SOP DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. No profit was made, no infringement intended.
I've never written an older Johnny, but I was inspired to do so after meeting James Stacy at the age of 74. His spirit was still 30 as was the spark in his eyes. Gotta love that man!
A few years back, I rode into this little cow patty town named Green River. I was buckin' for trouble, looking for a reputation and I didn't much care what I had to do to get it. I was workin' on a powerful thirst, so I went into the saloon. All heads turned to look at me when I pushed through the doors. What they saw was a lean, mean lookin' man with a chip on his shoulder and a 'go to hell' expression that said I really didn't give a damn what they thought. You coulda heard a pin drop. The thought crossed my mind this might just be the place.
I looked into their faces and saw a mixture of curiosity and fear. Fear. That's a hell of a boost for a man's ego to know that men are afraid of you. Men who didn't even know you. Yeah, this was the place, alright.
I moved real slow up to the bar, knowin' they were watchin' my every move. I made like I was ignorin' them, but I was watchin' out of the corner of my eye. I was pickin' my target. Oh, I'd done it before. I had a cravin' for a name and the four knotches on my gunbelt was proof that I was man enough to get it. Not only was I fast, but I could read people like a book and I could always pick the one that would the easiest to shake up and force to make his move. His last move.
I had no problem pickin' out number five. He sat in the corner, watchin' me out of the corner of his eye. He had a bottle in front of him and some cards on the table, right beside a well worn pistol. I wondered why I hadn't noticed the gun layin' there before. I slowly moved to the end of the bar where I could continue my perusal of him. I almost changed my mind when I saw how old he was, although facts get twisted into downright lies when you're a legend. Nobody would remember that number five was an old man. He had coal black hair with telltale greyin' around his temples. I figured him old enough to be somebody's grandpa, just a tired old geezer. That orange shirt looked like he had worn it to hell and back. He had a concha belt on and them leather pants with the buttons down the side. Hadn't seen pants like that in a while. Never once did he look at me. I took him for a coward.
I ask for a drink and promptly got one. That was another advantage to bein' a dangerous man, you got treated like a king. I downed the shot in one swig, further confirmin' their suspicions. That always got 'em. They were shakin' in their boots about now and I knew it wouldn't be long. My glass was refilled in a flash.
The ole man still hadn't looked at me and I was takin' it kinda personal and disrespectful. A man his age oughta know better than ta ignore a man like me. I walked right up to his table and started the ball rollin'. I decided I didn't like this town much and was ready to head south.
"Hey, old man." I said as I pushed his table into him. He didn't even look up. He just sat there starin' at that bottle. That riled me a might.
"You deef, ole man?" I said a little louder, just in case he really couldn't hear.
Nothin. He just sat there.
I went for broke. I threw my whiskey at him. "What do they let an old man like you out by hisself fer?"
He never said a word. He just slowly raised his head and looked up at me. Right into my eyes. God, I've never seen clearer eyes, young or old. They was the bluest blue you've ever seen. Pierced me to my core.
I was too far into it now. That reputation I was hankerin' for would forever be lost if I didn't finish this.
I figured I still had the advantage. Afterall, his gun was on the table and he was way too old to be any kind of gunhand. I went for my gun. Before I could clear leather, I was lookin' down the barrel of his .45. That gun wasn't nothin' fancy. No pearl handles. I shoulda noticed before how well cared for it was. Freshly oiled and squeaky clean. The old hand that was holdin' it on me was rock solid steady, not a tremble in it.
I suddenly felt the fear that I saw in men's faces. I swallowed hard and felt the blood rush to my ears. I didn't hear the marshal walk up behind me. He nodded at the old man as he put his hands on my shoulders and turned me around. We headed to the door and I couldn't even tell you how we ended up at the jail.
As I dropped down in a chair, I noticed the marshal was older than the man in the saloon. Rough and unkempt, badly in need of a shave, he wore his gun low and his clothes had seen better days. But, like the old man, his eyes were crystal clear.
"You were lucky today, boy." he ground out. His voice was husky like sandpaper.
I didn't feel too lucky. "How you figure that?" I was beginning to get my feet back under me.
That marshal just smiled. "You know who you braced in there?"
"Enlighten me." I always was a smart ass.
Stooping down to look me right in the eye, the marshal laughed. "Johnny Madrid."
Now, I was three years old the last time I messed my pants up, but God help me, I was mighty glad I was sittin' down 'cause that chair hid my indignity. Johnny Madrid! Indeed I was lucky. I decided right then and there, I was givin' up my purpose to find that reputation. Dead men can't enjoy it too good.
I looked at the marshal and I'm sure he knew what I was feelin' even though I was tryin' pretty hard to hide it. He lit a cigar and leaned back in his chair.
"Now, sonny, I'm sure you won't have no problem leavin' my town just as quick as you can straddle that mustang you rode in on. Right." He was still lookin' at me, puffin' away on that cigar.
"Uh, no, no problem at all." I tried not to stumble over my words, but my tongue felt twice it's normal size.
Handing me my pistol, which I can't for the life of me remember him takin', he said, "Why don't you do just that." Then added, "Now, while you still can."
He didn't have to tell me twice. Thank goodness the color of my pants didn't show my indescretion, cause I walked all the way back down to that saloon and jumped up on my horse. I froze when I looked up and saw the old man leanin' on the wall, real casual like.
He smiled at me and said in a whisper soft voice, "You have a nice day, now."
I almost said, "Yes, sir." but caught myself just in time. I gathered enough courage to reply, "Maybe some other day, Madrid."
He smiled and ducked his head, "I doubt it."
I doubted it too, but I wasn't about to let him know it. I skedaddled out of town and never looked back. I got to thinkin' about it and realized Madrid could have plugged me with valid reason. No doubt it would have been self defense. I wondered how many men had seen that side of him. How many had braced him and walked away. I was figurin' not many. I was mightly thankful I was one of them.
Yeah, I faced death and walked away. Not many men can say that. That's the only reputation I will ever have.