Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Showdown in El Dorado

*
Cole and Stony were more than just the usual cowpokes. Though they often traveled together, scouting for the army, escorting a wagon train or doing "hired work" for a local landholder - today they were to take time away from herding cattle and go into town to pick up supplies for the big drive that started the next day.
*
Moving a couple hundred head of beef to the Santa Fe railhead in Wichita was a lot of work and the men had to be fed and well supplied. There were always dangers of rustlers and Indian attacks and keeping all the trail hands in line sometimes proved a huge responsibility. But friends like Cole and Stony could handle just about anything that came their way - they watched each other's backs and saved each other from quite a few scrapes along the way.
*
That is until El Dorado...
*
The moment they rode into town, they caught each other's eye with that knowing experience that told them something just wasn't right. Nothing particular about the people in town - everyone was friendly - it was just the sense of foreboding that came with knowing the territory and the lay of the land. Something was amiss and they both knew it.
*
Cole had to go over to the livery stable to get his horse reshod while Stony was to go into the general store to start putting together the grub and supplies they needed for the drive. On this day, the store was packed with people - all clamoring for their own supplies for the farm or the ride west - whichever they had to do that day.
*
Stony picked up a big sack of dried beans and as he turned around, he bumped into someone who did not move. It was a big guy, in a dark rain slicker and a dark hat that shielded his face and shrouded him in the shadows of his own presence. Not the kind of guy you would want to get riled as he stood nearly a foot taller than anyone else in the store. This guy looked like death warmed over and just stared at Stony with a surprised and yet hollow look in his eyes - as if to say without speaking: "you shouldn't have done that - in fact you shouldn't even be hear at all!"
*
The look completely unnerved Stony - something that had never happened to him before. He had faced some of the worst outlaws in the street - but this one scared him like no other. He dropped the beans and backed his way out of the store and took off to find Cole at the stables in a run. As he ran around the corner of the building, he came face to face with Cole and that scared him even more. The jolt of running into anyone who stood over 6 feet tall and carried a 45 was enough to land Stony on his butt and looking about as disheveled as he could be. Cole helped his buddy up and asked him: "what's wrong, why were you running?" So Stony proceeded to tell Cole of the big guy in the store and their encounter.
*
Stony was convinced the big guy wanted to kill him right there but didn't - due to the number of witnesses in the store. Sometimes you just know there are fights you don't want and it's best to avoid them when possible. The dark guy in the black hat was one of them.
*
So a plan was devised by Cole to have Stony ride as fast as he could on to El Dorado. He could scout the trail and set up the arrangements for the sale of the beef and telegraph back to Cole all the info. It also afforded Stony the opportunity to get out of town and far enough away from this big guy so he wouldn’t have to worry about seeing him in the street where they would have to face each other again.
*
Meanwhile Cole would find this guy in the black hat and call him out. He wanted to know just exactly what this guy was up to and why he had scared his buddy the way he did that afternoon.
*
Cole finally found him in the saloon. Just sitting there watching who came and went and holding a shot glass full of cheap whiskey the bartender gave him just to be on his good side. Obviously not one to gamble or be entertained by the ladies of the house, this guy was a loner and no one wanted to even walk by his table.

*
Cole walked up and leaned over, looking the dark guy in the hollow eyes and said: "Are you the one who surprised my buddy this afternoon and scared him half to death?" "Yeah" was the answer. Empty and short - without emotion - just the facts. Evidently a man of few words. Cole asked again: "why? - what are you up to?" This time the big guy stood up and looked Cole in the eyes and said: "It was he that surprised me! When he turned around and stepped into me, it was as if he was looking for a fight and I knew this wasn't the place for it. That's why I let him go."
*
"You let him go?!" Cole asked. "You obviously didn't know who you were up against", Stony has faced more two-bit gunslingers than most of the cowpunchers in the territory. Who do you think you are?"
*
"As you can see, Cole, I'm not wearing any guns. I was surprised to see Stony here today. You see I am the Angel of Death and I have an appointment with him many miles from here in El Dorado tonight and I best be on my way.
*
Cole looked bewildered as he watched the big guy mount his dark horse and ride away, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop this rendezvous in El Dorado.


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You see - there are some appointments from which you cannot run - and it's best you are prepared to face them. Are you ready to face your appointment?

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This story is adapted from a much older story called "Rendezvous in Samara" as told by Ravi Zacharias in his book "Light In The Shadow Of Jihad"

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