Windblown Saviour - Chapter 5 - Along Pine Cone Tracks

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Chapter 5 – Along Pine Cone Tracks

Once Henry had gone, it took me several days to summon the will to pick up the guns from where I'd left them on the table. Several days where I moped around the cabin, only straying from my chair on the porch to feed the animals or get water, my mind a whirl of conflicting emotions and thoughts.

Once I finally managed to motivate myself to action I quickly realised that my left hand, although still functional, would probably never be dextrous enough for shooting a handgun with anything approaching my old speed again. The trigger finger in particular was stiff and slow to move, the tendon obviously damaged somehow. Melancholia hit me like a hammer and I put the pistols back down on the table without even feeding any shells into the chambers, retreating to my cocoon-like blanket on the porch and staring out at the dark blue skies, the trees murmuring in disappointment around me.

Finally one of the goats, in typically blunt approach, head-butted me into movement and, after I'd fed the cantankerous beasts, I made myself a promise that I'd try again on the morrow.  

The next day I slipped the gun belt that held the right pistol around my waist, the holster low on my hip. Having decided to make a start, my intention was to concentrate on the right hand to start with, now that my left had seemingly failed me. The weight of the gun was both familiar and disconcerting. The holster felt comfortable, the weight of the gun nestling solidly against my leg felt empowering somehow. But my body felt wrong, changed, and weakened. Above all that loomed the spectre of my recent past: my confidence in my own abilities was shot.

I found a fallen tree a short distance from the cabin, wasted a couple of bullets getting the hang of a new and different weapon, and then spent a happy few minutes blowing pine cones and stones off the top of the log, a little of my old confidence returning as I realised I could still shoot with the same degree of accuracy I used to. I practised my draw, my muscles effortlessly remembering the movement despite the long weeks since they'd performed the action, the speed still there.

Having vanquished numerous helpless cones and stones, something the old man had said about the accuracy of the handgun popped into my head, and I moved back from my seed and rock opponents thinking to test his words. I was used to facing a man over a relatively short distance, reliant on my speed and accuracy to take them down, but even then the occasional bullet missed, something I'd previously always put down to nerves or a dodgy bullet, and the speed of the following shots was equally important.

I moved back to three times the distance and tried again: my accuracy was appalling. I'd never really tried it before, never really seen the effect distance had on the handgun, even a good one like the Smith and Wesson Rimfire that I now held.

The rifle was next. I hadn't shot one for a while, my step-father had let me shoot one on the farm when I was a kid, but it was his weapon and a very old one. And, while I worked for John Chisum, I'd carried an old rimlock rifle that one of the farmhands leant me but I'd never really needed to use it preferring to get in close and rely on the skills my towering ego had always convinced me were the best.

The rifle the old man had given me was very different to those I'd used before. A modern and precision engineered piece of gunsmithery, the Winchester was a beautiful gun. God only knows where Henry had obtained it, although I remembered John Evans carrying one he'd won in a game of poker, so perhaps the old thief had obtained it after I'd blown him away in the same way he'd obtained the pistols.

It certainly looked the same as the one Evans had carried. The '73 model Winchester had always been a favourite among riders in the west, but rather than the carbine with its normal twenty inch barrel, this one was the rarer twenty four inch rifle used for greater accuracy, usually among competition shooters or marksmen. The lever used to chamber a round on the weapon that I lovingly held was ornately fashioned and had obviously originally belonged to a man of some means.

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