“We’re all travelers in this world from the sweet grass to the packing house.
From birth to death we travel between the eternities.” from the western movie “Broken Trail”
(Previously: “Tex” a sincere cowboy type born in Texas, raised with “cowboy values”, and now a biker, lives in a small country town not too far from the city where his father brought his family from out West to find work in a mill. Tex’s girl Suzi, who works in a diner, is being harassed by a young man robbing the diner at gunpoint. We continue with Tex cheerfully entering the restaurant.......)
It was at precisely this moment that a smiling Tex stepped through the door of the diner, but that smile froze on his face as he stood staring in momentary confusion. Then he erupted into pure rage when he saw the diner’s owner Tony lying on the floor in a puddle of blood near the counter and Suzi being confronted by a man who held a gun on her with one hand and a fist full of cash in the other.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?”
The stranger turned to him in surprise and took a step back from Suzi as he rudely pushed her aside and pointed the gun at Tex.
“If you can’t tell, dumbass, this place is being robbed! Don’t be a hero! All ya gotta do is keep your mouth shut, sit in that booth, and put your hands on the table! I’ll get to you in a minute!” then he turned back to face Suzi.
But instead of following orders, Tex immediately reached for an old-fashioned and heavy steel napkin dispenser on the booth’s tabletop and flung it at the intruder knocking the gun out of his hand before leaping across the room at him.
Grabbing the punk by the neck he squeezed with all his might, and as he continued holding he smashed his own forehead into the kid’s face. Stunned, the young robber fell to the floor as the money scattered all over the place.
Tex quickly turned to Suzi and asked, “Are you alright?”
“Yes I’M alright, but look what he did to Tony!” Then she rushed over towards her boss as Tex followed.
While all this was happening, the thief regained himself somewhat and scrambled on his hands and knees for the weapon which had slid under a table. Grabbing for the gun as Tex helped Tony to his feet, the hold-up man rolled over onto his back and fired two rounds, one of them wildly hitting the jukebox and the other grazing Tex in the arm. Then he stood up and yelled, “Okay Sugar-buns! Pick up that cash so I can get the hell outta here!”
Tex, who was holding his wounded arm with his other hand, quickly assured her that he was only grazed and was going to be fine. She quickly knelt and began gathering up the bucks as she was told to do while Tex leaned against the counter to steady himself for a moment.
Tony, who appeared to be pulling himself together as he spat out a tooth and wiped blood from his face with a rag began to shout....”I know you! I’ve given you free meals! I even paid you to help clean up out back!”
“Calm down and shut up old man... and you hurry up Sugar-buns!”
As Tex remained standing and catching his breath he could see through the window that Frank Sheridan, the little town’s sole constable, was pulling his police cruiser into the parking lot outside the diner for his usual coffee break. Tex had no idea what was going to happen next, but he knew it was going to be bad. As Frank got out of the car and began climbing the few steps to the entrance Tex tried to distract the robber with small talk.
“Why are you doing this? The money here can’t be worth it!” But before he was answered the small town cop walked in and froze in confusion just as Tex had. As he scrambled for his service weapon, the thief swung his own gun towards him and fired hitting Frank in the chest twice... then Frank collapsed to the floor. Grabbing the money from Suzi, the criminal left as fast as he could leaping over Frank as he flew out the door. After the sounds of the blasts of the gunshots in that little closed room, there came an eerie ringing silence.
As soon as they could regain their senses, Tony, Tex, and Suzi all rushed at once to Frank thinking the worst, but the fat and friendly policeman was still alive and gasping for breath as pink foam bubbled from his mouth. This indicated to Tony (a Viet Nam veteran) that a lung was perforated by at least one of the bullets and was in the process of collapsing.
As Tony knelt and did what he could for Frank, Tex reached for his cell-phone and called 911. Suzi ran for clean towels from the kitchen and helped Tony apply them to Frank’s bloody and heaving chest.
“What.. just.. happened?” Frank managed to gasp out to Tony.
“Try not to talk Frank. Some jerk just held us up and you happened to walk into the middle of it.”
Tex knelt beside them and quietly told Tony, “An ambulance is on its way. They’ll be here any minute.” And soon they were since the diner was just a block from the local fire department.
In no time at all Frank was on a stretcher and being attended to by the competently busy EMTs. Tex was unconcerned about his arm after allowing a bandage to be wrapped on it by one of the firemen who came along to help. When told he’d need stitches he assured everyone that he’d go to the emergency room later and get it seen to. Next, Tony’s minor facial and head wounds were taken care of while he insisted further doctoring wasn’t necessary. “I’ve been slapped around lots worse than this in the old days by real gangsters.” he grumbled.
As the ambulance bearing Frank pulled out, two County Sherriff’s cars that had to come from miles away screamed into the lot with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
For the next few hours statements were taken by the police. Then the little diner was gradually put back in order after Tex, Suzi, and Tony were questioned about everything. It was soon learned that though it was touch and go for a while, Frank was finally upgraded to “stable” condition and that both bullets had gone through his right lung cleanly and exited his back below the shoulder blade. When he heard that Tony sighed in relief, “It is incredible what the human body can withstand.”
Within a few more hours the thief was captured, although Tony could only give the county detectives sparse information about this guy who had begged for something to eat, gotten it, and even received a few extra bucks for cleaning up the alley behind the diner. Tony never even knew his name until told so by the police, but “James Robert Williams” turned out to be someone who had been reportedly homeless with a major drug problem and usually stayed in a derelict old van in a junkyard where the cops found him too high to put up any kind of resistance or to even speak coherently.
Time went by and Frank recovered from his wounds. After a prolonged absence from duty he returned to work a little more careful about walking into random crime scenes, which can be any place anyone walks into these days. I live in a small town like Frank’s and the convenience store here where many of us buy milk and stuff has been held up twice in the past year... both times in broad daylight!
Tex and Suzi were married a few years later and Tex became first the manager, then the owner of the hardware store where he had worked. He and Suzi ride often, but not just the bike... He eventually sold the store for lotsa bucks and invested it all into a profitable concern they’ve named “Little Suzi’s Riding Academy”. Tex the “Cowboy” had brought out the “Cowgirl” in Suzi that she never even knew existed until she discovered how much she loved horses and everything about them.
Tony still has the diner. Suzi and Tex are often customers there. To his credit Tony still offers a bit of food and/or a bit of work to any poor souls who ask for a hand-out. But now he’s more aware of the consequences of that and he tactfully, without showing disrespect to them, asks for an ID of some kind before doing so... mostly to dissuade anyone from getting any ideas of coming back and taking what he doesn’t want to give.
And what happened to that homeless guy, James Williams? Well, he’s still doing time... much more than he would have had to if he wouldn’t have shot anyone... especially since he almost killed a cop!
If there are points to any of this they might be these...
(1.) Times can be hard for any of us, and everybody deals with everything differently. No matter what you feel regarding those less fortunate than you are, you have to be careful. These days anything can happen to anyone at any time.
(2.) Many of us have had dealings with the police and usually we look on them as authority figures that we resent and resist. But they have a tricky and often dangerous job to do... and most of them attempt do it with honor, integrity, and courage.
(3.) Homelessness is a horror that affects EVERYONE. Until this society figures out how to give people a way out of the vicious cycle of “no car, no job, no home, and no hope” we still have to be aware that it literally IS a matter of basic survival for them, and survival instincts are unpredictable to say the least, although most homeless people are simply trying desperately to get by and need our help.
(4.) Selling/buying/using hard drugs doesn’t require a car or a home. All that’s needed is access to a telephone and knowing what numbers to dial. If you add on to all this the escalating heroin/Fentanyl problem (189 overdoses resulting in 26 deaths in MY county in the month of March alone) and some of those using these hard drugs who might not have even thought to commit felonies in the past, may begin to feel they have no choice. If we don’t watch out, many of us who believe that we don’t have to deal with all that bullshit in OUR safe and secure lives will probably find ourselves mistaken sooner or later. So be extra careful.
It would be great if we could all trust each other, strangers or not, but you really shouldn’t. It would be great if we could believe in the true dignity of ALL mankind, but sadly you can’t. It would be great if we could all be secure in the knowledge that we, and our loved ones, will always be safe no matter what or where, but that isn’t practical. All we can do is try to keep our minds open without letting our brains fall out in the process.
Well, I know this month’s piece hasn’t been funny or uplifting in any way folks, but these really are crazy times. I hate preaching about anything, and I have little right to do so because I’m not the straightest arrow and have been on the wrong side of the law a few times in the past. I even feel a little ashamed that I’m now sounding paranoid or maybe even cold in my warning to be so careful of others. But those whose lives have spiraled out of control, no matter where the fault lies, often do the damndest things. I think some of them get to the point where they really don’t care what happens to anyone else because to them, it simply doesn’t matter anymore. To them, it really is a dog-eat-dog world. Hopefully we can be aware of that without losing too much of our humanity. Then maybe we can all be cowboys.
Talk to ya next month and I promise to be more cheerful. I’m really not A bummer... I am THE....