Chapter Eight

The posse took over the evening Packy and Wayman come along and posed as journalists and that's what Wayman was anyway. The Brownrats had to feed the posse ducks, fish, oysters, fish, rice, beans, and thought about turning outlaw. Let's just start in shooting them when they go to bed tonight, said Ben. Let's wait till we can get some guns back, said Jed. Packy become pretty friendly with the Finley brothers, thinking he could wait for me and we could turn the tide of battle when the Finley brothers attacked. Sir, when is the first attack? he asked James over midnight coffee in Josephine's kitchen. Ain't going to be none, said James at the back of Mary Jo climbing her bed out in the loft of the main room, and flinged coffee out of his moustach. James was a bug eyed old buzzard and did most the thinking but his weakness was a nasty mind. We are going to see the Texas Gang surrender, or die of thirst. We got it from fat Mama here that two of her boys are in there and there ain't no water in there. What we'll do is shoot them when they surrender, because they are dangerous men, and worth money, but her two boys, we might let them get by, just put'em in jail a couple of years, if they is innocent. Josephine Brownrat whirls from her dish washing, they are good boys, they are good boys! Gunter put his hands in his lap, and Terral come in, said, hey, Easterner, you look sick. I am, said Gunter. Think I'll walk a spell. Yessir, think I'll try out my crutch or go to bed. His mind worked fast, and Wayman followed Terral in and Gunter said, Wayman, keep these chaps company because I'll be back. Re went limping out and got a canteen of water, the carbine and ammo, and a shovel. He come back in the kitchen and sure nuff got the drop on the Finley brothers. Give Wayman here your guns so I won't have to kill you and shut up. Now take off your boots and soon as you do that, tip toe out that front door, that door there, that one, the back one, goddamn you, I mean the back one, so don't make me kill you, I'm tired of killing, but you know I'll kill you all the same. I got to piss, said James. Too much coffee. Piss in your pants, or Josie can turn her back and you can piss in your boot. What's happening, said Mary Jo from the loft. I can't sleep. Turn your head, Mary Jo, said Packy. We're coming through and James is going to piss in his boot on the way. And when that sonofbitch Olive gets here, Mary Jo, you tell him to hit their flank and we've got plenty water! Then he jerked about and rammed the shovel handle in James's guts. Move and I'll kill you, he hissed at Terral while dropping the crutch and shovel for a safer grip on the carbine kathud. He didn't do nothing, said Terral. Trouble with Terral, was he was too dangerous, not so calm like his brother, and Gunter knew. Neither did Jaybird. I always liked Jaybird. Get your shitass brother up and let's get. Wayman pointed out how Terral still had his boots on. Gunter paled, and Terral paled, and Wayman paled. Terral took off the boots. You don't want to be slipping around in this mess your brother's making and me so nervous, do you, now, Terral boy? Stickers was in the yard and Gunter told Terral how it would keep him from running too fast and they moved fast and there was three sentries squating under the house case the Texas Gang rushed the house, but the sentries didn't look out, and Terral mumbled in his tears. Why's'at, Terral boy, want to get us all shot? Gunter hit the door with his crutch just when Hatch opened it. Good to see you, Packy, we smelled you out there. The posse then heard boards torn up from the bunkhouse floor, and thought the Gang was crazy and digging out in the sand. Then Rube, a coast boy, said, why, I bet they're digging water! Where is James? He went off to find James, then he tried finding Terral, and Josephine and her daughter huddled in the loft. He found their boots, looked at the loft and it creaked. Dawn he was sleeping at the kitchen table and the Finley brothers hit water.

Tom Treefrog Bowman was the next Texas Gang man reaching the siege at the Brownrat Bunkhouse, not me, because I and Chama took a rest at Old Dave's for my shot leg and my sprained ankle and I sprained my other ankle coming out of the bath tub, and we got married, and Tom Bowman had married Juanita, and left her the next day, to be in the action. Finley brothers had been in the Brownrat bunkhouse three or four days and that was hell on everybody. In four days the Finley brothers was skin and bone. The plank floor was built two logs above ground for storms, but the planks was tore out under Sieb's bed and everywhere for the digging and the floor become a big hole around a puddle of water, except for the mesa, where there was one bed for Sieb. He calmed down about it when he looked at the dirt half up the windows. Shooting them as they roll past me, haw! I think we should eat the Finley's, Sieb said one day. Look at them coals the bed made. Roast a man slow. Yeah, said Dan, are you going to help cook? Later that day, Hatch said, yep. That was about the second day, and the third day, Bix said, if I don't get some meat for this shoulder I will die, and Bix looked as bad as the Finley brothers. The Finley brothers went crazy and hollered for the first time. We are in here, boys, don't leave us! Texas Gang wants to eat us, boys, bring them something to eat! The posse had been hanging around Josephine and Mary Jo that was cooking fish, Brownrat sons catching fish and keeping their wives out of sight, Hatch and Dan knocked down and kicked the Finley brothers and Jed and Ben brung a basket of fish to the bunkhouse, all kinds of fish. The posse was not organized and when the bloody Finley brothers was put up to opening the door and getting the fish half a dozen rifles fired through the door before it was open and the Finley brothers and fish spilled down hill and Jed's ribs was busted open. Hold your fire, you got the Finley brothers, hold your fire, you got the Finley brothers, said the Texas Gang while more rounds hit the house. There had not been much shooting in the past couple days because the posse didn't want to use up too much ammu­nition and men on a gun fight with the Texas Gang before they surrendered from thirst or hunger, and the shooting stopped and Ben helped Jed back and they made plans all the way back. Let's hear from the Finley brothers if you ain't killed them when they hollered, called out Rube. Both brothers was hit bad and only James could talk but he was made to say, hold the fire, Rube! Now pick up that fish, Hatch said to James, but James could not do it. Jim spoke for the first time in two days, now we got fish plus the Finleys. Hatch, said Bix. Why don't you get me Terral's liver. I need it, ain't nothing like fresh liver, and I think he is dead. Hatch crawled to Terral with his knife, and James looked at him. Roll over, damn your eyes;James. A spell, and a matter of some confusion, come over the Gang. When everything cleared up the Finley brothers was strung by their naked heels to the rafters and their blood drained and drunk in the whiskey cups. Guess a man has to live, said Gunter. We will have to tell the posse the Finleys are too weak to talk, Hatch said. The smell of the Finleys being roasted come out of the chimney. Cannibals, cannibals! screamed the posse and shot up the house. No, no, wait, wait, we're just frying some fish, Hatch put in waving a sheet out the window on the shovel. Just frying fish, we got grease in here you lousy stinking goddamn piss ants! That ain't fish, howled the posse and fired on all sides of the bunkhouse, and fish was thrown on the coals, and a few rounds fired back at the posse and John squeezed his shotgun in a chink he had carved out during the night and forgot about till then and he stung two men under the back porch and they couldn't figure where it come from and John reloaded and he got them again when they crawled straight back under the house and it was only John's duck shot but he kept people out from under the house and the posse raved then.

A couple of more days and Bowman was in, armed to the teeth, hanging on the outskirts of the battle till he contacted Kenny and Robert and they was sneaked off from fishing to trail three of the posse what was gone duck hunting, thinking to get their own shotguns back and the men's sixguns. From a rise Bowman studied the situation till the three men hitched their horses to a cedar bush near a pond and went to wait in the reeds, with only shotguns, not seeing Kenny and Robert was creeping a foot to get to the horses. Bowman rode down slow, and the men seen him, and thought about should one man run to get the rifle on the horses, then the one seen Kenny and Robert running at the horses and he run, and the other two stood to do something or other and Bowman fired on them with his rifle. Kenny and Robert was barefoot and beat the man to the horses and he pulled two guns and Kenny threw sand as though he could get his eyes from fifty yards, and hit the dirt under the cloud and forty-five round that hit a horse and in all that Robert seen and got that rifle and the two at the pond was hit twice apiece by Bowman because they was sitting ducks. The man with the sixguns put his hands up so fast he forgot to turn loose his guns so Tom busted his leg. Kenny walked in and kicked the man in the nuts and next Robert clubbed him to death with the rifle. Hell, we should of used this one as a hostage, said Robert.

But Jed was a hostage, after it was seen the evil mood he was in, laid up in the house and nursed by Josephine, and Ben was also quit fishing and out fixing provisions in a row boat on the beach, in plan that Jed and the women escape that night. Two of Mary Jo's friends had stole guns when playing up to the posse, three forty-fives, and a fisherman had contributed a Sharps rifle, all this in the boat, and Josie was hiding two six guns the posse hadn't known about, in order to get the guns and ammunition of the two or three men that guarded Jed at night. But a man grabbed on Mary Jo cooking, and she run in the bed­room where was Jed, and Jed said, give me a gun, Mama, so mean that she did, and this man looked around the doorway to smile at Mary Jo and Jed shot the smile out one side of his head. It wasn't noticed at first because the posse was shooting up the bunkhouse again. Next thing the posse seen, Mary Jo and Josie and Jed out front on one of their horses, and Jed had a gun in each hand and Mary Jo had a gun, Rube was going crazy anyway and first he hollered at everybody to let them go, there was more important things to tend to, but right after that the dead man was seen and Rube grabbed a saddled horse and come after them, and they was all three on that horse killing it between there and the row boat on the beach, and Rube killed that horse with his rifle, and Josephine broke a leg and fainted but Jed and Mary Jo leaped away and Jed fainted. Mary Jo run, a fourth mile to go. Rube thought to shoot Mary Jo, but he could not do it. He trotted by the dead horse, seen Ben look up with the Sharps rifle and Rube started to shoot but Mary Jo turned in his way and shot out with the pistol and he hesitated and Jed come to fighting and shot him through the back same time Ben's round whipped the air. Robert and Kenny come along the beach on horses and six of the posse rode in. Josephine sit up in shock and bullets hit the horse Jed next rolled against and her. Robert hit a law man with the rifle and then he got a horse and his horse got hit. Kenny was riding in for closer range and Ben gutted a horse and the three left riding broke and run for help when they heard the Sharps buffalo gun. All three the men on the ground got on their feet and one burned Kenny's hair and Kenny run over him, turned around and fired at the man but was too dizzy and missed and Jed shot that man what was on hands and knees. Ben broke the back of one running man and the last man was the one Robert had hit and he fell bleeding to death and Kenny walked the horse to that one and shot him again. Kenny tried to snatch a horse for Robert but could not in time. Robert was helping Jed out to the rowboat and more posse was coming in too fast and Kenny rode and took Jed by shoulder and Robert run to the dead horse to hold them off, and it was a lot of law men and a lot of shooting. Ben fired on one knee, brung down two horses and broken bones, was leveling in another round and got hit in the stomach. Robert killed a man and men went around him. Jed chose to fight and stood on his legs with both guns and run out of bullets and Mary Jo give him her gun and she lifted Ben's Sharps and fired and give the Sharps and box of rounds to Kenny and he galloped to a side to reload and Mary Jo run for the other guns in the boat and Jed was hit and down on a knee to shoot more calm and three men-the three that had got away-come to head off Kenny, and in a fortuante shot Jed knocked one off, and that broke them enough that Kenny winged one with his hand gun and got free, looked back and seen Jed and Mary Jo hit repeatedly and Robert standing to fire on the backs of them gone by him, and get hit in the back from more coming, and Kenny kept running.

During the Brownrat massacre about ten men guarded the bunkhouse and Treehog was a little drunk on the killing he done that day and he seen a man stepping off the front porch and he shot him down with his rifle, and with others trying to get out after him he come around wide and pulling his sawed off shotgun rode on the flank of a line of men laying on their bellies nervous as hell between the bunkhouse and the beach-hi yi yi, hi yi yi! -winging them with buckshot. The Gang fired on the scrambling men and Treefrog broke their line, flinged the shotgun at them, trying to get his six guns, and rifle all at once, and rather than ram the bunkhouse his horse pitched him, and Hatch reached out the back window and dragged him and his rifle under the guns of Dan, Gunter, Bix, and not even did Treefrog's horse get hit. Hi, men, said Treefrog. I got lonesome, and rounds was hitting the bunkhouse and one went through and spinned Treefrog off his feet. He was hit in the arm and face to face with Sieb. Hi, Tom. I'm here too. This is the last stand. Hell, snarled Treefrog squeezing his arm, groaning about his leg. Most the posse is down the beach, and we can fight our way out of here now! Yeah, to where, said Hatch. Hell, I got a lot to live for, said Treefrog. Have a bite to eat, Treefrog, said Packy trying to get his gun and eye out a hole in the wall. More law is coming back anyway. Shit, look at the wounded! Oh, my god, said Treefrog. You guys are werewolves. Well, Treefrog, it's like this, said Hatch. You can stand at that fireplace and roast meat, and there ain't much bullets apt to get you. If you don't like Finley, said John. Try fish. I ain't hungry! My coat is ruined, goddamnit! You'll get hungry, Dan said. These are long hard days. But you guys are werewolves, said Treefrog. Another day and you'll look like one too, Dan said. Tiddle! You too, man? I fell in with bad company, bad company, said Tiddle. Jim said, if man is worth killing, he's worth eating. Tiddle said, no more your philosophy, Jim! Better get some, Tom, said Hatch. Fore it's all gone.

Tony Wayman was writing a book on the Texas Gang during all this, and asked Tom for information and a smoke, and Tom give him one bent cigar. Goddamn, I needed that, Dan said, and Wayman give Dan half. Dan and Wayman had already smoked all the tobacco the Finley brothers had, but Wayman needed tobacco for writing his book. It poses a problem, he said, cut the ash off his cigar butt for to have a chaw.

The posse had a fourth their men dead plus half a dozen too hurt to fight, and had lost their leadership. They didn't know how many Texas Gang was in the bunkhouse, or exactly how many Texas Gang there was anyway. Many of them wanted to return to their families or at least go get more posse, and two got in a big fist fight and slugged their way out the Brownrat house till they fell on the back porch, and the Texas Gang peeped up and seen this delight, and the two fighting men rolled down the steps and wrestled out in the middle of the yard, and the Texas Gang huzzaed and applauded and the posse couldn't shoot else they lose their two toughest hombres in a second. John put his shotgun and more bird shot to his crack and Gunter from a corner of window was to wave when for him to fire, but the two didn't roll into John's line, and one got the other down against the steps and was bashing him with his last remaining strength. Gunter said, hold it there, boys, or you die! Shoot and you die, went half the posse, the other half laying out back of the bunkhouse thinking the Gang might break for it, and both the fighters was glad to rest. They didn't have much energy left to be walking, and the one winning could stand but he had blood and dirt in his eyes, and the one losing might had been able to get to his feet cept he had busted his right hand, and this meant more wounded for the posse to take care of and the Texas Gang did not gun them down and there was some words between the two sides and Tony Wayman said through a hole in the door-Say! I say there! Does anyone have tobacco? This brung one second of shock and sixty seven seconds bad temper from the posse, and the loser of the fight commenced to roll and drag his body back off till he got his boot right for John, and Gunter waved for John to hit him, but John had his shotgun upside down, wanting to wedge the barrel about to be blasting the upper portion of the house with two loads of buckshot Bowman give him, and the beat up man got his directions and was able to start moving up the steps and out of the way for a minute but was coming up where John could get him with buckshot, which would had killed him more than it would had been funny, and Wayman said, John! Wayman needed tobacco bad and in a sudden he wrenched the door through the sand and went out waving his handkerchief-I am a journalist-a correspondent-and I need a smoke bad, can't you see! The winner of the fight was trying to clean his eyes but they was too near shut and he had too much bleeding and kept to his little circle and blind stagger and Wayman stepped up-do you have a smoke! You with the blood, as one man to another, do you have a smoke? God flO! the winded man said. But if you got a handkerchief there I'll be much obliged! Wayman moved out from the bunkhouse and give up his handkerchief to the man in the yard. This man wiped a gash running up one eye ridge and shook his fist at all the noise the posse was making, you sono/bitches... up there.. .all shut UP! One of you is going to come give me a hand... before.. you get me killed.. .or ain't you! I'm the ramrod here! So shut UP! And give this Englishman a smoke! He sopped the handker­chief red on his forehead and could see with one eye, said, bring the Englishman a smoke and one of you yellow bellies give me a hand fore I puke and get my ass killed! And we're going to have to send for more posse if we can't get the Rangers because all you chickenshits ain't got a gut this long not anywhere in you! Two young fellers come out and helped the loser up the steps and they come down in the yard and they rolled cigarettes for Wayman, themselves, and the ramrod, and his name was Matt. We're with Matt, they said, and Wayman give them the name of the magazine back East he was with. I am only doing my job, said Wayman, sorry it has all been so bad. Look at here, Englishman, said Matt, shook a shirt sleeve off his big arm and let go the wet handkerchief and wadded the bloody sleeve up on his gash. Look, what I want to know, just how many men in that bunkhouse, what kind of shape are they in, what kind of guns and how many rounds, and who are they? Now, sir, said Wayman. Hate to be involved, ah. Well, I am, ah, trying to make my fortune, before I get too old, and, ah, after this, I will be too old, but. Come over here, said Matt. Sit on these steps before my legs give out. Wayman give Matt a hand to the steps, see, ah, I mean to give the public a view from the inside, the, ah, depravity. Depravity? I, ah, show what an outlaw gang is like, so that. They sit on the steps, the other two hanging by in cold sweat. For a supply of tobacco, said Wayman. Maybe some coffee and whiskey, I, ah, but understand, sir, it is necessary the Texas Gang believes I favor their cause.

The posse had been living out of Tiddle's store and Matt give Wayman a box of cigars, five pounds of coffee and Wayman informed him the bunkhouse had a coffee pot, give Wayman half dozen cigarette makings and a jug of rum, for the information that Wild Bill and the entire Texas Gang at least was in the burikhouse, twenty three men in spanking good health, shotguns, rifles, bowie knives, so many they had already eat up the Finleys and the fish. I am real sorry I can't give you more but I spect they'll take most this for themselves, but see, them sailors or fishermen Caylor deals with ain't in yet for a week, or two weeks I'm told, and my boys are mighty hungry too, and we're all just trying to get ahead ourselves, and I hope the Texas Gang won't eat you, sir, may their souls burn in hell, and I aim to put them there! They parted as friends and Wayman come back in a arm load. He near dropped it all when just ten feet from the door, and John fired his last bird shot up the steps into the backs of Matt and his two partners, for the joke, and Matt's partners shit and run and Matt turned to fight and remembered he didn't have no gun. That time it was seen where the shotgun had come from and twenty rifles directed at John's little corner and John sand crabbed away and the barrel of his gun was ruined and a hole left where that chink had been and John spent the rest of the day forming a sawed off shotgun with a hatchet.

Matt dispatched seven wounded to get help immediately but Kenny had turned killer and he got them all with the Sharps when they tried to cross on their ferry they had. Their horses jumped off the scow, and they was knocked off and not heard from again. Kenny told me and Dave about it all when we met him and he was dying from a rifle wound after running off all the posse's horses and keeping them running, night before we got there. But first I will have to tell you how it had been with me and Chama.

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