By Jorge Larach
As a child, Jack wanted to be a sheriff, like his father, and like his father before him. He was obsessed with the idea of preserving law and order and the peace within Tombstone, Arizona. Starting at the age of nine, his father would take him shooting in a field by his family’s ranch, and eventually he developed an affinity for the art of the firearm. His mother would disagree with his father about the amount of exposure Jack was getting to the world of crime and guns for his age, but his father insisted it was crucial for Jack to develop an understanding for these subjects at a young age, so when he was older, he’d know the dynamics of how crime and justice work, and what side of the law he should be on. Jack’s parents would tell stories about outlaws and gunslinging cowboys, and how the fight to preserve justice used to be more intense than what it was presently. Nearly every day, Jack would be reminded by his parents about the horrors of crime and injustice, and how all lawbreakers were vermin. Upon first hearing of cowboys, Jack was repulsed and disgusted by them. He, and his family, were of the opinion that they were scum, and each and every last one of them should be hunted and brought to justice, despite there being so few in the year of 1881. But as he approached adolescence, the attraction he found for the gun began to be more tightly wound to outlaws than to sheriffs. He would find himself imagining the thrill of executing a stagecoach robbery, robbing a bank, and even escaping from the law in an epic shootout-chase.
One day, at the age of 12, when scouring through his father’s study for his model revolver that he so dearly loved, Jack came across a small, wooden box tucked snugly between two similar looking cigar boxes, seeming as though it was meant to be hidden. Reluctant to steal but overwhelmed with curiosity, Jack took the box to his cramped quarters only a few steps from his parents’. Surprised to find the box had no lock, he opened it to reveal a collection of yellowing letters. Dedicating several hours to read the letters (he had only learned to read in consecutive sentences half a year before), he discovered that they were written by his grandfather, who had passed away in a shootout against outlaws before he was born. To his horror and surprise, Jack read about how, in reality, his grandfather Morrison was in fact a member of a now extinct gang of outlaws. The letters detailed how the botchery of a bank heist led to fleeing from the law, and how they were being ruthlessly hunted daily for months. Each letter was written weeks apart, and were addressed specifically to Jack’s father, who at the time must have been around Jack’s age. Dizzy and disoriented from the revelation, Jack returned the box to where he found it.
The confusion and feeling of betrayal passed quickly, though. As time passed, Jack began to idolize this cowboy, gunslinging version of his grandfather and his fraternal gang of outlaws. When his father, who was oblivious to Jack’s slow mental shift from the law to crime, took Jack shooting, Jack no longer imagined he was killing cowboys; rather, he envisioned killing the sheriffs of Tombstone. Being too frightened to discuss this with his father, Jack told his mother about his attraction to the world of crime and outlaws, leaving out the letters he found. His mother reminded Jack that outlaws were a dying breed, and insisted that any attraction he found to that life should be severed immediately. Jack knew she was right, but his dreams of fighting authority only augmented.
When Jack turned 16, he became a courier. With his horse, he would deliver mail to whoever required his services. One day, as he was returning home from delivering a rather large parcel in a wooded area, he was witness to a stagecoach robbery. Having only heard about them in his parent’s stories, he watched in wild-eyed bewilderment from a distance as a small group of men, maybe five or six of them, dragged out the driver and passenger of a horse-driven stagecoach and threw them on the ground, then tossed out bags and boxes containing things Jack could only guess were riches, or resources to obtain riches, from the back of the stagecoach. After the robbery, the thieves leaped on their horses and rode away, some of them cackling wildly, firing into the air and twirling their guns on their fingers.
Jack, knowing this would likely be his last time seeing outlaws, furtively followed them on his horse, making sure to keep a safe distance. After some time, the outlaws turned off the main road into a smaller gravel path which led to a clearing in the forest. Tying his horse to a nearby tree, Jack followed the gang to their camp in the clearing. As he crouched in the bushes, he watched as the gang celebrated their successful stick-up by dancing, drinking, and singing. Jack noticed that the members were mostly older, with most of them having long white beards and walking with a slouch. Jack watched in amazement at this slice of history, this fading culture of chases, shootouts, and unbreakable fraternal connections fighting and escaping authority. Knowing he would never have this opportunity again, Jack arose from the bushes and confronted his heroes. Upon seeing him, the gang all drew their weapons on him and fired, killing him instantly.
One of the gang members drunkenly slogged forward towards Jack’s body, and searched his pockets for any loot. Upon finding none, the gang happily returned to their merry dancing, drinking, and singing, oblivious to anything and everything that doesn’t concern them or their newly obtained treasure.