Me and my Uncle
For the Dead
Me and my uncle went riding down from South Colorado bound for West Texas. There was a man in El Paso that was gonna pay my uncle 500 dollars to drive his cattle to slaughter in Dallas and my uncle promised me 75 dollars to go with him. My plan was to save up as much cash as I could in the states and then live like a king in Mexico. I only had 50 bucks to my name but the 75 would more than double that, and if I kept making money like that I would be down in Mexico in no time.
The sun was at its highest point and even with my shirt off the heat was unbearable, and my body ached from three days in the saddle so we stopped off about half way, in Santa Fe. When we rode in, the wind was kicking up dust and the streets were empty, except for a gang of West Texas cowboys all dressed in black, laughin’ and yee-hain’ as they walked into a saloon with a sign that said ‘The Shootin’ Gallery’. You could tell they were from Texas from their belts, with silver buckles as big as dinner plates with a lone star in the middle, and a big .45 revolver hangin’ off the side. My uncle carried too, but his was only a .22. My uncle told me to take the horses to the stall, and I walked away and he followed the cowboys into ‘The Shootin’ Gallery’.
I went to the stall to hitch the horses, but it was full of horses from West Texas and there was no room, though a man at the stall said I could hitch behind his shop at the edge of town and I did. He also told me to stay away from those cowboys. He said they had just gotten a big payday but they still wouldn’t think twice about puttin’ a bullet through a man and taken all he has. I thanked him, assuring him that I grew up in the West and could manage just fine; then I went back to ‘The Shootin’ Gallery’ to find my uncle.
I stepped through the door and found the place filled with cowboys laughin’, and yellin’, and throwin’ down liquor and money. Then I saw my uncle sittin’ down with the cowboys in black doing the same. He was laughin’, and gamblin’, and throwin’ down whiskey like water; then he saw me standin’ there and waved me over. There was a pile a pile of cash in the center of the table and everyone was coverin’ up their cards, looking at my uncle and me. My uncle turned away from the table and put his arm around my neck and whispered to me that he needed my 50 bucks. One of the cowboys asked him what it was going to be and he whispered to me how there was no way he could lose. I’d do just about anything for my uncle, so I took out my 50 dollars and gave it to him. He threw it down in the pile and said, “Alright boys, flip ‘em.” The game was Jack high.
They flipped and my uncle had two Jacks. The cowboys cursed, and drank, and smacked the table. My uncle and I cheered, and drank, and smacked each other on the back. He pulled over his pile and handed me one hundred dollars. God! I was grateful, and I never loved my uncle more than I did right then.
My uncle started counting his money when one of the cowboys stood up and hit the table, demanding one more round, winner take all. My uncle said that was fine, then he laughed and said, “But I’ve got all your cash!” The cowboy tossed a leather pouch that clanked onto the table. “Right there’s an ounce of pure Alaskan gold,” said the cowboy, “its worth just as much as that pile, if not more.”
My uncle’s eyes lit up and he grinned. “Alright partner. One more, then I gotta be going.” He pushed the pile of cash back out on the table and they dealt two hands. My uncle asked the cowboy if he wanted a drink before they flipped. The cowboy called him a bastard. They flipped. The cowboy had Jack, Ten. My uncle had two Jacks. He yelled with joy, took another shot of whiskey, and started stuffing the cash into his jeans, sayin’, “Well I’ve had fun boys, but I needs be on my way.” He stood up to leave and took the gold, and the cowboy who had had it stood up and hit the table again. “Goddamnitt, boy! Two Jacks? Two Jacks again!”
My uncle sat back down, shifting his hands beneath the table and said, “Take it easy, amigo. The cards come how they come.” The cowboy took out his .45, pointing it at my uncle, and called him a cheater. My uncle laughed again and a gun exploded, leaving a smoking bullet hole coming up through the table, and the cowboy screamin’ with his ear blown clear off. My uncle kicked up the table and shoved a gun in my hand just as the whole bar room erupted in a shoot out. Bullets were flying everywhere as we crawled our way to the door. I shot off a few rounds but I don’t think they hit anything, but as we were just out the door my uncle shot one of the cowboys right through the head, screamin’, “Hot damn! He won’t grow old”, and we ran off to our horses behind the shop, with gun fire ringing out behind us, my uncle limping and gasping for breath, and me with four bullet holes through the brim of my hat.
We weren’t a half mile out of Santa Fe when my uncle fell off his horse and just laid there. He had six bullets holes in his back and all he could do was lay there, bleeding into the dirt. My uncle taught me well, he taught me everything I know, so when I heard those cowboys riding after us I knew all I could do was leave him there on the side of the road; but not without grabbing the loot first, and let me tell you, with money like I got, a man can live like a king in Mexico.