He had been grievously troubled about finances in the past, and he firmly believed that genius such as his should be above such petty annoyances as being “broke.” That was why he constituted himself the keeper of the public pound, which contented him for a short time, but later, feeling that he needed more money than the pound was giving him, he decided that the spirit of the times demanded public improvements, and therefore, as the executive head of the town, he levied taxes and improved the town by improving his wardrobe and the manner of his living. Each saloon must pay into the town treasury the sum of one hundred dollars per year, which entitled it to police protection and assured it that no new competitors would be allowed to do business in Rawhide.
Needless to say he was not furiously popular, and the crowds congregated where he was not. His tyranny was based upon his uncanny faculty of anticipating the other man’s draw. The citizens were not unaccustomed to seeing swift death result to the slower man from misplaced confidence in his speed of hand—that was in the game—an even break; but to oppose an individual who always knew what you were going to do before you knew it yourself—this was very discouraging. Therefore, he flourished and waxed fat.
Of late, however, he had been very low in finances and could expect no taxes to be paid for three months. Even the pound had yielded him nothing for over a week, the old patrons of Rawhide’s stores and saloons preferring to ride twenty miles farther in another direction than to redeem impounded horses. Perhaps his prices had been too high, he thought; so he assembled the town council, the mayor, the marshal, and the keeper of the public pound to consult upon the matter. He decided that the prices were too high and at once posted a new notice announcing the cut. It was hard to fall from a dollar to “two bits,” but the treasury was low—the times were panicky.
As soon as he had changed the notice he strolled up to the Paradise to inform the bartender that impounding fines had been cut to bargain prices and to ask him to make the fact generally known through his patrons. As he came within sight of the building he jumped with pleasure, for a horse was standing dejectedly before the door. Joy of joys, trade was picking up—a stranger had come to town! Hastening back to the corral, he added a cipher to the posted figure, added a decimal point, and changed the cents sign to that of a dollar. Two dollars and fifty cents was now the price prescribed by law. Returning hastily to the Paradise, he led the animal away, impounded it, and then sat down in front of the corral gate with his Winchester across his knees. Two dollars and fifty cents! Prosperity had indeed returned!
“Where the CG ranch is I dunno, but I do know where one of their cayuses is,” he mused, glancing between two of the corral posts at the sleepy animal. “If I has to auction it off to pay for its keep and the fine, the saddle will bring a good, round sum. I allus knowed that a dollar wasn’t enough, nohow.”