A Hanging at Horse Creek


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“Listen here padre, just ‘cause I’m a sittin’ on this side of these bars and you’re out there, you got no call to be tellin’ me I’ve lived a regretful life. Fact of the matter is, if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t swap my life for yours. Why, given my druthers I’d do the same all over again.

“I’ve lived a full-up life, done what I wanted and enjoyed every last bit of what was to be had. What have you done, except to be tellin’ folks don’t be doin’ this or that and stickin’ your nose where it don’t belong. And how can you be doin’ that when you’ve done nothin’ ‘cept hidin’ behind those robes – not tasting any of what the world has to offer?”

Jack Harper turned to the high window at the rear of his cell. He took the three paces that put him close enough to grab the bars and hoist himself up to check the progress being made on the gallows constructed for his use. The stub of a cigar clenched between his teeth sent strong curls of smoke up and out of the window, stinging Jack’s eyes, but he held the bars tight for a few minutes longer before dropping to the ground.

“Them boys are doin’ a mighty fine job on the gallows. Seems a waste of good work seeing as how a stout tree would be sufficient. Hell, I probably don’t weigh more’n a hundred and fifty pounds, and that’s with my boots on!” Jack observed and related to no one in particular, even though the padre still sat just outside the cell.

The Horse Creek jail, where Jack found himself, was a small but efficient building. Most likely you could find one just like it in a hundred small towns all over the West. Horse Creek was proud of its jail because it showed the town was growing up. Until now, drunks and the occasional brawler were the only ones who had the pleasure of partaking in Horse Creek’s hospitality. Jack was their first real desperado; although he’d be the first to tell you he was not very desperate.

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