I donít care much about money. Nope, not any more.
Far as Iím concerned, just leave me right here in my red rock canyon, waking up with sunlight dancing over the ridge and Emmaís flapjacks on the fire. And will you smell them cherry blossoms! Addles your brain quicker than moonshine, that smell.
Emma never did take to me gambling. Didnít know about that, did you? Yep, before Jared was born, come Saturdays I used to saddle my buckskin and head up to Deadwood for a round or two of poker. Maybe three rounds, depending.
Liquor flowed like water up there. Still does. Good thing Emma believed me when I swore I had nothing to do with them dance hall girls. Sometimes I can hardly believe that myself, but itís true. She wouldíve known anyway if I did. It was hard enough coming home to hear her mumbling prayers behind the bedroom curtain. I couldnít have borne the hurt in her eyes if Iíd lied to her about women.
No, it was Lady Luck enticed me. Maybe President Lincoln freed the slaves, but there ainít nobody to free a man from her. You just have to do it yourself, by the help of Almighty God.
In my case, help came without my asking. I got Wild Bill to thank for that. Newspaper made a fuss over a sharpgun Kansas lawman like him showing up in Deadwood. I figured he came mainly for the poker and the ladies, so I moseyed up there to see what I could see. Found some partners and tied into a winning streak. A big one. Wouldíve lit out for home, but Lady Luck and her friend Whiskey had swelled my head.
So instead I got a room and slept it off. Noontime I woke up and heard Bill was dealing down at Saloon Number Ten. Didnít bother to eat nothing. I just sauntered through them swinging doors like a coyote full of spring lamb. Three slickers at the bar yanked me into a game faster than you could wink. Between the dumb swagger and the Texas twang, I guess they took me for the sucker I was.
Well, by the time Iíd swept the third hand I knew I was in trouble. My partners were looking mean as snakes, and I had a knot in my stomach the size of a goose egg. Plain as day, if they couldnít win back their loot theyíd be stripping my carcass somewhere between Deadwood and Hay Camp. I ducked behind my cards and made a hasty prayer to the Almighty.
Thatís when it happened. Saw it myself, right over top of my aces. This fella eased up behind Hickok, like he wanted a peek at his game. Then all of a sudden he hollered something and his arm came up. Bam! the gun went off. Wild Bill toppled over on the floor with blood on his head.
The gunslinger was out the back door like a jackrabbit. Bunch of miners jumped to chase him down and knocked our table over. Let me tell you, I didnít think twice about the pot. My weasel-eyed partners scrambled for it while I tailed those miners straight into the alleyway. I split off to where my horse was tied and it was still daylight when I rode in here, shaking like an aspen.
Couldnít spot Emma anywhere, so I hit the ground and headed for the cabin. There she was, flat on the bed in a sweat, gasping for me to run get the midwife. I dug my spurs into poor lathered-up Buck, and off we went.
You guessed it. That night Jared was born.
Now, donít trouble your pretty little head about me. I havenít set foot in Deadwood since. Emma never did ask no questions. She was happy just to have me along at church every week.
Hah! Whoíd have guessed the fruit of my loins would end up studying to be a preacher? By golly, Sarah, if youíre half the wife to Jared that my Emmaís been to me, he can reckon himself a wealthy man.
Not a word to her, now. But before you two pack up tomorrow and head back East, you tell that moon-struck son of mine to go dig behind the left wall of the root cellar, down near the floor.
Make him take it all, hear? Iím right glad to be shed of it.
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