Which One Are You More?
It was a pretty spot to take a break, do some thinkin'. The trees also offered cover from the bluffs above. He was relatively safe. He could let his guard down long enough to wrestle this weight he was carrying.
He unsaddled Barranca and removed the bridle from the horse's head. He laughed when he saw the small piece of metal that controlled the 1200 pound animal, realizing if the palomino really wanted to object that bit wouldn't prevent a thing. It was Barranca's unswerving loyalty to one of the few men he trusted that held him in check.
Johnny rubbed the golden neck. The horse leaned in to the touch, comforted by the contact. Johnny gently pushed the animal away and walked to a shady spot. He had no thought of Barranca wandering away. He wouldn't stray out of whistle range.
With Barranca peacefully cropping grass, Johnny stretched out in the shade resting his head on his saddle. The little creek nearby gurgled over the rocky bed offering a soothing sound that nearly lulled him to sleep.
But sleep would not come for him until he settled this within himself. "Which one are you more?" the girl had asked him. There it was. The question of his life. Johnny Madrid or Johnny Lancer?
He had answered with assurance, "Johnny Lancer." But the question kept nagging him. The trouble that followed and the ease with which he pulled the trigger further drove home the real answer. He really didn't know. Was he both? Could both survive in his life or would one overtake the other, leaving him half a man?
He couldn't deny his past and the life that made him the man he is today. He also couldn't deny his longing to belong to the Lancer family and be a part of something good.
Madrid was not a bad man. He was a man who could take care of himself. He had skills that would label him as dangerous. Could he help it if he had to learn to survive? He was good with a gun and even better at judging men. If he hadn't developed those skills, he would surely be dead today. And, he couldn't remember one time that he instigated the trouble that forced him to choose between kill or be killed. Yet, his reputation preceded him. The name Madrid was revered, feared, and even respected. He smiled at that.
"Which one are you more?" he spoke out loud. Barranca lifted his head and looked toward him, then went back to the lush grass he had been grazing.
He forced himself to recall the events of the last few days. Men had died at his hand. True, it was justified. It usually was. But, they were dead all the same. He recalled a Bible verse some Padre had quoted to him long ago. "There is a time to kill." the old man had said. He had been shot during an altercation with four men that had ransacked the Monestary. Not surprisingly, the four men had not survived the gun battle and he had two bullets in his body. Nursed back to health by the residents, they counted him as a hero, someone with guts enough to confront the vial men that tortured them and terrorized their village.
It was justified.
Justified or not, every man that went down cost him a little of his soul. Killing wasn't easy, even though some men needed it. Today was no different. Could he live with it?
Johnny Lancer, on the other hand, was no coward either. He had worked harder than he ever had in his life on this ranch. He had learned to respect a hard day's work and the sweat and blood that it cost. He was part of something here. Something respectable. He was building, not destroying. And it felt damn good.
Being a Lancer took courage and strength. It also took a willingness to protect what was his. Sometimes that meant fighting. Sometimes that meant killing. He had to believe that men chose their paths and that their paths often led to their death from choices made through greed or worse. But he would always protect the people close to him and what was his. And that didn't make him a gunfighter.
Maybe he was Lancer. The strength he gleaned from Madrid could be used to be the man this land and his family needed. Yeah, he was definitely Johnny Lancer.
He rose from the hard ground and stretched out his back. Ranch work was harder than gun hawking any day. He whistled for his horse and smiled when he saw the blur of gold come bounding to him. Yeah, Lancer was his name. No doubt about it.