Remember I told you about this spirit who was bugging me to tell his story? Now being pestered makes me stubborn, but this one is going to drive me to drink if I don't get rid of him. He just stands there stompin' his boots. I tell you, this guy's worse'n Stompin Tom Connors. So I'm going to tell you his story just to shut him up!
This guy was a prospector, name of Gold-Tooth Tom. He was called that because he had only one front tooth and it was a gold one. He ended up on Boot Hill after he was hanged. But he always claimed that if the whole truth had been told, the outcome would have been different. Though I'm not so sure that he still wouldn't have been hanged! Course everyone knew that Gold-Tooth Tom could tell tales as tall as them Californey redwoods. Anyways, he wants his story told, wants the whole world to know the real truth, he says, so here goes:
Now, it seems that Tom was hanged for tryin' to steal the blacksmith's horse. However, tryin' to make a quick escape in unfamiliar territory can lead to trouble. The lantern got tipped over into the hay and started a fire. Big Sam, the blacksmith, caught Tom running from the stable just ahead of the flames, holding the horse's reins in his hand. Now, you gotta admit, that would look mighty suspicious! The way Big Sam saw it, Tom was guilty of horse stealin' and the punishment for that crime was hanging.
Gold Tooth Tom, however, always insisted that he was only tryin' to save the horse from the fire. But when they asked what he was doing in Big Sam's stable, Tom wouldn't say anything. So he was judged to be guilty and was hung. The only one who seemed sad about it was Molly, Big Sam's wife.
Well, Tom figures it's high time the truth was told. Anyway, according to him, he was courtin' Molly behind Big Sam's back. Sam and Molly lived up over the blacksmith shop. With Sam working all day and half the night, Molly got pretty lonely. So whenever Tom was in town, he called on Molly while Sam was downstairs working.
On the night of the fire, Tom was in a hurry to leave before Sam finished work. He tripped, fell headlong against the horse's flank and one foot knocked over the lantern. Tom scrambled to his feet, holding the horse's reins for support, then ran as fast as he could, pulling the horse with him. Tom says he wasn't trying to steal the horse at all.
Like I said, Tom is famous for his tall tales. But there's a couple things got me a bit puzzled. Why was the horse left in the stable with the reins on? And why did Big Sam have a lit lantern left in the stable? Was Sam planning to go somewhere himself? Or did he know about Molly and Tom and p'raps had a plan of his own? I can't ask him 'cause his spirit's not around these parts. After the place burned down, Big Sam left Juniper East and never returned.
You know, come to think of it, I got this naggin' in the back of my mind, like there's something I should remember 'bout Big Sam, but ... Anyway, now that Tom's unburdened hisself, so to speak, p'raps his spirit will rest - and leave me alone!
© Fay Herridge
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