Mining was hard work and there weren’t a whole lot of breaks when you were down in the hole all day, but every once in awhile you’d get a little bit of down time. Mostly, it was for pretty tame reasons, like the engineers going in with all their fancy equipment to survey our progress. Sometimes the reasons were far more sinister, like if a man you’d been working shoulder to shoulder with all morning got trapped in a cave-in.
One particular day, not too long after Rockford Slate met his tragic and untimely demise, I was glad to say our down time was caused by the former rather than the latter. The boys had been running what we called a scout tunnel off the main vein of coal we’d been raking at for months.
O’Malley always wanted to see how much more of the black gold he could find off the beaten path. Scout tunnels were a dangerous venture cause most of the barons weren’t looking to spend a whole lot of coin on a hole that might never spit out a single lump of coal. So, the engineers got sent in regularly to make sure things were progressing in a safe manner.
I took my lunch with Grizzly Bear and McGraw down to the drainage pond that sat just below the colliery. I remember it was hotter than hell itself that day. Sweat dripped down your face and back as soon as you stepped outside the mine. Probably what possessed our legs to carry us down to the pond, where the biggest oak you ever saw reached its long, gnarled branches out over the banks and cast its cool shade down on anything that came within twenty feet.
We removed our boots and rolled up our soot-stained pant legs and commenced to skipping good, old-fashioned Pennsylvania field stones as far across that pond as we could, which ended up being damn close to the opposite bank when it came to Grizzly Bear.
“Feels darn good just loafing around like this don’t it, Coach?”
“Sure does, Grizzly,” McGraw responded. “Makes me remember what it feels like to be a man. Lazier than all hell.” Grizzly Bear laughed like somebody had lost his drawers running down to first base. Sounded deeper and more dangerous, than a real grizzly bear, too.
“Sounds about right to me,” he said patting his big, old belly a few times for good measure. “Almost like we’re living the life of O’Malley.
“No, no,” McGraw said behind a chuckle. “Guys like O’Malley, they don’t relish relaxation.”
“Oh yeah? And why not?”
“Cause they’re too busy. Too many jack-headed miners around here to bully.”
Grizzly Bear roared once again. He laughed until his breath got heavy and he let out all sorts of noises that made you wonder if he were about to keel over dead. When he finally regained his composure he said, “Yeah Coach, I betcha we’d all run amuck without tough guy O’Malley trying to stick his boot where it ain’t wanted.” Both men immediately burst into laughter, to a level beyond all exaggeration, even though I had a lot of trouble finding any humor in the statement.
“You know,” McGraw said still panting, “I think I’m inclined to take that bet, Grizzly. How much you in for?” This is about when the mood took an abrupt change of course, as it usually did if you hung around Grizzly and McGraw long enough.
“Bet? I ain’t offerin’ no bet, Coach.”
“Oh, I think you are, son. You said it. I’m gonna cash in on it.”
“I was joking.”
“Don’t care, Grizzly. A man’s word is his word. You know that.”
“Ain’t no bet, Coach.”
“Oh, I bet there is.”
“Don’t say that cause I ain’t betting you a piece of soiled straw. You hear me?”
“What are you? What? Scared or somethin’? Big boy like you?”
McGraw knew just how to push Grizzly’s buttons, and challenging his manhood was always a sure-fire way to do it, even if the old coach was just trying to get a rise out of him. You could see the steam rise out from under Grizzly’s collar. His face, and the bulging veins that protruded out from it seemed ripe enough to burst at any moment.
I readied myself to clear the area, cause not too many people look to stick around when Grizzly blows his top. But McGraw knew his players inside and out, and he knew better than to let Grizzly boil over. So, with a sly little smile on his face, he pulled the strings on his joke and diverted his mark’s attention to something more interesting.
“Well, Grizzly, would you look at who’s making her way down the hill over yonder?” He asked the question innocently, but believe me, there wasn’t a shred of innocence or even decency in what he was trying to communicate.
Walking down the hill towards McGraw was Ms. Esther Bowen, the only lady mail carrier in the whole Anthracite region at the time. She was mighty pretty in her own way, but mostly she was tough and she had about the sharpest tongue I’d ever heard from a lady back in those days. Guess she developed the gift on account of all the abuse she took from nitwits like Grizzly and McGraw.
Rumor had it Ms. Bowen packed a pistol inside her mail satchel and she once gunned down a whole crew of malcontents on her usual rounds. Course nobody actually believed these homespun yarns that traveled the area so freely and so frequently. They sounded more like stories out of a dime novel than of something a sweet young lady like Ms. Bowen could have participated in.
As you might imagine, Grizzly Bear was one of her biggest admirers, if you wanted to call it that. Just as soon as Ms. Bowen was in earshot he’d start in on her with what he considered playful banter. But I’m not so sure she’d ever be engaged in the same conversation without being wrestled into it.
“Why hell-o, Ms. Esther. You finally come round to take me up on my offer?” he asked. She didn’t respond. “Oh, come now Esther, it’s a fair enough offer. Haven’t heard no complaints about it before.”
“Maybe it’s an offer not worth talking about. In all honesty, it doesn’t seem like a very sizable offer to begin with.”
Grizzly’s face blushed the color of a split watermelon, but he managed a nervous chuckle nonetheless. “Well, that’s enough for today then, Esther. I like watching ya walk away anyway, if ya know what I mean.” Grizzly nudged McGraw, who winked back like there was a subtle conspiracy at work.
“Ya know, Harrison, I do know what you’re getting at. And if I weren’t running’ so late on my route today you’d be searching for your dirty, rotten teeth all over them banks over there.” Boy was that girl a pistol! Even after getting shown up by her, the boys thought so too. They started howling like there was no tomorrow. Didn’t stop sounding like a pack of hyenas until Ms. Bowen had rounded her way up the pass and over the horizon to finish her next stretch of deliveries.
We went back to skipping stones; didn’t know what else to do with the down time. Like I said, it didn’t happen all that often. Most of us were used to working from the time we woke to the time we laid down at night, so you could imagine how our sense of adventure, let’s say, would sometimes get the best of us when the situation arose.
“I’m getting damn good at skipping these stones,” McGraw said. “Thinking about taking it up as a trade.”
“Good? You ain’t that good, Coach.”
“Not that good? You been watching?”
“Oh, I been watching all right.”
“You ain’t been watching. Then you’d have seen past that thick head of yours.”
“I’ve been watching too, and you’re being outskipped by Eddie most of the time.”
“Outskipped by Eddie? You’re nuts!”
“I seen it!”
“But not blind!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I’ll prove it to you! I’ll skip this stone all the way across to the other bank.”
“The hell you will!”
“I’ll bet you I can do it.” Now, I knew McGraw couldn’t skip a stone across that pond, and he knew it too. Grizzly wasn’t kidding when he said I was better than McGraw in that department. But old, wily McGraw was always a step ahead, especially when it came to having fun with Grizzly’s ridiculous temper. I swear that man was like a darn matador the way he’d tease the bull into charging just before pulling away the red sheet. McGraw continued, “It’s not like I’m some weakling can’t even toss a stone a few feet. And don’t think I ain’t been watching you, Grizzly.”
“And what do you mean by that, Coach?”
“Nothing…” And that’s when a wicked smile creased McGraw’s lips, “…ya weakling.”
“Weakling?!” Grizzly was about to boil over just like that. “Well, I betcha, I bet, I—“
“You bet what, ya sniveling little weakling?”
“Forget the stone. I bet I can skip a damn boulder across that pond.”
“Now let’s not get carried away, Grizzly.”
“Why not, Coach? Think I ain’t got the muscle or the guts?”
“Yeah, one of the two…maybe both.”
“That’s it. I’m gonna go one better. I bet I can uproot this here tree with my bare hands.” There was silence as McGraw pondered the scenario.
“Now that sounds like something worth seeing. You on for the usual wager?” Grizzly nodded and the two shook hands. Course nobody ever did know what was meant by the usual wager. Old McGraw and Grizzly had so many of these idiotic bets going at any given time that the price didn’t seem to matter all that much anyway.
“But I ain’t doing this for you alone, Coach.”
“Course not ya idiot, you’re doing it for the money too.”
“No, I want to do it for the glory. And I don’t want to get cheated when I do it, neither.”
“What the hell are you mumbling about?”
“I want witnesses, Coach. You know, someone to see me pull that mighty oak out by the roots.”
“I know what a witness is, Grizzly.” He was quiet for a moment as he smoothed out the whiskers on his chin. McGraw always made a show of it, whether he was aware or not, when he was deep in thought. Guess he wanted people to see him when he was at his most managerial. Least that’s how it seemed to me. “Ok,” he said finally. “That’s fine with me. Eddie, can you run up to the Bull’s Head and round us up a few drunks.” I told him the bar wasn’t really open yet and that there might not be anybody in there until later in the evening. He laughed and said, “It’s a tavern, ain’t it?” I confirmed that fact for him and then he said, “There’s people in it, Eddie. Now go get me a few drunks, and do it quick before we gotta get back underground.”
I ran to the top of the ridge and straight down Railroad Street before I even took a breath. Took an ill-advised short cut through a patch of bramble and found myself standing in front of Pop’s bar. Place looked like it always did when it was closed, like nobody had set foot inside in a hundred years. The big, corner doors were shut up tight and it seemed dark.
I’d been stupid to believe a word McGraw told me about my own pop’s place and was about to turn on my heels and head back to the pond, when I heard a couple of glasses clink on the inside. I took a few paces forward and peeked through a tiny crack in the roughly-hewn wall. Wouldn’t you believe it, but Pop was standing behind the bar in semi-darkness, pouring liquids for a few customers I’d never seen before.
I went inside and asked Pop about being open with the sun so high in the sky. He did his darndest to seem bothered by the question and then he mumbled something about these being his daytime customers, his best customers. The only thing I was sure of at the time was that they were big drunks, cause they weren’t off working like they were supposed to be doing at this time of day. But I knew they were just the guys McGraw was looking for to egg Grizzly on even more than he could himself.
Before I could finish saying that old Grizzly Bear was priming to up-end a live tree with his bare hands, those boys were out of their stools and staggering their way to the pond. Pop shot me a glare that thanked me for robbing him of the paying customers. “Son, why don’t you just dunk those hands a yours right in the till?” he said, and then he shook his head slowly. I didn’t have time to debate with him, so I high-tailed it out of there too, and got down to the pond just as McGraw was making some introductions with the new audience.
“How are you fine gentlemen today?” he asked. “Name’s John Williamson. Folks call me McGraw. Can’t tell you why.” He winked like he always did when he said this.
The two drunks introduced themselves as John Tully and Sean McHugh, with a considerable amount of slurring.
“You boys from around these parts? I don’t remember ever meeting you two.” McGraw continued.
Tully was quick to explain. He was the more slovenly of the two gentlemen, but he apparently did a little less drinking on this time, as his speech was more intelligible.
“Yes, yes sir,” he said. “Me and McHugh are born and bred here in the coal region. Do ourselves a whole mess of grave digging round these parts.”
Instinctively, I figured these two characters must have just dug a few graves for a number of Clean Livin’s kin and, since I wasn’t all too excited about thinking down that road, I shook the images from my mind.
“I see, Mr. Tully. Well you boys are in for a treat. Mr. Grizzly Bear seems to think…”
“I don’t do much thinking, Coach…”
“Well I know that Grizzly, that’s why I’m doing all the talkin’.”
“No, I mean I’m confident I’ll rip this tree down before you can take your next breath.” Tully and McHugh were captivated, as if they were happier than a pair of clams having picked this day to have a few drinks at the Bull.
“OK then, Grizzly. Let me step aside. Gentleman, enjoy the show.” And then McGraw made like he was tipping his hat to the two wobbling drunks standing there on the banks of the pond.
Well, that mountainous muscle of a man huffed and he puffed and he swung his huge arms around like he was prepared to crush the Earth in the palm of his hands. Once he had himself worked into a fine sweat and the veins again bulged around his meaty neck, Grizzly took two steps forward and laid a paw upon the ancient tree. Then he wrapped his arms around the trunk and commenced to pulling and tugging on that tree so hard I thought his eyes would pop completely out of his head.
At first, not much happened unless you count the satisfied smirk that appeared on McGraw’s face. Tully and McHugh still bobbed back and forth, wide-eyed and I stood there hoping this mighty tree wouldn’t be felled over some loony bet.
But then the ground started to creak and the dusty banks of the pond beneath the tree slid with loose dirt, rocks and then finally mud. Grizzly’s face was so red it looked blue, but he pulled harder and harder with each passing second. Before long there was a series of loud, hollow cracks and, by golly, if there wasn’t a foot of clean air between the base of that tree and the ground.
Grizzly let out a deep roar and then tossed the old tree in the pond, where it formed somewhat of a bridge, touching clear from bank to bank. Tully and McHugh wobbled up and down and started hollering like they’d just witnessed some kind of miracle, and McGraw…well, he just idly tossed one last stone into the pond and then patted one of Grizzly’s enormous shoulders.
“Looks like you’ll have to pay up, Coach.”
“Sure looks that way, Grizz. I’ll give it to you at the game on Sunday.” But nobody could have known old McGraw wouldn’t have enough money to pay Grizzly on Sunday except maybe McGraw himself. It wasn’t that he couldn’t cover the bet he’d made. Oh no. That man was just always planning and plotting and it wasn’t a fair match up mentally when he pitted himself on Grizzly.
Come Sunday, the Canaries had a game against the Mammoth Vein Co. from out Ashland way. It was a brand new mine company at the time, closed down over half a century now. The old shafts are less than two miles from my dairy farm, you know.
Anyway, being a new mining outfit and all, Mammoth Company didn’t have a very talented ball club associated with it, especially not one fit for competing with the Canaries. That’s why McGraw figured it’d be a good game to place a few wagers and get himself back on even terms with Grizzly. After all, it didn’t take much more than a gentle razzing or an idle threat to push Grizzly head long into a situation he couldn’t win.
The game was well out of hand before anything real exciting happened. I can’t remember the score, but I knew we’d scored a lot and they just a little sometime late in the game. Old Grizzly was having himself a mighty big supper that day, which is what we’d say when a player was just hitting balls over the horizon. He’d been up to the plate three times and had clobbered two three run shots and a solo home run while he was still yawning his way out of bed. Grizzly didn’t make much of a show of it out there, that man would just stand up there at the plate like he was waiting for a bus. Half the time his massive tree trunk of a bat would still be resting at his side when the pitcher began his delivery. But he’d somehow swing that thing so fast you could feel a breeze blowing off it and, by golly, did the sewn-up pieces of rawhide leave Panhandle Park in a hurry.
But as quiet as Grizzly could be in his approach to hitting, he sure wasn’t shy when it came to advertising his results.
“Boys, I’m sure puttin’ on a display today,” he’d say quite often. Or, “I better pace myself or I won’t have any records to break tomorrow.” Most of the men in the dugout shook their heads and chewed back a laugh when Grizzly got like this, but not McGraw. I could never tell if the old skipper was baiting him into another unwise bet, or if he was just so damned ornery he couldn’t let Grizzly’s harmless boasting go unchallenged.
“Grizzly,” McGraw said when the big ape’s personal eulogy grew unbearable, “will you just shut the hell up already?” And that always turned out to be about the closest thing to throwing kerosene on a campfire that I ever saw.
“Why should I, Coach? I’m a finely carved piece of granite out there.”
“What in the hell are you talking about? You’re more like a fat clump of wet clay, you big baboon. Now, I’m tired of hearing your lips flap…so zip up!” Grizzly looked amused at this statement.
“Ooh boys,” he mocked, “looks like Old Johnny Williamson’s jealous.”
“Jealous? Of what? Some beached whale swinging for the fences?” The boys got a kick out of this and Grizzly suddenly looked a lot less amused.
“Oh, you’re jealous all right. Watching me pop balls outta this park like I been doing it since birth. Course not too many people around these parts to witness your birth, Coach. Those dusty bones of yours couldn’t knock a baseball through a plane of glass.”
McGraw chuckled. “Is that so young man? You think you’re really something special, don’t you?”
“I know I’m something special. In fact, this game’s getting too easy for me.” He dropped his bat on the dugout floor for dramatic effect and then took his usual one-knee perch on the dugout steps.
At first I thought the argument was over and that, somehow, Grizzly had managed to outduel McGraw in a battle of wits, but then I saw a wicked smile cross the old skipper’s lips for just a split second and I knew he was getting ready to pull something from his sleeve.
The old coach lifted his cap and slicked his hand over his sweat-moistened mane. Then he slowly inched his way up alongside Grizzly, taking an identical pose on the dugout steps.
“Course you’re probably right,” McGraw whispered to him after laying a hand on one of the slugger’s massive shoulders. “Game does seem right easy to you, like it ain’t even a challenge no more. Guys like you are liable to knock one outta here with one arm tied behind his back.”
“Sure could, Skip,” Grizzly replied, disarmed by McGraw’s gushing commentary. That’s about when the old coach knew he had a Grizzly Bear eating from the palm of his hand.
“Then let’s see it, you big baboon!” McGraw was no longer cooing in Grizzly’s ear. “I’m willing to go double or nothing on our little wager from yesterday.”
“What? I’m not gonna go up there and bat with one hand! Pitcher’ll prolly stick one right between my eyes if I do something like that.”
“You yella?” McGraw asked as he raised his bushy eyebrows a little to indicate what he wanted to present as complete validity in the statement. The man was a monster at conning Grizzly into all sorts of uneven wagers and most of the time it was because of what he didn’t say rather than what he said.
“You’re on,” Grizzly said in a low growl. And that was all it took. The two of them didn’t say another word to each other until Grizzly’s next at bat, which came in the bottom of the eighth.
But when the time came, boy was there some excitement coming out of that dugout. Not a single player found himself perched on the old wooden bench. Instead, they all lined the top of the dugout steps, some of them offering words of encouragement for Grizzly, others letting him know he wasn’t much more than a horse’s behind for accepting such a ridiculous bet.
McGraw stood there, his arms folded across his chest and that wicked, self satisfied smile on his face. He was very confident for a man who had just bet against the strongest and most mule-minded player I’d ever come in contact with.
Well, old Grizzly walked up to the plate, his bat dangling loosely from one arm. He never once removed the stern gaze from McGraw’s smiling face, even though that required him to crane his neck completely over his shoulder and walk blind.
Not too many fans had stuck around for the conclusion of this one, and boy was that a mistake, cause I’m here to tell you the crazy slab of beef did one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen, and it didn’t take long neither.
He stood in that box with his bat in his right hand and his left hand held behind his back. And he winked right at McGraw, who started laughing in hearty, mocking tones just as soon as he saw it. But his laughter would be short-lived.
That very first pitch came tumbling in there about letter high and Grizzly Bear unleashed a simple flick of his wrist like he was shooting some kind of forehand on a tennis court. I remember hearing a satisfying pop, and that ball took off for the heavens, let me tell you. It was a towering shot that seemed to leave Panhandle Park in slow motion.
McGraw pulled off his cap, crumpled it like a piece of scrap paper and then bit down on the brim so hard I thought he’d crack half the teeth in his mouth. The boys on the bench flooded home plate and pounced on Grizzly in celebration of the rare feat. When he broke loose from the melee, he raised a pointed finger at McGraw, who sat in a dark corner of the dugout, and then he raised two fingers as if to indicate he now deserved two times his share from the last bet.
Well, a day or two of long hours down the hole passed, and we were again rewarded with the rare treat of another shaft inspection. We all piled out of the colliery as the engineers, with their blue prints and assorted contraptions piled in.
Course, I was happy to tag along with Grizzly and McGraw down by the pond again, except when we got there, it was already occupied by Tully and McHugh.
“What the hell are you guys doing down here?” Grizzly asked as we approached. Both of them looked more than a little bit liquored up and Tully held a little sack in his hand which I imagined must have concealed his favorite elixir.
“Justh down here lookin’ to see somethin’ interesten,” McHugh slurred.
“Well, you ain’t gonna see it,” Grizzly responded, annoyed. “I ain’t no side show, ya know.”
“We don’t think you’re no circus Grizzly,” Tully said. “Just impressed by what you did with this tree here.”
“Well I ain’t doing nothing else until Coach pays me up, double or nothing.”
“You’ll get you’re damned money,” McGraw grumbled. He’d been in about the foulest mood I ever saw since Grizzly’s now famous one-armed shot. At first I thought it had to do with having to pay Grizzly twice the normal share for one of their usual wagers. Then I thought maybe it was because he had to pay him at all. But I soon realized McGraw was put off by the fact that, for once, McGraw’s brain was no match for Grizzly’s brawn. It was really eating at him.
“Well then, let’s see it, Skip.”
“I said you’ll get what’s coming to you when the time is right. Now stop pestering me about it, you big goon!” And just like that it seemed things were off to their traditional start between these two.
“Big goon? Big goon?! Well I…” But that’s where it ended. Tully, McHugh and myself were just settling in for some sideline spectating on the powder keg that was about to explode, when who comes walking up the trail at the top of the ridge but Ms. Esther Bowen.
She was just minding her business and carrying her big, blue bag full of letters when Grizzly and McGraw spotted her, and it was suddenly as if they’d never been fighting at all.
“Would you look at this pretty, little thing?” Grizzly asked out of the side of his mouth. But he was only feigning secrecy cause he bellowed out the question loud enough so Ms. Bowen could hear it from a distance. You could tell by the way that woman’s countenance wilted like a drooping petal that she’d had enough of this kind of treatment from these crude boys who called themselves gentlemen. I was embarrassed to be associated with them, to tell you the truth. But they kept right at it, as if somehow, in those muddled heads of theirs, they thought she enjoyed it.
“Why Ms. Bowen,” Grizzly continued, “you sure are the sweetest thing I ever saw carrying a saddle bag.” I didn’t get it much, but the other boys, led by McGraw’s wild cackles and Tully’s wheezy chuckling, seemed to get a sizeable kick out of the comment.
“You just shut up Grizzly, you hear me?” It wasn’t the first time Ms. Bowen spit fire back at him, but she sure did sound a lot closer to the edge on this occasion.
“Aww, what’s the matter sugar? Fraid I’ll make you trade in your mail satchel if you fall in love with me? Can’t see what the post would want in some woman doing the delivering but that ain’t for me to decide.”
“You’re dreaming Grizzly, if you think I could ever love something as vile as you!” And then Ms. Bowen spun her head so as to indicate she was done talking to him, and she proceeded down the path toward her next delivery. But Grizzly wasn’t ready to let it rest yet.
“Well, that’s all right, dolly. You just go ahead and walk away. Already said watching you walk away is my favorite part of the show. Come to think of it, now I see why the post was so keen on hiring you. Makes getting a letter all the more exciting.” Boy, I thought McGraw was going to suffocate, he was laughing so hard. And Tully and McHugh, they were no help either. They rolled around on the grass in drunken hysterics. Ms. Bowen stopped and looked back over her shoulder. For a second I thought a tear had formed in the corner of her eye, but I was mistaken. Oh no, it was no tear at all. It was a whole mess of anger boiling up inside her, and boy was it about to be spent.
“Grizzly, I had about enough of you!” she shrieked. “You wanna see why the post wants me on the job? Well then, let’s go toe to toe right now!” The laughing stopped in an instant and everyone’s eyes shot in Grizzly’s direction for a response.
“Toe to toe?” he asked mockingly. “You mean a fight?”
“Course I mean a fight, you brainless idiot!” And that roused the boys to laughter once more.
“You hear that Grizzly?” McGraw mocked. “She’s about to punch you in the nose!” Tully and McHugh leaned on one another for support at this point.
“You’re not gonna take that are ya Grizzly?” Tully joked. “A big, tough man like you?”
“I can’t fight no girl,” he said.
“Why not?” asked McHugh. “You ripped a hundred foot oak out of the earth with your bare hands? You think she’ll strangle you with her mailbag?” This brought about another round of wild cackling, rolling and knee-slapping from the boys.
“Now you just get something straight, Ms. Bowen,” Grizzly growled. “you can’t go making an idle threat like that when you have no intention of backing it up.”
“Who’s making a threat, and who says I can’t back it up?” Ms. Bowen responded without flinching. Boy, was that lady serious! She had actually started to intimidate Grizzly. The boys weren’t helping matters much by expounding Ms. Bowen’s cutting remarks with wild howls and shouts.
“Well then it looks like I have no choice but to end this little misunderstanding,” Grizzly said. “This’ll all be over in a minute, boys.” And he motioned like he was aiming to make a run at Ms. Bowen.
But he didn’t get very far.
No sooner had Grizzly flinched a shoulder and flexed a calf muscle than Ms. Bowen whipped out the prettiest pair of gleaming, twin pistols I’d ever seen. Those twin shooters were cocked, loaded, and side-armed before anyone standing there could exhale, and they must’ve fired off about six shots before Grizzly’s massive body hit the ground.
Every single one of us was absolutely stunned. All except Ms. Bowen. As we rushed over to attend to Grizzly, she slung her mail satchel over her shoulder, holstered her pistols back beneath it, and walked off down the path as if nothing had happened. Rumor says she delivered every one of those letters that day before turning herself in at the constable’s office later that afternoon.
I’m sorry to say old Grizzly breathed his last breath that day. Just another link in a chain of awful events that would haunt me in my sleep, even now as an old man. But I can’t say Grizzly didn’t deserve what came to him, and I certainly can’t say he didn’t ask for it neither.
As for McGraw, he wasn’t a man who was liberal on emotions but I know losing Grizzly was a tough blow to him cause when I asked him if he’d miss his old friend, he stared down at the ground for a good long while and then said, “Looks like we won’t be going double or nothing no more, kid.” And then he walked away.
TO BE CONTINUED
Come back next Thursday for Black Yarn part 6/10 – “McGRAW”