Archive for July 22nd, 2010

The Hangman’s Knot ©

Harlequin is a border town in New Mexico and the only saloon is Crumbles where the saloon keeper Dusty Nolan keeps his eye on his goods. Consider the harsh sun, it makes one think of desperate things. The locals are too poor to dip their hands into their wallets. Searching an empty wallet is a bother. All that shaking and searching a wallet inside out for some small changes makes one all the more thirsty. It makes them want to make a grab for the booze. Only that Dusty Nolan stands like the three- headed dog in the Hades.
Dusty Nolan always keeps count of the glasses he doles out customers, and of the barrels he has in the back room.
There they hang about him for some excitement.
There is always excitement. Take the border crossing.
The saloon keeper doesn’t like the trash who keep coming in the middle of the night from Mexico and the locals also share his opinion. So he has his fun organizing lynch parties for the poor immigrants. He has his goon Beanpole Mack and he sees to that vigilantes pay for the freedom of their ways by hanging all whom they catch. He also thinks they are coming just to get a load of his whiskey. He hates free loaders. As I said the harsh sun does make men do strange things.
Since Dusty Nolan took up business in that part of town excitement is a-plenty. Lynch parties go on without let up week days under his very nose and while he takes time out at the week- ends. Beanpole Mack is there to carry on with their clean up.
One day a stranger dropped in and said he was a hangman paid to do his job. He was an Englishman by name Jigsaw Jamie. He told many stories and Dusty Nolan liked what he heard. He said he had hanged a dook in his time,-and it is a fact he told him ‘You don’t hang nobs with hemp. It must be silk.’
The saloon keeper brightened up and served him a shot of whiskey saying, ‘this is on the house.’ How the locals quivered like a heap of jelly in the wind. ‘This ain’t like Dusty Nolan!’ they whispered to one another.
Meanwhile Dusty Nolan palavered with the stranger. Jigsaw Jamie whispered to him he had made a special knot that was his signature.’ Once the rope bites the victim, it is clean break,’ said he warming up to the niceties of his art. He showed him how to make it. He said, ‘With such a knot the dead will always keep his left eye open.’
Dusty Nolan was thrilled to learn the technique. Pointing to his wooden stump he gave a toothless laugh, ‘Shiver my timbers.’
Next day he went to the woods where he always shot bears. He was more for excitement than for heaving the hulk of a bear home. Now he had found another. Stringing a bear would be exciting he thought.
He made a noose with the special hangman’s knot. Unfortunately no animal took the bait.
He had to get back for a lynch party and it was such a stinker the sheriff who in the past had looked the other way, could not but take action. He arranged a posse to arrest Dusty Nolan.
Dusty Nolan escaped to the woods.
No one heard from him for weeks. Later a hunting party passing the woods came across a body and Beanpole Mack swore it was indeed the body of his boss. He pointed the wooden stump and told the sheriff it was the body of Dusty Nolan. The sheriff was mystified by the left eye of the dead man, and it was open.
The sheriff asked if his expression was natural. The dead seemed keeping still an eye.
Beanpole Mack drawled, ‘Well Dusty Nolan may be a goner. But sure he has his eye on his goods.’


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