Slingshot Bill-part two

I was telling y’all about moving close to Austin an’ getting another wife but I wuzn’t gonna tell you no more unless you told me how y’all liked my story so far. Well, enough of you said you did that I decided to tell you a bit more. The other wife comes later in my story so I better not get ahead of myself.

The ranch we bought belonged to a widder that wanted to move to Tarrant County where her son now lived. She already sold off the livestock an’ everything else so there wuzn’t much left except the buildings, a corral an’ fences. Of the buildings there wuz the ranch house, a barn and a bunk house where the hired help stayed. There wuzn’t no hired help left an’ that wuz fine with me. I intended to use that building as sleeping quarters for the children while we gradually built on the main house.

Buyin’ the ranch took a lot of the fortune left to me by Missus Magillicuddy. Also, nine wives an’ twice as many children eat a lot of food an’ that’s just in one day. I had to find a way to make some money so we wouldn’t slip into lean times. I was making a fair livin’ horse breedin’ before movin’ to Austin. Well, around Austin there seemed to be horse breeders galore. I had to find somethin’ different.

First things first though. I bought a dairy cow, some egg layin’ hens and a rooster. We also planted a vegtable garden. Most important though was my trusty slingshot. There wuz plenty of rabbits an’ other critters around that a man could feed his family with so we would never starve. Rex was still a good huntin’ dog but he was getting kind of old and slowin’ down so I figured it was about time to retire him. Hope was way ahead of me there. She bought a bitch for Rex to breed with and a couple of puppies.

I decided that each child should be taught how to handle a slingshot. That included the girls. In fact, the first one I taught was my oldest child Charity. She took right to it and helped teach her younger brothers and sisters how to hunt with the slingshot when they got old enough. Not all of them became expert shots but even the least of them did a good job of keepin’ critters at bay that wanted to make a meal out of the chickens or the garden. It was good self protection too as I can testify to.

As far as the children wuz concerned they each had nine mommas and as far as the women wuz concerned they each had 18 children. They loved each one the same way with no favorites. That kept everythin’ simple. It was too hard tryin’ to figure out and explain who was your real momma or who could call Florry or Hannah Grandma an’ who couldn’t, who might be an aunt or a cousin or some such. Even when they wuz babies, one mother’s teat was as good as another’s as long as there wuz milk to be had. Of course, the wives knew which of the babies squirted out from between their legs, but like I said, it was a lot easier if everyone didn’t play no favorites.

Anyway, things got to be running pretty smooth so I could concentrate on earnin’ a livin’. That didn’t last long. When we wuz livin’ out in the middle of nowhere nobody much come by to stick their noses in my business. Since we moved close to the big city there wuz a lot more people around an’ they all seemed curious about us. I guess it’s to be expected when they start seein’ a passel of women an’ children around with only one man.

It started innocent enough. My nearest neighbor came by an’ introduced his self. I could tell he was mighty curious by what he saw but I didn’t offer no explanation and he was too polite to pry. He must have told others though cuz the next thing I knew there was a whole parade of people “just happenin’ by” to introduce themselves to the new neighbors. Jerusha! I didn’t realize I had so many neighbors.

“We could sell tickets for the viewin’,” said Polly.

“I ain’t interested in makin’ money that way,” I replied. “I’d much prefer they stayed away.” Some of the people wuz just wanted to gawk but some of them, I could tell, wuz up to no good. Men who wuz just plain galoots wuz stoppin’ askin’ for work even when it wuz plain I didn’t have no use for them. They wuz shore eyein’ the women though an’ like I said before I knew they wuz up to no good. I had a bad feelin’ I wuz gonna regret moving here. I decided to call a meeting of the wives to discuss security.

“I think we are going to have trouble here before long with all the saddle tramps comin’ by and eyein’ you women. Somebody’s liable to get hurt if we don’t do some plannin’ before trouble starts.”

“We wuz thinkin’ the same thing,” said Beth. “That’s why we drew up these plans. You can look them over an’ tell us if we missed anything.” She handed me a map of the ranch an’ surrounding terrain with defensive positions an’ hidin’ places for the children.

“It looks okay to me,” I said. I shoulda known Beth would already be thinking this out. I wuz right proud of her.

“I’m glad you think so.”

“I see everybody’s name on here except mine.”

“That’s cuz we figured if there’s gonna be trouble the galoots would wait until you wuz away.”

“That makes sense but what if I’m here?”

“Then you should get out of the way as soon as possible.”

“What are you talking about? I ain’t no coward. If there’s goin’ to be trouble then I’m goin’ to be in the thick of it to protect my wives an’ children.”

“I knew he wouldn’t agree,” said Philomena. “He’s so stubborn. Just like a man.”

“Well, I just happen to be a man,” I replied. “Perhaps you should explain your reasonin’ on how I should go hide while you women fight.”

“It’s perfectly logical,” said Polly. “Men aren’t afraid of women. They’re afraid of other men. If a gang of galoots rides in meanin’ to do us harm, it won’t be to kill the women but they might kill the man in order to get to us. The galoots will think we’re defenseless but that will be their mistake.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” I allowed, “but it still seems cowardly.”

“General Lee didn’t really lead his troops into battle where he might have been hurt or killed,” Polly replied. “He was in a safe area where he could observe the battle and direct his troops.”

“So now I should think of myself as General Lee?”

“Yes, in a matter of speakin’,” said Beth. “Better yet, just think of yourself as the most important person in this family and we’d all be lost without you.” There was agreement heard all around the table and I felt right embarrassed. General Lee was probably glad he never had to fight a woman’s logic. He woulda lost every time. Everyone said they wuz willin’ to kill to protect what was precious to us which was each other.

Florry handed me a list of things to buy includin’ more weapons an’ ammunition as well as a list of suppliers where I would get the best prices. Her experience from runnin’ a store wuz comin’ in handy. It was more money goin’ out but it is wuz necessary.

“I gotta get some money comin’ in soon,” I said. They all started jabberin’ at once with suggestions.

“One at a time,” I exclaimed.

“Philomena and I can go bounty huntin’,” said Beth.

“I ain’t gonna let you two go bounty huntin’.”

“Why not? It’s not like we ain’t collected bounties before. There’s good money in it and it sure has come in handy.”

“We didn’t go huntin’ for no bounties,” I replied. “Those galoots come to us.”

“Well, we wouldna known about the bounties on those galoots without first seein’ their wanted posters. Why don’t you let me at least me go collect a batch of those posters? You never know, some of those galoots comin’ around here might have bounties on them. We can arrest ‘em or shoot ‘em when they ride in to stare at us.” That got giggles from the rest of the women an’ I tried to change the subject.

“Any other suggestions?” The subject of cattle ranchin’ came up but I wasn’t interested. My pa tried it an’ he went broke pretty quick. Heck! Some of the experienced ranchers wuz havin’ a rough time of it what with the price of cattle goin’ down. The cost of raisin’ cattle never seemed to go down.

There wuz some other suggestions but they wuz things I didn’t want to get involved in because of time, talent or risk. I said I would consider everythin’ an’ then ended the meetin’.

I knew I wuzn’t goin’ to hear the last of Beth’s bounty huntin’ idea. I wuz right. She had Philomena’s support an’ she had a way of gettin’ the other wives on her side too. They just plain wore down my resistance. After listenin’ to them harp for a while, I told Beth I’d let her go ahead an’ get those wanted posters but there was no way I wuz goin’ to allow her to chase galoots for reward money.

So the next time I had to go into town for supplies, I told Beth she could come with me and we’d pick up wanted posters at the sheriff’s office. About half way in, we heard shooting an’ saw two galoots firing at another who had taken cover behind some rocks. A dead horse wuz layin’ nearby. One of the pair took notice of us and fired a shot our way. He wasn’t a very good shot or maybe he wuz just warnin’ us off, but Beth an’ I jumped off the buckboard an’ hid behind some rocks just as a precaution.


I should mention my sister/wife did not neglect to grab her Winchester Model 94 as we took cover. I’d given it to her for her last birthday and I had a feelin’ that galoot wuz gonna regret firin’ on us. I wuz right. Beth seldom missed what she wuz aimin’ at an’ wuz a dead shot at that range. That’s exactly what the galoot wuz on Beth’s first shot. He wuz dead. His pardner looked surprised an’ then confused. He fired our way, but he wuz dead a moment later from Beth’s second shot.

The other galoot wuz the smart one. He put down his weapon an’ raised his hands. He started walkin’ toward us.

“He’s wearin’ a badge,” said Beth. She lowered her rifle an’ we relaxed though we didn’t lose our cover just to be safe. The law man didn’t lower his hands. Like I said. He wuz smart. He got close enough to shout.

“I’m a United States Marshal,” he called.

“You can put your hands down,” I replied an’ stepped out to meet him.

“That wuz some mighty fine shootin’, Mister. You saved my life an’ I’m grateful. Is your missus all right?”

“My sister wuz the marksman,” I replied. He gasped in surprise an’ then Beth stepped out into view. He remembered his manners an’ removed his hat.

“I’m grateful, Ma’am.”

“Did those galoots have a bounty on ‘em? If so, I’m claimin’ it,” Beth replied.

“I’m not sure, but let’s go take a look. You’re certainly welcome to any reward money there might be. You earned it.”

It turned out only one of the galoots had a bounty on him. It wuzn’t much. He was after the Marshal ‘cuz his brother wuz hanged for murder an’ Marshal Law was the one that captured him. I helped the Marshal tie the bodies to their mounts an’ collect his saddle from his dead mount. On the way into town, I could tell the Marshal was quite taken with Beth an’ he asked her directly if he might call on her.

“I have a husband, Marshal. I have two children besides.”

“Your husband is a mighty lucky man, Ma’am.”

“I like to think so,” Beth replied. “Course, I feel purdy lucky myself.” I could feel my face blushin’ with pride when I heard that.

The Marshal said he would get the reward money to Beth as soon as possible. He didn’t even charge us for the galoots’ burials.

“I’m going to pay for that. It’s the least I can do for you savin’ my life.” Beth told him why we were goin’ into town an’ he loaded her down with a big stack of wanted posters. It turned out he had heard of Beth from the Sheriff in Hand Springs.

“I sure wish I could hire you,” he said. “You’d be worth your weight in gold.”

“Don’t encourage her,” I urged. I knew Beth didn’t need no encouragement. I also knew what to expect as we made our way home. Violence seemed to have strange effect on her. Specially if she wuz the one doin’ the violence. She had just killed two men an’ her lust wuz up. She wanted to fuck somethin’ fierce. She asked me to pull off behind some trees an’ I knew it wuzn’t so she could piss. We jumped off the buckboard an’ Beth pulled up her dress an’ braced herself against a rock so I could mount her. We didn’t exchange words. We didn’t have to. We wuz no better than a couple of animals but we liked it that way. The other wives wuz the same way.

When we got back home, Beth told one an’ all about our adventure an’ how she claimed another bounty. Everyone was shocked an’ excited by her story an’ I could tell Philomena wuz wishin’ she had been with us.

“I can’t think of a better way to make a livin’ than huntin’ down galoots that have bounties on their heads,” said Beth.

“It’s too dangerous,” I replied. “The answer is no.”

“You keep sayin’ that, but I ain’t got a scratch on me yet.” I seemed to be repeatin’ myself.

“I can’t imagine you’d like chasin’ galoots all around Texas on your own.”

“She won’t be alone,” said Philomena. “I’ll ride with her.”

“Well, just remember you two won’t have no husband around to take care of your womanly needs from time to time. An’ I’m certain you both will miss your children somethin’ awful. They will surely miss you.” I could tell I wuz finely getting’ through to my two would-be bounty hunters. They hadn’t thought of that.

“I’m sure there are plenty of galoots in an’ around Austin,” said Polly. “You could chase after them durin’ the day an’ be home at night.”

“That’s a great idea,” said Beth. “Thanks!” I just glared at Polly. Well, I wuzn’t done yet.

“If you track down too many galoots around here, some of them will turn around an’ track you down.”

“That’s true, but I just thought of a way it might work.”

“What is it?”

“Never you mind. I still have to work it out in my head.” I just shook my head an’ walked out to get some chores done.

Philomena an’ Beth took some trips to Austin when I wuz not able to go along, but I wuzn’t much worried about them. If any galoot had thoughts of interferin’ with either of them, he would soon get his mind changed or he would wind up dead on the side of the road. They kept secret the reason for the trips but I knew they would tell me when they wuz ready. Well, anyways, I couldn’t follow them around all day to keep them out of trouble. I had other things to do.

I let the neighborin’ rancher’s cattle graze on my land in exchange for some beef later on. He had a plague of rabbits on his land so he paid Charity an’ Billy a small bounty for each pair of ears they brought him plus we had that much more rabbit for the stew pot.

I wuz workin’ in the barn one day when I heard the children screamin’ like banshees from hell. That wuzn’t so unusual, children bein’ children, but there’s a scream and then there’s a scream that makes a body drop what he’s doin’ an’ come runnin’. The wives wuz doin’ the same.

The first thing I saw wuz a covered wagon drawn by a four horse team out by the road that ran past the ranch gate. A man wuz on the ground an’ Billy an’ Charity had their slingshots ready to shoot. Wally wuz holdin’ a knife to the galoot’s throat.

“Step away, children,” said Hannah. Florry an’ her wuz both carryin’ shotguns an’ had them aimed at the galoot’s head.

“What’s goin’ on,” I said.

“He tried to grab Molly,” said Charity.

“That’s a lie,” cried the galoot.

“It’s the truth!”

“You ain’t gonna take a little nigger’s word over mine, are ya? They’re the ones that attacked me!” Well, of course I wuz gonna take Charity’s word over the galoot’s but I didn’t say so out loud. I wuz tryin’ to decide what I wuz gonna do about this fool. He wuz harmless right then so it didn’t seem right to just kill him. I could turn him over to the law, but the law tended to believe a white man’s word over a colored child’s or even if the child wuz white. Molly looked looked scared but unharmed so I decided to let him go with a warnin’ not to let me see his face aroun’ these parts ever again.

“Get off there you hellion,” the galoot demanded. Billy had climbed up on the wagon an’ was peerin’ inside.

“Take a look, Pa.”

“You don’t have no right to go in there.” I ignored the galoot an’ climbed up beside my son. I looked to where he wuz pointin’. There wuz two young girls bound and gagged lyin’ on the floor of the wagon. They wuz raggedy an’ dirty.

“Cut ‘em loose,” I told Billy.

“Those two are my daughters. They wuz misbehavin’ an’ I have the right to discipline them as I see fit,” he yelled. “I’ll have the law on you if don’t let me go right away.”

I shook my head in disgust. That was no way to treat children no matter how bad they wuz behavin’. We watched as Billy helped the two girls down. The older one looked at the galoot with pure hatred in her eyes. She couldn’t be more than ten years old. The other one looked about seven.

“I heard what he wuz sayin’,” the older one said. “It’s all lies. He kilt our Pa an’ he did dirty things to us.” Her eyes wuz fillin’ with tears.

“The girl’s the one that’s lyin’ and she’s crazy as a loon,” the galoot retorted. “I’m gonna whip your butt good when I get you home.”

“Well, it looks like the Sheriff is gonna have to figger out who’s tellin’ the truth here,” I replied.

“Let’s be reasonable now,” said the galoot. He started to take off his hat.

“Don’t let him do that,” the girl warned. “He’s got a little gun in there.”

“Just flinch one mo’ time an’ you is a dead man, Mister,” said Hannah. The galoot froze an’ I grabbed his hat. There was a double-barreled derringer rigged up in the crown.

“He’s got a pistol in his boot, too,” the girl said. She reached into the galoot’s boot an’ brought it out. The two glared at each other an’ then a shot rang out. The galoot fell back an’ twitched some, then he wuz still. The little girl had shot the galoot dead. There wuz a bloody hole in his chest.

As soon as we recovered from our shock, we acted quickly. The girl let me have the gun without resistance. I then dragged the galoot’s body behind some brush and told Wally an’ Billy to lead the rig into the barn. The wives gathered up the children an’ hurried into the house.

The older girl’s name was Daisy and her sister’s name was Maisy. They wuz 13 an’ ten years old but they was so under fed an’ scrawny that they looked a lot younger. The wives burned their old clothes an’ gave ‘em a bath then dressed ‘em in some old dresses. They got fed next but they couldn’t eat much cuz their bellies wuz so shrunk.

This is the story I got from Daisy. Their ma wuz long dead an’ their pa wuz a worthless drunk. She didn’t know how her pa met up with the galoot but he offered to find a home for the girls since their pa couldn’t take care of ‘em an’ pay him for his trouble. The deal wuz made at their shack an’ the two celebrated with a couple of bottles of whiskey. But their pa’s whiskey was poisoned. Soon after he started drinking, he was passed out an’ then dead. The girls wuz then tied up. Daisy didn’t give me no details about what “dirty things” the galoot did to them. That wuz fine with me. I didn’t want to know.

“I suppose I’ll have to go to jail,” said Daisy.

“Why do you suppose that,” I asked.

“I kilt that man.”

“I don’t rightly recall you killin’ anyone,” I replied. “I wuz just talkin’ to him plain an’ simple like an’ the next thing I know he fell dead. I think his heart gave out. He musta been sickly. Anyone else know any different?” Everyone just shook their heads and I said, “You musta been mistaken.” Daisy wuz a smart girl an’ she nodded her head in understandin’.

“Are you gonna send us to an orphanage?”

“Is that what you want?”

“Oh no! I don’t want that at all. Me an’ Maisy will work for ya for free if’n we can stay here.”

“I got plenty of help around here,” I replied. “Sorry.”

“Oh.”

I do have openin’s for a couple of daughters though, if you an’ Maisy are interested.”

“D-daughters?”

“I’d be your new father an’ these women, they’d be your new mothers. You two would have a bunch of new brothers an’ sisters too. Of course, you an’ Maisy would have your share of the chores. What do you say?” Daisy answered me by rushin’ into my arms an’ huggin’ me. Everyone started whooping an’ hollerin’ an’ huggin’ each other. Maisy was busy huggin’ Billy who she saw as her hero. Daisy wuzn’t much younger than me but I wuzn’t interested in her that way. I thought she had to have a chance bein’ a child.

Along about this time Philomena an’ Beth returned from a day in Austin an’ I had to explain everythin’ to ‘em. They wuz plenty upset, of course, but after they calmed down they wanted to go take a look at the body to see if they recognized him from the wanted posters they’d been studyin’. I took ‘em to where I hid the body but they didn’t recognize him.

“I can’t understand why he thought he could grab my Molly with all the other children around,” said Beth. I explained that the children wuz playin’ hide an’ seek an’ Molly wuz the seeker so the galoot likely didn’t see the other children when he happened by. That seemed to satisfy Beth. She spat on the galoot’s face before walkin’ away. Philomena did the same thing so I added my own spittle before lootin’ the body. I found a money belt an’ more weapons as well as a packet of papers. After dark, we tied the body to the back of a horse. I hauled it out to a lonely place an’ dumped it where none but the coyotes an’ buzzards wuz likely to find it.

“What did you find in the wagon,” Beth asked the next mornin’.

“Nothin’ much other than the children,” I replied.

“Take a look at those tracks the galoot’s wagon made.”

I took a look and said, “So?”

“They’re mighty deep ruts for a near empty wagon. And why did he need a four horse team when two woulda done it?”

“You tell me.”

“There’s somethin’ heavy in that wagon an’ we ain’t found it yet.” She talked to Daisy an’ asked her if she knew where the galoot wuz bound. Daisy wuz under the impression he wuz comin’ back from Mexico but she didn’t know where he wuz bound. I got some tools an’ I pried off the boards from the wagon bed. What I found took my breath away; the bottom ‘neath the false bottom wuz lined with gold bullion. We wuz rich beyond our wildest dreams. The refinery marks showed the gold come from Mexico.

“I’m mighty curious to know how that galoot come by so much gold,” said Beth.

“I figgered you would be,” I replied.

“He musta stole it or sold somethin’ purdy valuable.”

“Let me know when you find out. I gotta find a hidin’ place for this gold.” I buried it under a stall in the barn.

The papers the galoot had on him showed he wuz a former soldier. Beth an’ Philomena looked through old newspapers an’ discovered that an Army arms depot had been raided an’ a huge load of weapons an’ ammunition wuz taken. The Army tracked down the galoots, all former soldiers, but the stuff had already been sold to a Mexican bandido who fancied his self as the next boss of Mexico. It had been traded for gold bullion. The galoots would not tell the Army where the gold wuz hid so after they wuz tried they wuz shot by a firin’ squad.

The galoot that Daisy kilt must have been involved in the raid cuz he had been stationed at the Army depot too, but he got away. That satisfied me that the gold wuz ill gotten gains so finders keepers. Of course, the Army had first claim on it...if they could find it. Now I had to find a way to sell the gold without attractin’ attention. The wives an’ children knew to keep their mouths shut so I wuzn’t worried there.

“It looks like you two won’t have to go bounty huntin’ after all,” I told Philomena an’ Beth.

“But we’re havin’ so much fun,” Beth protested.

“What do you mean by that?” Beth got all red in the face an’ fessed up to what she an’ Philomena had been doin’ in Austin. They went an’ talked to Marshal Law an’ offered to hunt for wanted men in an’ around Austin. If they found someone, he would be reported to the Marshal. The Marshal would make the arrest an’ the wives would get the reward without gettin’ involved in the arrest.

Marshal Law gave them a room to use an’ they would change into men’s clothes. They would spend their time outside the saloons pretendin’ to be idlers, but always on the lookout. So far, they had three arrests an’ $150 to their credit.

“So you see it doesn’t put Philomena an’ me in danger at all. The hardest thing we had to do was learn how to spit an’ whittle.”

“I can see that,” I replied. “But it ain’t necessary no more an’ I don’t want y’all doin’ it.”

“Oh, we wuz only gonna do it until we got enough money to open our own detective agency just like the one Mister Sherlock Holmes of London, England has. Now we won’t have to wait.”

“You ain’t gonna open no detectin’ agency. You two are gonna stay home an’ be wives...my wives.”

“It’s somethin’ we have always wanted to do an’ we are gonna do it.”

“I forbid it.”

“Fine! But see if I get into your bed ever again.”

“I feel the same way,” said Philomena.

“Go ahead an’ cut off your noses,” I replied. “Y’all forget I have seven other wives to take care of my carnal desires. Any one of them will gladly take your turns in my bed.”

“We will see about that, Mister Bill Stinker.”

Well, that very evening the rest of the wives suddenly had “female problems” and couldn’t come to my bed. I knew it was a danged conspiracy an’ an attack on my male authority, but I could play the same game. I wasn’t gonna allow any one of them into my bed until each one once more pledged to love, honor an’ obey me; even if they begged me to use them first. It had been years since I had slept alone in my bed but I could get used to it again. A week later I wuz staring at a sign in a sign painter’s shop that read “Tinkerton Detective Agency.”

“They got the name wrong,” I said. “The name’s Tinker, not Tinkerton.”

“We know that,” said Philomena, “but Tinkerton Detective Agency has a nice ring to it. It’ll be good for business.”

“I don’t see how, ‘specially when they find out you two are women. Whoever heard of a woman detective?”

“Oh, you’re the official detective, not us. We’re just your helpers.”

“What are you talkin’ about? I ain’t no detective.” They assured me I wuzn’t gonna do no detectin’. Whenever a client (their word for a customer) come in, they would tell him I wuz out doin’ detectin’. They would get the information they needed, then go out an’ investigate. When they solved the case, I would get the credit an’ nobody would be the wiser. It sounded a bit too complicated to me for it to work, but that’s the way they wanted it. I wuz just glad I didn’t have to sleep alone no more.

I thought we wuz through for the day an’ about to head home when I saw Beth get that special look in her eyes; sorta like when a she wolf sees supper walkin’ her way. I looked where she wuz lookin’ an’ saw a group of men walkin’ into a bank. I turned back to ask Beth what she saw the wives wuz hurryin’ toward the weapons they kept stored in the buckboard.

“What’s goin’ on,” I demanded.

“I recognized those galoots from their wanted posters,” said Beth. “They’re probably robbin’ the bank right this very minute. We intend to stop ‘em when they come out. Where the hell is your pistol?”

“I forgot it.” Actually, I just got tired of carryin’ around the danged thing cuz I never used it.

“Take cover then an’ don’t come out until the shootin’ is over.” Philomena an’ Beth took cover behind the buckboard.

Well, I wuzn’t going into hidin’ when my wives wuz getting’ ready for a gunfight. I still carried my slingshot an’ plenty of lead shot. I saw a ladder leadin’ to the roof of a buildin’ down ...


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