AN OLD TIMER'S LAST JOB
By Norris Chambers
By Norris Chambers
Occasionally the Old Timer has to tell a tale that he’s not sure is true. I never knew Slouch Hawkins, but Stan Fowler’s dad knew the whole Hawkins family. They lived on the east side of Crying Cat Mountain. Stan told me several tales that his dad told him about Slouch. I suspect that most of those tales are true.
Slouch Hawkins was a bounty hunter. No one knew his real name, but the ones who knew him called him “Slouch”. He was neither a handsome man nor a well-dressed one. Dirty overalls and a whiskered face pretty well described him. He didn’t even wear a gun belt, but the big pocket on the right hand side of the overalls held a six shooter that had killed several men. Actually, he seemed to prefer bringing in his victims dead.
He had been tracking Byron Byrd,
wanted for robbery and murder, for several days and had come to the wooded
cattle country of central
It was about noon when Slouch smelled smoke and cautiously made his way toward a small fire at the edge of a grassy meadow. A man was huddled over the fire, apparently eating his noonday meal. The day was a little chilly and the fire probably felt pretty good. The hunter crept up to within ten feet of the man, whose back was toward him, and looked him over for a short time. The suspect had brought a sack lunch with him and was warming pieces of meat impaled on a stick over the little fire. Slouch felt sure this was the man he was looking for, but it was hard to tell from behind. He was about the right size.
Slouch pulled out the pistol and pulled the hammer back. The slight click alerted the diner and he turned his head toward the noise. Slouch made a split-second examination of the face and aimed and pulled the trigger. The victim fell forward into the fire and lay still.
The killer caught the body by the foot and pulled it free of the coals, then booted it over on its back where he could get a good look. He was satisfied. The man’s horse was grazing a few yards away in the meadow. It took only a few minutes to bring the animal around and throw the lifeless body across the saddle.
It was late in the afternoon when he rode into Browntown, the county seat. He was leading the horse and its lifeless burden behind him. He had never been here before, but it was easy enough to spot the sheriff’s office. He had found enough of them in his career and the word “sheriff” was one of the few words he could read - another one was “saloon”. He walked arrogantly into the office and handed the poster to the sheriff.
“I brought in Byron Byrd. He’s outside. I’d like to get the $1000 reward.”
“Who are you?” asked the sheriff. Slouch replied, “I’m Slouch Hawkins, bounty hunter.”
The sheriff walked out the door, motioning for Slouch to follow him. The victim was hanging across the saddle with his face turned toward the horse. He turned the head around and looked into the face. Turning to Slouch, he said, “This is Tim Walker, a ranch hand for Bill Newsome.”
“Nope, that’s Byron. I never make a mistake. I’m entitled to the reward.”
“Did you check for the scar on the left shoulder that the poster mentions, and the missing big toe on the right foot?”
“Didn’t know about them,” answered Slouch, “but the picture fits close enough. I can’t read.” The sheriff pulled the shirt back, there was no scar. He didn’t bother to take the boot off for a toe inspection.
“Slouch, Byron Byrd was captured here in town two days ago. He’s in the jail now; face scar, missing toe and all that. You are under arrest for the murder of Tim Walker. Slouch’s right hand reached for the revolver in his pocket, but before he could draw the weapon the sheriff had a heavy .45 in his hand and pounded it heavily across old Slouch’s head. Without hesitation he fell to the ground and the sheriff grabbed him by his long hair and dragged him to the jail.
With a sluggish grin he pushed the body into the small cell where Bryon Byrd was lying on a stone couch covered by a folded wagon sheet. As he slammed and locked the door, he gave Slouch a final suggestion: “You are in the same cell with Byron now. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the right man. But the reward has already been claimed!”In due time, both cell mates were hung. That was the end of Slouch Hawkins, bounty hunter.