Category Archives: Gunfight

Coffins

Thought we were kidding?
Thought we were kidding?

It’s a foggy night, you’ve been traveling and maybe your eyes are heavy. You pull off the freeway in the hope of finding a cup of coffee. After rounding a corner you find yourself in a small town. Nothing moves – even the fog seems asleep under the tungsten glow of streetlights. The sidewalks are pulled up so tight that even stray dogs feel unwelcomed. Distractions could be dangerous in a place like this, you think. You turn off the radio, grip the steering wheel a bit harder, and focus on the road  The hum of tires your only company.

Ahead a red glow pierces the night like a puddle of blood in virgin snow. Maybe you squint to bring it into

Deputy Zach bagging the bad guys.
Deputy Zach bagging the bad guys.

focus. The glow turns ominous and you fear you’ve made a wrong turn. You consider turning around and finding the freeway, but instead press forward. The light brightens in the dense fog like the eye of a demonic Cyclops. Exhaling, you convince yourself it’s just your imagination playing tricks.

Germans getting in on the fun.
Germans getting in on the fun.

What’s that? Something moved under the light. Eight legs saunter into your headlights. Is it? What the ….? Is it some sort of reptilian octopod?  Maybe you tap the brakes; maybe you punch the accelerator.  No, it’s four guys carrying a coffin. What? You slam the brakes. As if you’re not there, they slide the coffin into the back of pickup truck and close the tailgate. They wipe their hands on their pants and cross the road in front of you. Your eyes follow them under the glowing red light and into a Tavern.

What do you do?

A) Punch the gas pedal and get out of town.
B) Park your car. You found your coffee or maybe a spirit.
C) Circle around the block before parking nearby and investigating what’s in the coffin.
D) Realize you’re in rural Montana and this is par for the course.

The preceding event may or may not have happened. The participants are bound to secrecy. If you drive by our humble establishment under better lighting conditions, you can’t miss the caskets leaning against the fence. They’re like our welcome

Even coffins lose their cherry.
Even coffins lose their cherry.
Saloon girls enjoying two stiffs.
Saloon girls enjoying two stiffs.

mat. Okay, maybe we have a morbid sense of humor – or maybe they serve a more utilitarian purpose, if you know what I mean.

The real story is they came about as props for our Railroad Day Shootouts. Like a case of herpes, they showed up and never left. For locals, they’re luggage that have faded into invisibility in plain sight, until an occasional car pulls over, the occupants hop out and take turns posing for pictures in or alongside our ambassadors of the macabre. Or maybe it’s our way of saying stay awhile – until we tire of you and slide you into the back of a truck on a foggy night.

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Somethings Just Go Right…

IMG_0333b…especially when you have the taste of gold in your mouth. Especially when you’ve been planning a heist for six months and it works out better than you ever expected. No, I haven’t gone over to the dark side. I haven’t traded my soul for the riches of an arch-criminal, though some in our town believe that I am the evil personified. No, I’m talking about the stage coach robbery my gang pulled off at our little Montana town’s annual celebration.

The planning for the heist started on a bitter January night when the only sound on the dark streets was falling snow. Back then the plan was to knock off a Pullman Car. Being that Alberton is an old railroad town and the celebration is named Railroad Day, building a train to rob made sense. As things go, sometimes ideas get garbled in communication, and what is intended isn’t what is delivered.

After months of procrastination, the knot in my stomach reminded me it was time to start working out the details, especially after the guy who was suppose to build a Pullman Car had a life event and his availability went kaput. As what happens so often in my life, my wife said why don’t you call this person or why don’t you call that person. Me being me, I internalized my angst and imagined worst case scenarios for weeks before listening to her advice. Then one night I called the person who always bails me out, my Mexifriend. His real identity is under lock and key but he may or may not be the security guard in the attached video.

Mexifriend said: “Of course brother, we can build that. It would be a lot of fun.”

Pullman Coach? I think not.
Pullman Coach? I think not.

Then I did another thing out of character, I posted on the internet that I was looking for used lumber. The idea was to go rustic. New stuff wouldn’t cut it, plus, it’s just

The ad campaign's slogan is "Do the Jew."
The ad campaign’s slogan is “Do the Jew.”

too expensive, especially for someone who is known as the Mountain Jew. Don’t take offence, I don’t. It’s a family secret that I was born 1/8 Jewish but my ancestors talked me down to 1/16th. I’m so proud of my heritage that I renamed the Mountain Dew Machine in front of the bar the Mountain Jew machine. Anyway, two weeks before the big day, Mexifriend Emailed me the first pictures and my jaw hit my desk. The picture didn’t look like a frame of a Pullman Coach, it was a stage coach. Now, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and my first impulse was to call and ask what the hell was that? But I paused, counted to ten and smiled.  Truth be told, potential was written all over it and it’s a lot easier to change a script that wasn’t written than change a prop that was half built. It was the moment that changed the energy of the entire project. Instead of pointing the finger and barking about the difference between a Pullman Coach and a Stage Coach, I accepted responsibility for not being specific and went with the flow. After all, there was only about a dozen people that knew what was up our sleeve and if it was a train or a stagecoach wasn’t going to make a bit of difference to anybody but me.

Paris De Smet!
Paris De Smet!

Other things went haywire too, I ordered wrong bullets for the blank guns, but quick thinking on the vendor’s side fixed the problem and got us the right ammo with time to spare. I wasn’t so lucky with the gold and silver coins. I ordered a half-ton of bubble gum wrapped to look like loot, but as of this writing, it still hasn’t arrived. I’m thinking someone is never getting my business again, but like the stage coach we just adapted and made good with penny candy. Even the day of, one of the gunfighters overslept and didn’t make the first gunfight. Again, a slight adjustment was made to the script and we ran with it. Short of a catastrophe like Yellowstone blowing up, nothing was going to derail the project. Such was my energy. The gal who played Sally Six-Shooter commented that during the week before the gunfight I was like a kid before Christmas. It was true, I was giddy with anticipation, which is unlike me. I usually anticipate what can go wrong.  Maybe approaching my fiftieth year has made me realize that it’s time to enjoy and stop worrying about things. Like a virus, the feeling was contagious, even over on the wardrobe side my wife hit a grand slam. Such was her energy that during a meeting of the High Colonics – my writer’s group – at our house the Wednesday before the big day, Tammy roped Paris and Nancy into  dressing up and within five minutes had them convinced to play. Lucky for us, because Parris, the exorcist looking priest to the left stole the show in the second gunfight.

Playing dress-up the week before.
Playing dress-up the week before.

What happened to the plan to knock off the Pullman Car. Oh my, you’re going to have to make plans to visit little ole Alberton, Montana next July to see what we have up our collective sleeve. If it’s half as good as what I’m picturing, it’ll be worth the trip. In the mean time, enjoy the video of the Dust Puddle Gang’s stage coach caper. I promise that it’ll make you chuckle.

PS… Just in case you’re interest, here’s the link to the gunfight page on Facebook.   Swing over and give it a like and you’ll be kept up to date what’s going on with the project throughout the year.