“And he meant it. He wasn’t talking guff. Didn’t seem possible anybody could shoot as fast and straight as that, but Perris was all cut up because he’d missed and he didn’t do no more singing for about half an hour. And I needed that time for a lot of thinking. Made up my mind that if anybody wanted to make trouble for Perris they could count me out of the party.
“And he kept on singing, when he started again, all the way to the ranch and me wondering when I was going to go to sleep and fall off. I tried to make talk. Seen a queer looking fob he wore for his watch pocket. Asked him where he got it.
“‘Tell you about it,’ he says. ‘Comes from me being plumb peaceable.’ I remembered some of the things I’d heard about Red Perris in Glosterville and didn’t say nothing. I just swallowed hard and took a squint at a cloud. ‘Four or five years back,’ he says, ’when they was more liquor and ambition floating around these parts, I was up in a little cross-roads saloon in Utah, near Gunterville. Saloon was pretty jammed with folks, all strangers to me. I wasn’t packing a gun. Never do when I’m in a crowd, if I can help it. Well, I got into a little game of stud, and things were running pretty easy for me when a big gent across the table that had been losing hard and drinking hard ups and says he allows I sure have the cards talking. It sort of riled me. I tell him pretty liberal what I think of him and all like him. I go back into the past and give him a nice little description all about his ancestors. I aim to wind up with an invite to step outside and have it out with fists, but he don’t wait. Right in the middle of my sermon he outs with a gat and blazes away at me. The slug drills me in the thigh and I go down.
“’Well, this is the slug. And I been wearing it to remind me that I particular want to meet up with that same gent before he gets too old for a gunfight!’”
Here Shorty paused and sighed, shaking his bullet-head. And a deep murmur of appreciation passed around the room. Shorty sank back again on the bunk and turned his broad back on the crowd.
“Don’t nobody wake me for chuck,” he warned them. “I’ve just finished cramming a month into four days and I got a night off coming.”
Instantly his snoring began but it was some moments before anyone spoke. Then it was Little Joe in his solemn bass voice.
“Sounds man-sized,” he declared. “Wears a bullet for a watch-fob, busts hosses for fun, sleeps one day a week, and don’t work under a boss. Hervey, you’ll have to put on kid gloves when you talk to that Perris, eh? Hey, where you going?”
“He’s going out to think it over!” chuckled another. “He needs air, and I don’t blame him. Just as soon be foreman over a wildcat as over a gent like Perris. There goes the gong!”