Published on Monday, June 25, 2012
Mad Dog Donaldson
By Daniel J. Kirk
If you had told me when I got out of bed this morning that today was the day I died, I might've laughed at you. The Wild West, as those back East liked to call it, had started to simmer down. There were real towns and real nice places to live. There was even law you could appreciate here in our little town of Pinewood.
On account of the heat, I'd planted my keester in Old Mac's Saloon. Whole town had decided to take the day off except Mac. He still had a healthy slab of ice keeping the beer cold.
Of course, being that the whole town was in one building, we all had to look when some one walked in.
I almost laughed that it would be Mad Dog Donaldson who walked through the door when I was sitting so nicely on a stool already. Of course, this Mad Dog was looking for a fight.
When he told us his name was Mad Dog Donaldson, the whole place went quiet and still like a cow out of grass.
"I don't need no more trouble, but I can hand it out if that's the way it's gonna be," he told us. He handed out his first share of trouble to Old Mac. He wanted the hard stuff, but Mac doesn't share that with strangers. Mac liked to know who could handle their drinks.
"You getting' smart on me! I should gun you down right here." He showed the pistol he intended to use. I hadn't seen anything like it before. Looked as if it had never been fired before.
Our fine Sheriff Roy Woods stood up, and he got to see that black hole all pistols pertained to have.
"Not in here. No, sir." Sheriff said.
"I can do my killin' in the heat too, Law Man."
"Why don't you just go back outside?" I said from the comfort of my stool.
"Don't you know who I am? I'm Mad Dog Donaldson." He growled.
"Of course you are." I said.
He slammed the door on his way, yelling back at me. "I'll give you two minutes to say your goodbyes and get yourself a gun. Then you better be out here."
All the eyes turned on me. Annie's were the saddest. "Oh sweet Annie, if I were a younger man, I wouldn't have wandered so long. I would've married that woman the day she become one.
"Oh don't do it, Joshua. We'll stand by you. He can't get all of us. He only has six bullets."
I laughed a little. Don't know why I liked being called Joshua. Felt like all the love in the world when it came from sweet Annie's lips.
"That's six too many, Annie. Besides, he don't scare me." I said.
"I swore I wouldn't take the Lord's name in vain no more, " Sherriff said, "but Jesus Christ, Joshua don't you know who Mad Dog Donaldson is?"
The room erupted, with everyone trying to tell me the worst story they had heard attached to that name.
Bad things. The massacres, the petty thievery that always amounted to something cold blooded. It all had kept me up late at nights just thinking about it. They spoke with hatred, and they spoke with fear. There wasn't an ounce of respect. All they wanted was Mad Dog to either leave them alone or get dead real soon.
And now he was here among them.
The Sheriff refused me his pistol. I hadn't carried one in a year, not since I settled in Pinewood. Weren't any good reason for it, not until today.
Annie tugged at my sleeves.
"You'd have him gun down an unarmed man?" I asked the Sheriff. He glared at me and then unbuckled his holster. Then he stuck me with his star.
"Make it legal. That way if he kills you, they'll bring all the Marshalls down on him once and for all."
"Wouldn't that be nice?" I muttered.
It was hotter than I remembered. It should've started to cool off it was almost supper time and yet the sun still blazed like it was noon. What was it back East that had driven me West? Was it too much shade? That couldn't have been it.
Just seems it's a lot easier to get a fresh start where no one else is fighting to be. But then you get the lawless and ruthless. You get carried away thinking it all belongs to you. Everything that's not under the cover of shade. And you get to thinking others owe you for stepping out into your sunshine.
"Not so yellow after all."
I'd heard better greetings in my day. I turned and faced him in the street. He sneered in the shade of his hat. His fingers began the tickle the air like he'd done this before.
"You really want to make a name for yourself?" I asked.
"I've got a name," he said sternly, then suddenly burst into a great big laugh, "Are you expecting pity, cause you've never heard of Mad Dog Donaldson?"
"I've heard of him." I said.
He pulled his pistol, and his shot rang out. Only he was already falling to his back, because I'd shot first before I ever spoke.
It felt awful to kill a man again. It reminded me why I quit, why I didn't want to ever pull that trigger again.
"You killed Mad Dog Donaldson!"
Sheriff Roy Woods ran towards me and patted my back. "I bet there's some kind of reward for that! Annie, get on the wire! We have Mad Dog!"
There was all kinds of hooting and hollering, but I know it weren't Mad Dog Donaldson lying in the dirt. No, Mad Dog was still on his feet and in my boots. I could've corrected the stories that would come this day forth, but truth was I liked these people. I liked that they thought I was better than the thug I'd let Mad Dog become.
Here, I was just Joshua, and Mad Dog was finally dead.
I had witnesses.
Daniel J. Kirk prefers to hide out in the woods, by mountains or in the rivers of Virginia and West Virginia. Of course no one is looking which is all the same to him. He'd prefer no one knew he had a college degree and spent all his time dreaming up stories, unless of course they wanted to read one. This is only his second foray into the western genre.