we can work something out.”

“I didn’t catch your name ma’am, and my mama said never trust strangers.”

She held out her hand and said, “I’m Miss Maddie.”

Brady took her hand and shook it.

“Now we ain’t strangers, let’s go get that strongbox, we’re burnin’ daylight.”


Western Writing Contest contest entry



This is a character I've been toying with for awhile. I know this is long and could be broke up but I'm not sure where I'm going with her yet.
*Word Count 3184
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