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3 Questions for Curtis Labelle – Singer/Songwriter, Renowned Pianist and Vibrant Performer

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4 minute read

Move over New York City, we’ll keep him thanks.

How do I even begin? Curtis Labelle is a dream. Quite literally you may find yourself hanging out with him and actually asking yourself “am I dreaming? Did he just sell out a show by putting a plunger (yes a plunger) on his head?” True story, not only did it sell out but what a phenomenal night! If you’ve seen a show from Curtis then you know what I’m talking about. It becomes a communal effort. Everyone is part of the show. Sing-a-longs, hysterical laughter and and straight up good times.

“My fingers do the walking…”   – Curtis Labelle

Did you know that not so long ago in a land pretty far away called New York City our very own Curtis Labelle was enjoying himself and trying to figure out where he was headed in his musical journey. Yes sir, even the virtuosos like Curtis Labelle need time to ponder and contemplate where this crazy musical adventure is headed next. For a while he was even doing Liberace tributes. I’ve always told him he should take it as a compliment when ‘The FEDS’ shut you down. ‘The FEDS’ lol, thats probably not the right terminology but it sounds cool. Better said, team Liberace shut him down with the good ol’ “cease and desist” letter. They made it clear, that part of his career was over. Immediately. I remember telling Curtis that in some crazy way this was the best thing to happen to his career.

Since relocating to Red Deer Curtis has been killing it! New music, videos, teaching, getting married and just all around living life to the fullest.

I actually had the honour of performing Curtis’s very first original song on stage with him for the first time he performed it, ever. He didn’t even have his piano. He pulls me into the hall and says “do something like this…” Bam! We were on stage at The Velvet Olive (re-opening June 3rd) and Curtis introduced his original music to the world. No cooler feeling than being a part of that.

Last year he was the winner of the 2019 Rock 104.5 Star Search, securing the opportunity to work on a new single with JUNO Nominated Producer Mark Troyer! Very cool. This year he’s secured a spot on “The Shot” which is a pretty sweet competition based Canadian platform. We wish you the best in your efforts!

If you’re into Elton John, Billy Joel and good music in general you’re in luck. All of Curtis Labelle’s music is now available on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Music, Google Play, Deezer and more. for more on Curtis check out his website and socials at curtislabelle.com and make sure to drop a follow or like wherever you’re at. I could go on for days about all the stories and craziness I’ve been through with Curtis but lets get to the questions!!!

1. Where does it come from? Your ability to make your fingers do what they do?

My fingers are an avenue and a path. The universe sends messages and then my brain makes the music. My fingers do the walking and my brain does the talking.

2. Do you ever eat your dessert before your dinner?

Always dinner first – I’m large enough.

3. How has music affected your mental health during COVID-19?

Music has kept me alive and vibrating inside. It’s my healing and medicine.

NEW MUSIC RELEASE DAY!

Jesse was born in the city of Lethbridge and raised to his teen years in the southern Alberta farming communities of Raymond and Fin Castle, AB. Jesse's early inspirations include the hypnotic sounds of big-name artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Black Crowes, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, City and Colour, Jack Johnson, Guns 'N' Roses, and Pink Floyd. Jesse is a Blues/Rock/folk/Indie performer who has done his fair share of "paying his dues" opening and touring with such acts as: The Lazys, One Bad Son, Doc Walker, The Odds, The Northern Pikes, The Grapes Of Wrath, Monster Truck, The Age Of Electric, The Wild, Holly McNarland, Econoline Crush, Coal Creek Boys, Wild T & The Spirit, Cara Luft, Carson Cole, Clayton Bellamy (of The Road Hammers), Tupelo Honey, Retrograde, The Smalls, and Mcquaig to name just a few. In 2015 Jesse was awarded the title "Master of Blues Folk Rock" for the 6th Annual Black American Music Awards. Jesse is known for his funky heavy jam style guitar. Big riffs, an impressive vocal sound all his own and the ability to captivate the crowd with ease. His fans have coined the term "no string solo" as he can be consistently found ripping strings off the guitar like they aren't supposed to be there in the first place.

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A Red Deer historical treasure is for sale – Michael Dawe describes the 109 year old Willson House

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From the Facebook page of Andrew Russell

Take a glimpse into Red Deer’s past! The Willson House, a designated historic home, can now be part of your future. Built in 1911 by the Willson Brothers, this 2217 square foot 2 storey was a display of high quality craftsmanship and wealth in Red Deer’s early days as a city. Fully restored in 1997 with numerous other upgrades in the last 20 years, this home still holds all of its amazing character features such as the original doors and trim, windows, radiators, hardwood flooring, exposed brick, coal fireplace, solid wood staircase, and so much more.

5011 43 Ave, The Willson House

🏡 5011 43 Ave, Red Deer 🏡Take a glimpse into Red Deer's past! The Willson House, a designated historic home, can now be part of your future. Built in 1911 by the Willson Brothers, this 2217 square foot 2 storey was a display of high quality craftsmanship and wealth in Red Deer's early days as a city. Fully restored in 1997 with numerous other upgrades in the last 20 years, this home still holds all of its amazing character features such as the original doors and trim, windows, radiators, hardwood flooring, exposed brick, coal fireplace, solid wood staircase, and so much more.A big thank you to Michael Dawe for taking the time to give us a glimpse into this homes 109 year history!Offered at $469,900.Full details found here: https://www.andrewrussell.ca/5011-43-ave

Posted by Andrew Russell & Associates – Re/max real estate central alberta on Monday, June 29, 2020

A big thank you to Michael Dawe for taking the time to give us a glimpse into this homes 109 year history!

Offered at $469,900.

Full details found here: https://www.andrewrussell.ca/5011-43-ave

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Lone Ranger and the Riders of Justice, Chapters 10 and 11

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Chapter ten

 

 

Villainous Preparations

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, Hidden Valley was a beehive of activity.

The cattle, used to days of relative inactivity huddled anxiously in small groups instinctively reacting to the tension amongst the men.

Holsters were oiled, guns and rifles dismantled and cleaned. Gunbelts, filled to the brim. An aura of evil filled the mens minds, and death was near tonight. If luck was with the outlaws, good men would die, and tyranny would triumph. If not, then vengeance for the deaths of good men would take its toll on Snake Larson and his men!

Snake Larson sat at the big chair in the cabin. At the far end of the room, a stranger sat with his legs crossed on the table. The bright glint of well tooled boot silver reflected the oil lamp into Snakes eyes.

“Boss, but the masked man was here. I tell you!” Snake exclaimed.

The boss, his face hidden by the shadows and a black cloth mask hanging from his hat, wore a dark blue vest. On the left breast, a strange insignia in the shape of a black arrow highlit the well worn vest. His boots, tipped in silver, creaked on the wooded plank table.

He spoke in a deep voice.

“I know- I observed his coming earlier this week” he replied.

Snake Larson looked scared.

“What do we do?” he said loudly, standing up now. “Sheriff Stockton was supposed to be here by now.”

The leader growled.

“Sheriff Stockton is a fool! Giving into the ranchers was a sign of weakness. You are the real boss of this outfit. I am in charge of many such outfits such as yours. All across the west, the masked man has caused me trouble. Tonight, we can stop his meddlesome interference, ONCE AND FOR ALL!” he said haughtily.

“How’re we going to do it?” Snake asked. “You know, the Masked Man overheard our plans to ambush the Carey ranch in order to kill the deputy. So he’ll have the edge there.”

The man in the shadows spoke again.

“Proceed as planned, except hold a few men back as a counter attack. When their initial strength and advantage is weakened, we charge the second group. But, THE MASKED MAN IS MINE! “

Snake Larson listened intently, he formulated his plan concretely in his own mind.

“You can do what you will with the new deputy, he’s nothing to me.” the mystery man added. “Now, go! You have much to do.” And he laughed.

Snake Larson left the cabin to the echoes of the leaders laughter. Once outside, he called his men together. A few minutes later, they were all there.

“Men, listen up. I want you Ace, Trig, and Jock to head the first attack group. Come in around me, we’ll draw the attack out” Snake said as he drew the ambush out. Giving precise directions to each man he orchestrated the next evening perfectly.

“Do you understand each of your roles men?” Snake asked.

Each man nodded as Snake looked at him. A glimmer of unity shone in each outlaws eyes-they were near the end of their journey and the big payoff was near!

The Lone Ranger, all his senses alert, searched the campsite and surrounding area. Tonto, just entering the copse of trees where the camp was, stepped on a branch. The snap made him aware of the pervading silence.

“Kemo Sabe” he yelled. “Tonto here”

The Ranger, hearing Tonto’s voice,, dropped his irons, and spun them into his holsters.

“Tonto, over here” he replied.

The Ranger walked back to the campfire and waited for the Indian to arrive.

“Did all go well with Rex?” he asked.

Tonto, sat near the fire and poured a cup of coffee. He looked at the Ranger and took a sip of the hot liquid.

“All ranchers know Kemo Sabe. Them say they’ll be at Rex’s by sunset tomorrow” he said.

The Ranger sat down across from Tonto.

“That’s good, all must go perfectly tomorrow if we’re to stop the Snake Larson gang.”

Tonto and the Ranger prepared to rest for the night. The days activities had taken much energy. With tomorrow’s ambush, rest was needed. Both men unrolled their bed rolls, and laid down. Sleep soon claimed the men.

Morning came. The Ranger and Tonto, now well rested, made a big breakfast. Bacon, pancakes, and hot coffee energized them. Resting a few minutes more, the duo got up and doused the fire with the left over coffee. The early morning sun was topping the trees, so the masked man and Tonto mounted their steeds and galloped into Kievers Creek.

Roy Rogers had to be warned about the coming ambush, especially if his life was in danger.

The Ranger and Tonto rode the miles into town. By now, the countryside was very familiar, and the horses could ride the trail almost unguided. The rolling hills, the abundant trees, and the copious wildlife were growing on the mysterious pair. As they rounded the last hill before town, a sigh of relief escaped the Rangers lips.

The Ranger turned to Tonto.

“Tonto, let’s go find Deputy Rogers. We’ll avoid the sheriffs office, let’s ask at Hodgsons.” he suggested.

They cantered into town. The Ranger removed his mask, pulled a different hat from his saddle bag, and pulled a dirty vest over his shirt. Tonto rode in silence. Soon they arrived in front of the store. They dismounted.

“Tonta” he said in a heavy accent. “I’m gonna check in with the store keep. See ya inna few minutes.”

Tonto nodded, trying to conceal his laughter.

“Okay Kem Sab” he replied.

The Ranger walked up to the store and opened the door. He looked inside, store shelves lined three walls, tall aisles held dry goods, clothes, and hardware. Gerry Hodgson, the proprietor served customers by the till. He looked up at the Ranger.

“Be with you in a minute sir” he said looking back down.

“Will that be all Mr Varga?” he asked.

Tony paid for his groceries and left the store. Gerry walked up to the Ranger.

“How can I help you sir. My name is Gerry Hodgson, and yours is…” he began.

“Clayton Moore, pleased to meet you” he replied.

“Gerry, do you know where I can find Roy Rogers?” the Ranger asked.

He thought for a moment.

“Either over at Dales, or the sheriffs office. Can I get you some groceries?

Apples are a great deal this week” he said smiling.

“I’ll take a few apples. Thanks for the information. Where is Dale’s?” the Ranger answered.

Gerry walked to the window. He pointed down the street.

“Right over there. You can see the sign from here. That’ll be 25 cents for the apples.”

The Ranger paid Gerry.

“Thanks, have a great day!” he said walking back to the till whistling a merry tune.

The Ranger and Tonto rode the short distance to Dales Place. Gabby, put to work early in the day, swept the verandah quickly. The pair dismounted and tied their horses to the rail.            They walked up the steps.

“Mornin” the Ranger said to Gabby.

“Good morning to you. How can I help you?’ Gabby asked.

“Is Mr Roy Rogers in today?”

Gabby put the broom down, and turned to go inside.

“He’s this way, come on in” Gabby replied.

The Ranger and Tonto followed the grizzled veteran inside.   Roy was just finishing breakfast. Dale was sitting across from him. They were talking excitedly.

“Eh he” Gabby coughed.

Roy turned around.

“Yes Gabby.”

Gabby turned his head towards the Ranger and Tonto.

“Two men to see you Roy.”

“Thanks Gabby” he replied.

“Roy, Tonto and I, have something to tell you.” he started.

“Tonto? And you would be?” Roy queried.

The Ranger pulled a silver bullet out of his belt and handed it to Roy. Roy turned it over in his hands. He gave it to Dale.

“You must be the Lone Ranger then. Heard lots about you, Don Barry speaks quite highly of you. I guess you helped him once when he was younger.   Where’s your white hat, and mask?”

The Ranger rubbed his chin.

“Had to come into town to see you, didn’t need a bad reaction.” he replied.

Gabby’s face dropped.

“Wellll, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Mighty pleased to meet you. You can call me Gabby. Boy, if there were more men like you two…” Gabby said, admiration flavouring his voice.

Dale piped in.

“Would you like to sit down, have a cup of coffee?”

Tonto answered.

“Please.”

The pair sat down. Dale returned with two cups and a steaming hot pot. She filled the cups up.

Roy looked at the Ranger.

“What did you want to tell me?” he asked.

“Yesterday, Tonto and I trailed a Mexican to a hidden box canyon. We overheard plans to try to kill you during a raid. Tonto also found out that Bill Stockton, and Lyle Talbot

are part of a grand scheme to drive settlers off” he said matter of factly.

Roy whistled.

“I wish you would have told me before last night. Three hombres tried to ambush Gabby and I on the trail back from Gene’s last night. Gabby got knocked on the head, I got a couple of scratches. We didn’t follow them though. Somehow they knew my name and where I was going to be. I figured Bill was part of it, but I wasn’t quite sure. No wonder he looked so surprised when I went over to the office last night. He thought I would’ve been dead by then.”

Roy answered.

“Tonto glad you okay. They plan raid on Rex Allen’s tonight. Rex and I warned ranchers last night, tell them to come over tonight for big showdown.” Tonto said.

They sipped their coffee quietly.

“Well, gents” he said resignedly. “I guess we’d better go over to Gene’s, then get Rex’s later. We have a busy day ahead of us.”

The Ranger agreed.

“Roy, this is what we have planned tonight…” he said as he and Tonto filled him in on the details of the counter attack.

A few minutes later, Roy, the Lone Ranger, and Tonto left Dales place. They

galloped out of town and took the trail to Gene’s.

As they passed the ambush site, the three riders stopped to examine the footprints.

The Ranger and Tonto recognized the footprints of Ace Parker, and Trig Larson. They mounted their horses and carried on.

Arriving at Gene’s place, the three riders tied their mounts to the bar and went into the house. Gail let them and led them to the living room where Gene sat doing the ranches books.

He looked up.

“Morning gentlemen. I see you’ve met the Ranger and Tonto already Roy” Gene said.

The men sat down.

“Gene, Gabby and I were ambushed last night. Around the garden of the gods, three men attacked us. It was a good thing Trigger warned us, we would have easily been killed.” Roy said.

Gene looked concerned.

“Was anyone hurt?”

Roy answered.

“Only the ambushers, and Gabby got his hat shot off.”

“Tonto and I recognized their footprints. The same ones as I found after trailing Jim and Margarets assailants, and one of the prints was on Blindmans Plateau. It seems they belong to the same gang.” the Lone Ranger remarked.

Gene nodded.

“It’s amazing. For six months, no clues. You two come around, and Roy here is appointed Deputy, then BOOM, the case busts wide open.”

Tonto and the Lone Ranger looked down.

“Are Jim and Margaret okay?” Roy asked.

Gene smiled.

“They’re fine. Jim’s arm is healing well, Margaret is almost back to normal, driving Jim crazy. I’ll get Gail to call them.”

A few minutes later Jim and Margaret came into the room. Jim’s arm, still cast solidly, swung uneasily as he walked. Margaret, smiling widely, ran over to the Ranger and Tonto. She thanked them profusely.

“Jim, have you heard about their plan to raid Rex Allen’s tonight?” the Ranger asked.

Jim nodded.

“Yes, Uncle Gene mentioned it briefly this morning over breakfast. What are your plans?” he asked. “I really can’t help that much, my wounded wing you know, but I’ll help where I can.”

The Ranger, Tonto, Roy and Tonto went over the plan again.

Jim spoke up.

“Why don’t we add a third attack line, in case they change their plan. If the leader is as smart as he seems to be, he may add a third line. Back home, I used to work with explosives, a few well placed charges would turn the tide quite easily.” he suggested.

The four men looked thoughtfully at each other, then back at Jim.

“Sounds like a good idea to me. We really don’t know how man men they have. They may have brought more men in just for this. If the leader is who I think it is, he has thousands of men at his disposal.”   the Ranger said.

Roy agreed.

“I think I saw some explosives at Varga’s. If I leave right now, I can get to Rex’s in a couple of hours. Jim could help us with their set up.” Roy said.

Roy got up and turned to leave.

“I’ll see you at Rex’s.”

The Lone Ranger and Tonto were silent.

Gene stood up quickly.

“Ranger, Tonto, care for a tour of my ranch? Not much to do for a couple of hours. I’d love to show you around” he said smiling.

The Ranger replied.

“Thank you Gene. I’d be glad to. Tonto, are you in?”

Tonto nodded.

“Yes. I’ll go with you.” he said.

“It’s settled men, we’ll hitch a buckboard up and wander around. No use riding our horses. They’ll get enough work tonight.”

They walked outside and found a buckboard. Silver and Scout were let loose in the corral. Gene’s hands rubbed the animals down and fed them.

The tour began.

A couple of hours later, they returned and found a hot meal waiting for them.

Gail had prepared a veritable feast for the hungry men and hands. After the meal, Gene’s hands, the Ranger and Tonto, Gene, and Jim left for Rex’s. Grimly riding the range, the men soaked in the peace of the early afternoon sky. Clouds lazily drifted by, and the blue sky turned white ever so slightly. A heavy pall hung over the men as they neared Rex’s. If all went well, death and revenge for the ranchers. If the tide turned back, death for the valley’s valiant ranchers hung in the balance!

Rex’s ranch had become the point of much activity. The area ranchers were sending their hands to combat the raiders, Snake Larsons gang rode with death on their minds , and the Lone Ranger and Tonto, with redemption and justice foremost in their thoughts; all three groups rode in grim silence toward their date with destiny.

At Rex Allen’s ranch, preparation was underway for the upcoming clash. Windows were being nailed shut, any unnecessary livestock was turned loose for their own safety, and the ranch hands prepared their weapons. Rex had sent his wife and three children over to the Moore ranch earlier in the day, only Chico stayed on to help his dad. With the time of atonement near for Snake Larson, Rex and the gathered men prepared for their sacred duty!

One by one, the ranch hands arrived. By the campfire beside the house, each hand drank some coffee to ward off the early evening chill. They started to gather in little groups.

Old friends shared stories of past exploits, new friends listened intently to tales of bravery and conquest.

Rex Allen came out of his hacienda-his hands thrust into his pants pockets, he looked over at the growing group of men who had come in response to his and Tonto’s requests for help. It warmed his soul to see such a large number of men. He counted fifty men already with hands from the Hale, Iversons, Smith, Hart, Autry and many other outfits there.   As he scanned the men, a look of shock crossed his face. Lyle Talbot and his men were here!

Rex surged into action.   He quickly found the Deputy Sheriff and Gene deep in conversation. They walked over to where the outlaw outfit mingled.

Lyle, spotting them out of the corner of his eye, excused himself.

“Lyle.”   Gene said.

“Yes Gene” he answered.

A nervous silent tension filled the air.

“Why are you here, after all that you have done?” Gene asked.

A blank look came over his face.

“Are you here to kill us too? Or to spy for the rustlers?” Gene continued.

Lyle looked fearful, he moved his hand closer to his pistol.

“What are you talking about Gene. I’m here to help. I heard from the neighbours that you were going to stop the …”

Rex chimed in.

“Men you’ve been helping for some months now. How many men have you killed Lyle? How many of your neighbours have you shot at, or stolen from?”

Lyle bolted.

“It’s not like that. I, I, quit yesterday. Got sick of the violence, the stealing” he spit out quickly.

“Tie him up boys” Gene said.

Gene looked at his men, they had subdued Lyle and soon he was hogtied to the house porch.

“It makes me sick Rex, it really does. He could have killed Jim, and Margaret.”

Gene said.   “Men, the hands of the Talbot ranch are welcome to help.”

The men, astonished at what happened, returned to their mingling.

Presently the Lone Ranger and Tonto walked towards the flickering firelight. They stopped near the corral where Silver and Scout were tied to the filled rail.

Walking to the fire, they too were impressed at the display of community spirit. Nearing the fire, the Autry men called out.

“Lone Ranger, Tonto! Over here!” Gene hollered.                           Walking over to Gene, the pair saw hope in the eyes of the men they passed. Many patted their backs and thanked them for their help. Reaching Gene, the Ranger turned around. Roy was beside Gene, and Rex was walking towards them. He too recognized many faces from the meeting three days ago. The battle would be won, if not by numbers, then by Faith and Hope alone.

“Ranger” said Gene “it’s time to talk to the men.” He tipped his hat.

The Ranger stood upon the bench beside the fireside. The flickering light made strange shadows over the Rangers features. His handsome face, silhouetted classically, blended into his mask. He raised his arms into the air.

“Men! The time has come for us to fight back! Tonight, the masked leader of the outlaws that have raided your ranges, stolen your cattle, and killed your neighbours, plans to attack Rex’s. You know that already. It’s our job, your job, to stop them, and to help us bring them to justice.”

The crowd of men stirred uneasily.

“I know most of you want your revenge. But, we can’t be cold blooded murderers, like they are. We are better than that. Now listen carefully, and come in closer, I’ll show you what our plan is…” the Ranger said modulating his voice carefully.

The Ranger, Tonto, Gene, Roy, and Rex explained the plan to the men. Roy split the men up into two groups. The Ranger and Tonto led the first, Roy led the second, and Rex led the third, smaller squad. Reverend Pat stood up.

“Dear Lord, watch over these brave men. Bring them back to their loved ones safely this night. Guide us O Lord, with thy holy wisdom as you did Joshua, and King David. Amen.” he intoned.

“Amen” the men echoed.

The men, now split up into their respective groups, galloped off to position.

Rex rode off to the north of his spread, and waited behind a copse of trees. Roy went south and rode into a small hollow, the Ranger and the rest of the ranchers waited behind the buildings. Much time passed. The moon made it’s path off the horizon and followed the stars in transition. Each group waited in anxious silence for the outlaws to appear. Conversations in low tones filled the minutes.

Miles away, the outlaws led by the Masked leader, galloped with grim seriousness.

The day had brought many men to swell their numbers over one hundred. The first group of men, led by Snake Larson rode in an undisciplined mass. The second group, Ace Parker and the Masked leader, in the front, followed a mile or so behind. Death rode beside each man!

The outlaws approached the last hill before Rex’s. Their pace slackened a little as their mounts climbed the gentle slope. The buildings appeared in the distance. A fire illuminated the pasture and ranch house. No riders were in sight. Cattle milled around.

They charged! Down the hill they rode, pistols held high, spitting thunder! The cattle parted, slowly at first, then they gathered momentum. The outlaws parted as they cleared the scattering cattle herd.

Behind the buildings, the Lone Ranger and Tonto sat ready. The men waited for the Masked Mans signal to charge. He held his gloved hand high, then chopped down as they passed an imaginary line.

Jim Autry pressed down on the detonator. The charges flew through the long wires, the dynamite exploded in several places at once.

“Yee Hah” Jim and Gabby yelled.

“Got’im” Gabby shouted.

Gabby got to work connecting the next set of wires.

The outlaws surprised by the explosions, jerked back. Many men had ridden their last mile. The flying soil blocked their sight. They stopped momentarily.

“Boss!” their eyes seemed to say as they looked to Ace Parker for guidance.

He glared back.

“Forward men! No sacrifice too small…” he yelled back.

The ranchers accelerated as the ranchers were temporarily blinded. They left the shelter of the buildings and charged for the confused outlaws. The few hundred feet between them flew by quickly. The time had come for all bad men to pass.

Gabby pressed down on the plunger again.

An explosion rocked the outlaws again. This time, more men fell as the main mass of men caught the brunt of the TNT.

“Way to go Jim!” Gabby whooped with excitement.

A mile back, the sound of the explosions caught the ears of the masked leader.

Beneath his mask, a look of fear crossed his face.   No one saw him break into a sweat.

“Ride men, ride!” he yelled, volume hiding his anxiety.

The second group of ranchers, waiting for the explosions, saw the smaller group of outlaws. They waited for them to pass beneath them, then charged from behind. Roy led the determined ranchers into battle, his silver six guns held high and blazing!

The villains turned around to face their opponents. Caught by surprise, they attacked without plan but not purpose. Defeating the ranchers and leaving them for the buzzards was their only thought.

Up ahead at Rex’s, the two masses of men collided. Horse met horse, and outlaw met rancher. The moonlit sky stay silent as the battle raged on in its primal strength. The Rangers guns spit flame again and again as outlaw fell, clutching their shattered hands. From east to west, men fought valiantly for their lives, and the lives of their families.

The outlaws, thrown off balance by the explosives, lost much of their confidence and nerve. Resorting to hand to hand combat, they plied strength against strength, and deceit against integrity! The ranchers, after charging into the cacophony, split up. Small clumps of men

fought. Pistols fired as outlaw fell, some dead, some unconscious.

Tonto, finding Ace Parker alone, tackled the vicious outlaw. By now desperate, Ace used all the tricks at his disposal to ward off Tonto. Slinging mud, kicking madly, and clubbing with the heavy end of his now empty pistol, he fought off Tonto long enough to escape into the mass of fighting men.

Soon, the blood of many men soaked the ground, and bodies littered the field. The explosion has done its work well, huge wounds in the earth held death traps for careless fighters.

Behind the men led by Ace Parker, Roy and the masked leader jostled wildly.

Trigger positioned himself to block the retreat of the masked leaders mount. Roy, held on tightly, and fired the occasional shot to stop an outlaw.   Dusty, following Roy, blocked pursuit after pursuit. The riders galloped towards Rex’s as they jousted for position and life.

Rex Allen held back anxiously. He looked up towards the hill, the moonlight revealed the galloping outlaw group pursued by Roy Rogers and his men. He looked towards the pasture, where the ranchers fought for life and limb. The men behind Rex stirred in their saddles.

“Rex, how soon?” Monte asked.

Rex looked back. The light silhouetted the riders faces, obscuring their features.

“Get ready” he said, body arched for action.

Roy Rogers and his men loomed closer.

“Get ready.”

The masked leader and his men reached Ace Parker and the splintered outlaw group. They assimilated with the panicking Snake Larson group. Now they numbered almost fifty. Half of their force, fallen already, lay strewn around the pasture and littered the trail behind.

“NOW!” he yelled.

Rex, Monte, and their respective hands delivered the decisive blow! Charging into the mass of men, they broke the spirit of the outlaws. Fear and panic spread across their faces, and pierced into their souls.

Roy Rogers broke into a wide smile.

The Lone Ranger flashed his hat up into the air.

Gene Autry fired his pistol.

The end was near for the outlaws!

The soggy ground slowed the men down. The horses slopped around in the mud and slurped as they pranced and rode about.

Finding their opponents recharged, the masked leader and Snake Larson regrouped their men into a tight group. They fought on, spending bullets foolishly. Bolting into the ranchers grasp and out, they battled guerrilla style with quick parries, and even faster retreats. Each man fought for his life against the determined ranchers for whom the prize was most dear!

Both sides suffered casualties. The wounded or dead lay where they fell, the combatants reined their mounts around the bodies. Death was everywhere!

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Pursuit

Catching a breather, the masked leader, Snake Larson, and Ace Parker found themselves side by side. They looked around at their surviving men, now numbering thirty.

The Masked Leader spoke.

“Men, it’s looking bad. We’ve lost too many. I don’t care about your lives! I want the Ranger!” he yelled across the darkness.

Snake Larson and Ace Parker looked shocked.

“Men like you are a dime a dozen. I can find’em in any town, anytime.”

He said, snarling behind his mask.

“What about the railroad?” Snake hollered.

“Damn the railroad. We’ve lost! Escape with your lives if you can, like the cowards you are!” he said insultingly.

Then, the ranchers surged again. Monte Hale, seeing the three men together, drove his mount towards them. Leaping over the surviving gunfighters, Monte mount landed beside the three men. He lunged off his horse to attack the leader. In the darkness, the masked leader removed a bludgeon from his belt.

As Monte flew towards him, he swung at his head, contacting with a thud.

Monte fell into the muck and mire, then rolled over.

“Well. What are you waiting for?” the masked outlaw asked.

Snake Larson, seizing the opportunity, mounted his horse, scanned the scene quickly, then galloped off , kicking ranchers out of his retreat with no thought but escape!

Gene Autry, his back towards the Lone Ranger, spotted Snake Larson’s departure first. Stepping closer to the masked man, he yelled across the void.

“Lone Ranger-I’ll get him!”

The masked man looked over at Gene, his face shone with determination as he gazed back. His eyes, now narrow slits, spoke volumes.

“HE’S MINE!”

Gene lowered his intensity a little. All around the pair, gunmen and horses galloped into and out of trouble. The ranchers, pushed into action by the thought of their fallen comrades, fought as if possessed. Gene was no exception, his six guns were hot with fired ammunition, and his clothes reflected the toil of the fiery night. What once was ivory, was now dark rubbed almond, his hat, once pressed and smooth showed trample and tear.

The Ranger twisted left as an outlaw careened past. Firing once, the outlaws horse jerked left as the outlaw tumbled from his galloping steed. The masked man, too was battle worn and weary. His clothes too reflected the ongoing battle.   Mud stained his shirt and pants, and the blood of many dead outlaws moistened the ground.   Only the moon lit the wide stretching collision area . Weird shadows hid both outlaw and rancher from each others watchful gaze and careful aim.

Gene looked once more at the Ranger, as Snake Larson and his horse sped away.

“Go Gene, Go” the Ranger yelled.

Gene whistled for Champ and called once.

“Champion!”

His magnificent steed flashed in from the left, leaping over the fallen outlaws. Mounting Champ mid stride, Gene reined him around and started after Snake Larson. The Lone Ranger watched Gene and Champ as they pursued the fleeing outlaw leader. An admiration for the cattlemen formed in his mind. Horse and rider had become one in their single minded purpose to capture Snake Larson. When Gene thought, Champ acted!. As the outlaws fleeing figure became larger and larger in the moonlight, Champion pressed on feeding on Genes desire for justice.

Snake Larson looked back in fear. Gene Autry was gaining! The lead he once had was vanishing by the minute and his horse was tiring. The long ride to Rex Allen’s had taken its toll. Thinking quickly, Snake Larson turned towards Blindmans Plateau. If his horses speed held out, he could make it there before Gene caught up with him.

“Give up Snake!” Gene yelled out.

Snake Larson turned around and fired a couple of shots towards Gene.

“No way Autry! You’ll have to catch me first!” he yelled back.

Gene turned from side to side to avoid the wild shots from Snake. Pushing Champ harder, Gene leaned down and felt the cool night air whip by faster.

Up ahead in the distance the moonlight silhouetted Blindmans Plateau. Once there, Gene thought, Snake could easily hide.

“Faster Champ” whispered Gene.

And Champ responded. From a hidden reserve, Champ pulled energy and speed. Within a few hundred feet, Snake Larson and his mount were only half the distance away.

Snake Larson looked back again, and turned with a shock registering on his face.

“How could he catch up so fast?” he thought to himself.

Pressing his steed for more speed, his mind raced through desperate thoughts. Snake’s horse, almost totally spent by now, gave one last burst then started slowing.

Gene and Champ, sensing the end of Snake Larson was near, galloped strongly towards the slowing pair.

Snake Larson, his desperation giving rise to courage, turned his mount around and charged Gene and Champ. Pulling his pistols out of their holsters, Snake loped towards the approaching pair., six guns ready to fire.

Gene Autry, seeing Snake turn around, raised his pistols and took careful aim. Moonlight glinted off Snakes guns as Gene Fired once, then twice.   His bullets found their mark. Snakes left gun flew out of his hand and fell to the ground, now shattered and useless.

Snake Larson fired wildly with his remaining Colt.

Gene and Champ bolted from side to side so as not to provide an easy target. By now, the riders were only sixty feet apart.

Justice was calling on Snake Larsons door!

The vegetation was blurred by the battling riders as their horses traveled over the rough prairie terrain. Balancing precariously on Champs left side, Gene aimed towards Snake and fired.   Just then, snakes mount veered right, evading the bullet.   Taking careful aim again as Champ traveled towards destiny!

Now only twenty feet apart, Snake Larson veered right sharply, causing Champ to over run his target.

Gene, finding Snake Larson galloping quickly to Gene’s left, spun Champ around and sped after the fleeing gunman.

Snake Larson looked behind, seeing that Gene was now nearly fifty feet away breathed a momentary sigh of relief. His horse, now near exhaustion, began to slow again, and soon was walking.

Gene, seeing that Snake Larsons mount give into utter exhaustion pushed Champ one last time. The distance between the two riders rapidly diminishing, Gene raised his pistol again and fired quickly at Snake. Gene’s bullet found its mark and Snakes gun barrel was smashed beyond repair. His hand, too was jarred by Gene’s flying bullet, ached as metal shards embedded themselves through worn leather gloves.

“Autry-you’re a dead man!” Snake yelled in anger.

Gene, now only a few feet away, lept off Champ and landed fully on Snake Larson propelling him forcefully from the top of his exhausted mount.

Snake Larson, beneath Gene Autry, felt the thud of the hard prairie turf on his back. Instinctively rolling to his feet, Snake sent Gene flying through the air, only to land a few feet away.

The pain from Gene’s bullets made Snake Larson more desperate! Leaping mid jump toward Gene’s rolling body, he pounded Gene with both fists; the metal shards causing more damage than Snakes blows.

Gene Autry reached up and grabbed Snakes forearm. In a battle of strength he twisted left, right, and with a quick jerk spun Snake off his chest. His face bleeding, Gene wiped the oozing fluid away from his eyes. Jumping to his feet, he turned to face a charging Snake!

“Snake-you’re going to pay for your villainy!” Gene shouted.

Snake Larson landed with a thud. Reaching out with his left hand he picked up a handful of dirt.

Gene Autry, running towards Snake Larson, pulled his pistols out and leveled them. Snake stood up, his left hand still clutching the dark soil.
“Snake-put your hands up” Gene commanded.

Gene stepped closer.

“I don’t have any guns Autry, you busted them up” Snake said.

“Don’t try anything Snake” Gene warned.

Gene was within a foot now. A desperate plan formed in Snakes mind.

Gene holstered his left pistol.   With his free hand he started to frisk the outlaw.   Snake Larson, playing his last card, threw the dirt in Gene’s eyes. The soil intermingling with the dripping blood from the metal wounds turned Gene’s face a dark brown in the moonlight.

Gene recoiled quickly, the dirt stinging his eyes.

With Gene’s hands at his face wiping the tears from his eyes, Snake Larson attacked. He reached out and took Gene’s pistol from his holster, then aimed at Gene’s chest.

Gene Autry, through teary eyes, sensed danger.   He vaguely saw his pistol in Snakes hands. Kicking out at Snakes outstretched hand, he sent the pistol flying.

Snake Larson, shocked at Gene’s instinctive reaction, flew at Gene and started pummeling him.   His metal shared gloves cutting Gene to the flesh.

Gene Autry, recovering quickly began to fight back.   Left punch, right punch, jab, flip. Like a wildcat he paid Snake Larson back until his face bled from many wounds.

Snake Larson fell to the ground as Gene’s blows forced him down to the hard cold surface. Through blurry eyes, Gene’s furious silhouette sent shivers through Snakes spine.

Quickly dispensing the shivers, he dug deep for one last surge of power. Standing up he blocked Gene’s blows and backed Gene up.

“It’s over Autry” he growled.

Snake hesitated for just a moment. Gene leaning against a lonely cactus, twisted left as Snake lunged forward with his right sliver filled gloved fist.

Ducking under Snakes outstretched arm, Gene jabbed up towards Snakes exposed jaw. Making contact ,   Snakes head snapped back. Snake stumbled back, and back. Gene struck out again, this time, Snake Larson fell, and stayed down.

“You win, you win…” and then he lost consciousness.

Gene Autry stood beside the unconscious outlaw, he wiped the blood from his face with his right hand. Staring down at Snake Larson, he breathed a sight of relief- months of uncertainty were now answered,

“Champ” he shouted “here Boy!”

Champ, grazing not far away, trotted over to Gene. Gene reached over the saddle and untied the lasso. Rolling Snake over, he bound his hands and feet securely. Taking his bandanna off his neck, he shoved it into Snakes mouth to silence him when he woke up. Gene looked around the mesa for Snakes horse. Finding him hundred yards away munching on sweet moist grass, he led the exhausted animal over to where Snake still lay.

Hoisting Snakes body up onto the horse, Gene looped the rope around Snake one more time.

Mounting Champ, Gene reached out for the other horses reins. Finding them, he turned towards Rex’s.

“Lets go Boy-take it easy” he said who whinnied in response.

The twinkling stars kept Gene and Champ company as they headed towards Rex’s at a slow trot. The terrain, now full silvered by the moonlight became strangely soothing as the cancer that drained the towns spirit was exorcised by the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and the local riders of justice. Gene hummed quietly to himself as Champ and their trailing cargo loped the miles to the battle ground that was once Rex Allen’s ranch.

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july, 2020

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