The Price of Love

The two cowboys rode in on the Saturday morning. Their Stetsons sat low on their faces, shielding them from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. Mystery oozed from the men as quietly and with confidence they guided the horses up the main street.

Strangers had come into town before and aroused curiosity but these two riders seemed to demand attention. Was it their colourful spurs decorated with lavish buckles? They both wore the same green snakeskin belts that stood out from their dusty brown leather chaps. Their shirts too the same brown, with fancy fringing.

Whispers passed from one person to the next. When the word reached the sheriff’s office, he stepped out on to the sidewalk to see what these men looked like. He was not impressed when he saw the duo with their matching clothes. In fact he was annoyed to have been disturbed during his morning nap.

So they were new to town and they wore fancy gear, they didn’t look threatening he reckoned. Sheriff Wilson knew better than to go looking for trouble. Soon enough, he often told his men, trouble will come looking for you. Having watched the men head to the livery to feed and water their horses, he went back inside.

“Leave them be.”

His deputy nodded and knew better than to argue with his boss. Sheriff Wilson sat back down at his desk and opened a drawer. He pulled out a ledger that had seen better days and went through its contents. But it was no good, he couldn’t focus. He grunted and put the scruffy book back in the drawer.

It was time to meet the boys who had caused a stir in the sleepy town, Wilson thought. He went to Lizzie’s Diner, having sorted their horses he reckoned they would then feed themselves. He was right. The sheriff ordered a coffee and sat at a table near the window. He watched while the newcomers ate their grub. They didn’t look like troublemakers. He was good at getting the size of a man by watching his ways. In fact what Sheriff Wilson saw made him uncomfortable.

The cowboys paid and thanked the waitress, then left, nodding their heads towards Wilson as they passed him by. Yep these guys would not be trouble in the usual gun slinging way, drinking whiskey until they couldn’t stand up or stealing another man’s woman. No these two would be a whole different type of hassle for his sleepy town, Wilson acknowledged to himself. Following them out, Sheriff Wilson caught up with them.

“Hold up there men for a minute will ya?”

The cowboys both stopped and turned to face the sheriff.

“What can we do for you, Sheriff?” The taller one answered, his voice was strong and clear. They took off their hats and the sheriff stared hard at them. How was he going to handle this?

“Where are ye men planning on staying while you’re in town?”

“We’ve got the old Taylor’s cabin, bought it last month.”

“What do you plan to do there? Old Taylor didn’t have much land, not enough to make a living from anyway.” Sheriff Wilson indicated to the men to walk to a nearby side street with him.

Having moved off the main street, it was easier to talk to the strangers without being stared at. The two men seemed more comfortable too. They did not want to draw unwanted attention either.

“Like I was saying, what do you two plan to do around here?”

“We don’t want no trouble, Sheriff, and you won’t be getting it from us.” Still the taller guy spoke.

“What’s your names?”

“This here is Rob, and I’m Jack. Look, Sheriff, what is it you’re trying to say? That we’re not welcome?”

“Why, Jack, would you say that now? I never said you weren’t welcome. Is there something I should know?” Sheriff Wilson straightened his shoulders and his hand moved closer to his holster. Had he misjudged them? He didn’t think so, but still his instinct kicked in and his hand stayed close to his gun.

“Take no notice of my brother, Sheriff.”

It was the first time Rob had spoken. Wilson eyed him and noticed the small strip of sweat gathering on Rob’s brow. The man was nervous.

“I’m okay with you men staying around these parts. In fact old Taylor’s cabin is one fine place for a family, little ones running around and a few poultry to help with the income. But somehow, Rob, you don’t strike me as the marrying kind or your brother here neither. Plus I’m not sure if you’re even brothers. Would I be right?”

Jack looked around the narrow street. It was quite, only a few women going about their business at the nearby grocery store. The two men looked at each other.

“Thought so. I suggest you boys sell up and move on. Your kind don’t rightly fit in around here you see… and um… well… well, I can only look out for folk so much. If anything were to happen say, unwanted visitors at night that took a dislike to ye new lads, well….”

“We get the picture, Sheriff, but we plan on putting down roots here.” Jack looked tenderly at Rob and placed his arm on Rob’s shoulder to reassure him. His partner smiled in return.

“Can’t say I didn’t warn ye men.” Sheriff Wilson shrugged his shoulders and turned to walk away.

— Mary Bradford