Man of the Hour
by  Diana Pierce


 A Lancer fan fiction short story….


In the shadow of the moonlight lurked an image just beyond the bunkhouse at the Lancer ranch. The foreman was uneasy. He heads to wake up his boss family. He raps on the door, “Senor, open up. Come quick.”  He raps again. Murdoch opens the door. “What’s all the fuss about? You know what time it is?”  He strikes a match to light the outside lamp near the door. “Si, Senor. Big beast, it scares the horses.”  Loud whinnies come from the coral and the sound of the creaking board rails made them wonder if it would hold the frightened animals much longer.  Now everyone was up and awake.  Johnny comes out the door putting his gun belt on. “What is it? Is it a bear?”  The horses are making so much noise if the intruder did make a noise they wouldn’t have heard it.   Jelly comes from the bunkhouse and aims his shotgun into the darkness and fires it aimlessly having no idea what he is shooting at. “Hey, whatever the monster is, I think I hit it.”  The horses were starting to settle down.

The men carried torches out to where they had seen something earlier.  They look around awhile and decide whatever it was it was gone. They would look again come daylight. If Jelly hit it, blood would be on the ground somewhere. Scott’s flower covered nightgown over his trousers with a gun belt brought laughter as the group watched him head back toward the house. A whistle from one of his audience members and a loud laugh from another made Scott wish he had taken time to put on a shirt. “What ails you guys? You act like you never seen a night shirt before.”  Johnny chuckles, “Bet they ain’t never saw one that pretty.” 

The next day the men try to track down what was causing chaos the night before. They find small traces of blood dripped here and there, but the footprints they uncover are nothing like they are accustom to seeing. It could have been bear tracks and some even look like bear, but the most of the tracks are only partly there and one single footprint is more like that of a barefoot man. They have no idea what kind of creature this is. 

A couple days later, a newspaper man shows up at Lancer. Murdoch greets the buggy as it comes to a stop, “What can I do for ya, mister?  I’m Murdoch Lancer.”  The gentleman is excited as he states his business, “Heard you had a sighting a few nights ago. What can you tell me about it? I’m a reporter for The Valley Tribune. My name is Frank Miles. Let me show you some drawings of what some other folks north of here saw. Did your creature look like this?”  Murdoch’s eyes get big as he cannot believe such a creature could have been here. “We never saw it. But the footprint which we could make out did look like this.” He points to the drawings of footprints. Mr. Miles asks, “Can you show me where you saw the tracks?”  Murdoch says, “Let me get the boys to walk you out there.”

Johnny, Scott and a couple cowhands guide Mr. Miles to the location they saw the footprint.  Scott seriously asks, “You really think this thing is real?  I’ve heard stories, but never saw any truth to them.”  The reporter nods his head. “I’m a believer. I never saw one, but know people who have. Wish I could have got here sooner. Looks like evidence of tracks are gone.”  Johnny stares at the man, “Suppose this thing is real. Why would it come around here?”  Mr. Miles picks a piece of hair from a bush. “Not sure why it would. But I don’t think this came from anything you usually see around here.”   Johnny shakes his head, “It could have come from most anything. Maybe a bear or a coyote would be my guess. Heck you think you are quite the story teller, don’t you sir?”  The newspaper man could see he was wasting his breath convincing Johnny about anything not logical.

A few weeks have gone by without any more nightly visitors at Lancer. Scott rides back from town with a copy of The Valley Tribune. “Murdoch, look at this write up. Mr. Miles sure is one big liar. He darn well better not be encouraging sightseers to come out here.”  Murdoch opens the newspaper to find a drawing of a big ape type creature.  The reporter claims to have interviewed several witnesses who saw the intruder which looks like this at Lancer. Murdoch can’t believe what he is reading. “He showed me a picture like this and said people north of here saw it. I said the footprint we found looked like the footprint pictures he had, but I told him we never saw the thing out there spooking the horses. He’s claiming I said I saw this thing in the picture. He sure twisted my words. Did you tell the sheriff about this, Scott?” Scott says, “I couldn’t find the sheriff.  Darn right, I would have told him. Miles had no right printing these lies.”

All the talk about giant ape creatures had Jelly so nervous he barely dared go outside in the daylight alone.  Teresa needs him to fetch supplies from the store room which is next to the bunkhouse. “Jelly, I’ll go with ya. You know we never saw a monster here. Anyways what would it want with flour and cornmeal?”  Jelly looks at her, “Easy for you to say. You didn’t draw blood on the big ape.”  Teresa says, “It could have been a bear or something.  Jelly, how can a grown man believe such wild tales as an ape monster?” 

Later at the dinner table the Lancers are in deep discussion about this little problem they have. Johnny looks at Jelly who is helping Teresa put food on the table. “Reckon you could check to see if I put the prop up to the hen house door, Jelly. I can’t remember if I did or not.”  Jelly’s eyes get big, “I’ll look.”  Jelly looks out the window. “Looks like you did.”  Johnny grins, “Walk out there and look.  Would you please?”  Jelly trebles thinking about going out there as night is approaching.  He grabs a shotgun and steps outside leaving the door ajar.  Murdoch looks at Johnny. “I can’t see where picking on him is going to help. Can’t you see he’s scared to death? Go check on him. It doesn’t take that long to go to the hen house.”  Johnny walks out the door. He can see Jelly standing with a lantern looking one way and then another before taking a few steps back toward the house. “Jelly, what are ya doing? Supper is getting cold. Come on.”  Jelly walks back inside with Johnny.  Jelly sits down at the table, “Next time you go. I knocked over the prop. Then I had to get a lantern from the barn because I couldn’t see the dang thing. Johnny you knew you already had the prop against the door. You’re trying to wreck my nerves some more, that’s what you’re doing.”  Scott stares at them, “We can’t stand seeing you shaky like this over some tall tale a liar wrote in a newspaper. Tomorrow I’m paying Mr. Miles a visit. It’s time he withdraws these lies and writes an apology to us. Jelly, I want you to come with me. Maybe if he admits it is all make believe to you, you’ll feel better.” 

The next day at the sheriff’s office Scott and Jelly are telling the sheriff about the events leading to this bogus story printed in the newspaper. Scott shows the article to him, “What can we do about this guy printing these lies about us, Sheriff? Murdoch is firing mad about the way his words got twisted. Jelly thinks he shot a monster that might be back to get him.”  Jelly speaks up, “It’s wounded. Any creature would be upset.  Why shouldn’t I be a bit nervous?”  The sheriff scratches his head, “Miles has really stirred up a fuss around here every since he opened this newspaper business here a few months ago. Frankly, I’ve had about enough of him. Let’s go see if he is in his office.”  The three head to the newspaper building.

After being confronted with printing lies, Mr. Miles becomes outraged, “Sheriff, bet you can’t prove this is a lie. Mr. Lancer did identify the picture I showed him as what he saw. You’re just worried about the panic people will have knowing the Shawnee and other tribes who have talked about this are right and their creature has found his way here.”  Scott is really annoyed, “Mister, Murdoch only said the footprint looked like a picture you showed him. You know full well no one saw anything.  Darn well could have been a bear out there that night.”  Mr. Miles glares at him, “Yes and it darn well could have been Sasquatch, too. Why not for Pete’s sake?  They claim they’re in other parts of this country. Heck even Daniel Boone would not have argued about the beast he thought he encountered in his day.”  Jelly’s eyes get big, “I hurt it, ya think it will be back for me? Dang, wish I hadn’t shot at it.”  The sheriff looks at him, “Not likely it will bother you, Jelly. Whatever it was it is long gone. You got to get this stuff out of your head. What good is there in fretting like this?” 

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Johnny and a few cowhands are scouring the hillside for strays.  They begin to smell something dead and the closer they get to it the stronger the smell gets.  They find the remains of a huge grizzly bear. The remains are nearly decayed away and signs of scavengers being there are clear as parts of it were scattered nearby. Johnny grins, “I’ll bet my hat, this is the beast Jelly wounded. Don’t look much like an ape creature does it boys?  Jelly sure will be relieved to hear about this.”  The cowhands agree and one of them says, “Sure makes me feel better. Jelly had me getting a little bit jumpy.”  They laugh as they head back to Lancer with the news.

By the time Johnny and the cowhands reach the ranch Scott and Jelly have returned from town.  Johnny can hardly wait to tell Jelly the news, “We found the grizzly you shot, Jelly. It looks like he walked along ways with that bullet in him.  Them there critters who had bear to eat sure must have been grateful to ya, I’d say. Why I bet you even saved our livestock from being slaughtered. Ya sure are lucky ya didn’t make him mad. Guess, he had enough and just wandered off.”  Scott grins, “See, Jelly.  I told ya it probably was a bear. Sure glad you guys found it.” Scott starts to get his horse.  Murdoch says, “Where you going Scott?”  Scott smirks, “News. Got to make sure Miles gets this story for tomorrow’s paper. Are you coming with me, little brother?  I’ll buy ya a drink. Calls for a celebration don’t it?” Jelly yells as the two brothers leave, “Drink one for me.”  He laughs as he thinks of how silly he was worrying about nothing.

When The Valley Tribune was distributed the next day, the headline reads, “Local Ranchers Praise Grizzly Bear Hunter”.  The man of the hour was very pleased.  Nobody knew he was a coward turned hero and nobody questioned the fact either. And that’s how legends get started.







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