Author’s Note: This is Part II in Book I of my series Tales of the West. You may read Part I: “Milly” here.
Genres: Fiction – Western/Action/Romance
Please be aware this story has elements of violence, gun violence, murder and death.
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
The morning kinda came out of nowhere. Ethan must have slept for hours and was really groggy when he finally woke up.
He joined his brothers for breakfast and Jason poured him some coffee.
“We need to get the gang back together Ethan and Floyd and I have already talked on how we’re gonna do it”
Ethan sipped his coffee and put his cup down. He stood up and spat out the after-taste.
“That right?” he replied, leaning up against the cavern wall
“We figured it might be tough goin’ getting’ a new gang n’ all but”…
“You want to get the gang back after everythin’ that happened?” Ethan asked
“We need to make a livin’ somehow Ethan–we can’t all be bounty hunters” Floyd replied
Ethan smirked and spat to the side again
“Wondered if’n ya’ll had heard about that,” he said
“Oh yeah, we heard alright! Can’t wait for you to tell us all about it!” Jason said with a huge grin
Floyd wasn’t as enthusiastic
“Well, clearly you got yer own plans goin’ on… so you gonna abandon us again?” Floyd asked, direct as always.
Ethan took his hat off his head and whacked it against his thigh as he paced around, counting to 10 as slowly as he could.
“We need ya Ethan… Floyd won’t admit it but hell, we don’t want no repeat of anythin’ that happened but we need to do somethin’. We still got a posse after us and god knows who else–you bein’ caught up with them bounty hunters might be just want the gang needs” Jason said.
Ethan was looking in the opposite direction towards his horse and thinkin’ on grabbing his stuff and leaving. But he remembered the promise he made the night before and how he said to himself he would do all he could to make things right with his brothers.
He knew he couldn’t run, not again and Jason was right, now that Ethan had gained new skills and knowledge from collecting bounties, he could be a huge help to his brothers, even more than he used to be.
But he also knew he was no longer the type to take orders from his brothers or anyone. And that had to somehow mean something if he were to return.
He stopped pacing and stood there staring at his brothers
“Alright–I’m in but under one condition and it ain’t up for discussion neither. If I come back, I’ll be the one callin’ the shots and makin’ the plans” he said, slowly focusing on Floyd for his reaction.
Floyd looked like he was going to object but didn’t and only nodded his approval
“Alright then, this is goin’ to be great–the Jackson brothers back together again!” Jason said whacking Floyd on the back
Floyd just turned away and went and sat back on his crate near the entrance
“And the first order of business is… finding Earl,” Ethan said
Floyd looked at Jason who was looking at Ethan and scratching his head
“What’cha want with him Ethan?”… Jason asked
“He’s the one who betrayed us to the law” Ethan replied
Floyd rubbed his head hard as if to say this was too difficult to think about
“We ain’t bounty hunters Ethan!” Floyd replied
“I’ve been on his trail for a good long while and ain’t gonna lose it now,”…
“Yeah, Ethan’s right Floyd–he’s the one who did us dirty, he got Holden shot dead, he’s gotta pay!” Jason said
Ethan stood there staring at Floyd for a moment, trying to see if he could read his brother’s intentions
But it was useless, Floyd was difficult to read at the best of times.
Jason was the easiest going of them all and Ethan grinned at his brother who truly looked happy they were together again.
Floyd finally stood up
“Just tell us what ya need Ethan–we’ll do whatever you want to get that sonofabitch”
Ethan grinned and nodded.
The Jackson Brothers were back.
Ethan figured that now the brothers were together again, it was time to head on back to the only place they knew of that was safe–their old homestead on Callan Ridge. They debated about returning but Ethan figured that if the law had been lookin’ for them, they would have been there twice over by now. Floyd wasn’t too sure but Jason agreed so they made the decision to head back there as soon as they could.
Callan Ridge wasn’t exactly the most hospitable place to live as it was in the heart of the most barren area in the county. But the Jackson’s spent all their time growing up on that farm and the wilderness that most people avoided was their home. It also helped to turn their family into tough pioneers who were used to things being hard and used to the rugged life of their surroundings.
It took the brothers two days to get to Callan Ridge and when they arrived, nothing had changed. The old homestead was in a state of disrepair as nobody had lived there for some time–not since the brothers lost their parents. Coming back to Callan Ridge was going to bring back a lot of memories, not all of them sweet.
The boys got off their horses and slowly took their belongings inside the house. They spent the next day cleaning up the place to make it somewhat liveable. Ethan had no idea how long they’d need to stay but they’d stay for as long as it took–hell, maybe he wouldn’t even leave this place if everything went to plan.
So there was plenty to do while they figured out how they were going to track down Earl. Ethan had some information that would still be good, so they started there. For at least a week, the Jackson brothers turned their run-down home into something they could be proud of once more. All it needed now was a kinder woman’s touch.
Ethan’s mind went to Milly… if only… if only things had turned out different, maybe she and Ethan would still be together right now.
Ethan kept busy so as not to keep dwelling on the past–he didn’t want to feel the way thinking of the past made him feel. Ethan would be happy not to feel anythin’ at all, but he knew one day, things would catch up with him and like it or not, he’d have to face his demons and fix what was broken in his life.
It had now been a week, and the boys were getting a little restless. Ethan could feel it. So they decided the next day they’d get up early and make their way into Callan Ridge township, which was a day’s travel away from their home.
Ethan wondered if any of the old familiar faces would still be there–maybe they hadn’t moved on. People ‘round these parts never really did–Ethan’s family planned to live and die in Callan Ridge. But circumstances kinda changed things for the Jackson boys. And suddenly they were a family of four and fending for themselves. In the beginning, things were bad. Ethan remembered how hard it was getting by on little to no food or money. The only thing they had was their house. Ethan’s folks were part of this land and they didn’t have any plans to do anything other than use their hands and farming skills and farm the land like a lot of folks from these parts did. And that seemed like a pretty good life.
A single tear rolled gently down Ethan’s cheek.
Ethan felt the pain of loss all over again. Coming back home may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but Ethan pondered on that as his brothers slept in the room next door.
-END OF PART XVI-
You can read Part XVII of Ethan’s story right here.