No Name Charlie
The town of Hope, Nevada, was quiet as the sun rose over the mountains. The glow of newly lit lamps glowed through glassless windows of clapboard shacks as the occupants started the day. Not everyone faced the morning contemplating earning his livelihood.
No Name Charlie paused with head bent and both arms submerged as he pulled himself off the ground holding onto the water trough. Droplets of water fell from his shaggy, dirty hair and unshaven face as the water reflected his image. The musky water added to his grimy appearance after a night of whiskey and sleeping on the ground.
Never telling his name or where he came from, the owner of the Red Dog Saloon, Tom Winston, called him No name Charlie. Charlie’s favorite sleeping place was the water trough across from the Longhorn Café. During unpleasant weather, he curled in a fetal position under the trough. As soon as the clouds dissipated, he made his way across the boggy street to the Red Dog Saloon. He swept the saloon but took his pay mostly in drinks.
Ember, owner of the Longhorn Café, gave Charlie a plate passing it into the alley. Her customers complained about his rancid smell. At dusk, Charlie was always seen leaving the saloon, getting his food, and going toward the water trough. After arriving in town, his first resting place had been the livery stable. Zeb, the hostler, had ignored Charlie sleeping there until Charlie opened the large doors and stampeded the horses onto the prairie.
Huddled under the trough, Charlie pulled his ragged coat tighter around his frail body. Opening his red-rimmed eyes, he felt his head explode from a night of drinking and now heard yelling in the street. Convinced he was dreaming, he lay still. The townspeople had never been rowdy and certainly never in the morning. Occasionally a cowboy would be rambunctious at the end of a hard days work. Spending one night in Sheriff Coffee’s jail was usually a determent against repeat actions.
On his knees, Charlie crawled from his sleeping place. Loud talking and crying vibrated his eardrums .Cautiously peeking toward the street, he glared at tearful women being comforted .Men were huddled in small groups whispering among themselves. A chill of fear swept down Charlie’s spine as he noticed the empty holsters on the men’s hips. Finally, the groggy mist in his brain cleared for him to realize something was very, very wrong. Still in a drunken daze, he wobbled to the distressed group.
No one noticed Charlie as he eased closer to listen. His stench was ignored as the fearful few talked about the early morning events. Willie Walker, a lawless cutthroat, had brought his gang of four rowdy, barbaric scoundrels into town to wait on the noon stage carrying a large gold shipment. The Wells Fargo stagecoach was heavily guarded and crossed open ground making it too dangerous to take on the road. In the meantime, Willie sat in the Red Dog Saloon with one of his men guarding the mayor along with his wife and daughter. The rest were going door to door grabbing what valuables they could find and crudely handling the women. No one could enter the saloon and any type of disturbance would mean death to the mayor’s family. Charlie knew he could enter the saloon without being a threat. Staggering through the swinging doors, he yelled, “I want a drink.” The only sound was the swish of a Colt .45 leaving its holster.
Willie raising a bottle to his full mustached lips replied, “It’s an old drunk. Give him a bottle on the house .It’s all ours.” Reaching his hogleg on the table, he shot several bottles. While the mayor’s family cowered down in fear, No Name Charlie exited to the street hugging his precious liquid tight against himself.
Charlie staggered into the street pretending he was more intoxicated than he was... Sheriff Coffee and the other citizens bombarded him with questions. Tom said, “Sheriff Coffee, what can we do?”
“Tom, I don’t know. If we try anything the hostages are dead.”
No Name Charlie opened his bottle of whiskey, raised it to his nose for a smell and slowly poured it on the ground. Tom and the sheriff blurted at the same time, “Charlie, what are you doing?”
“Getting sober. I want a sawed off shotgun , two Colt 45’s ,plenty of ammunition, a knife and a rope. Bring them to the back door of the café and stay off the street.”
Bewildered the men looked at Charlie but were too shocked to reply. Charlie held the empty bottle tightly to his chest as he crossed toward the horse trough.
Charlie waited awhile so he could play drunk before leaving the horse trough. He was handed his meal out the back door of the Longhorn Café by Ember. Eb, the cook, had the other things he wanted. No one spoke as Ember kissed his cheek lightly while he shoved the weapons down his pants and under his tattered coat. While Charlie pretended to be drinking, he watched the two outlaws go to different ends of town. Staggering close to the first man, Charlie said, “Howdy friend.”
Startled ,thinking he was alone, he said, “what the…” Charlie drove the knife between his ribs and slowly lowered him to the ground.
Charlie turning toward the other end of town mumbled, “That’s one. Three more to go”. Seeing the other man enter the livery, Charlie knew there was an outside ladder leading to the loft. His steps were softened by musky hay. In the shadows, he saw the man he was hunting with his back to the loft relieving himself. Looping the rope, Charlie dropped it over the outlaw’s neck pulling his feet only inches from the ground before tying it to a rafter. The man’s gurgling could be heard as Charlie swayed out the stable door for the Mad Dog Saloon.
Almost falling, Charlie entered the saloon. The mayor’s family .huddled in a corner shook with fear. “I’ve come for another bottle. Gimme two.”
Willie said, “Pete, give him a couple of bottles.”
“If the old drunk wants them, he can get them”.
Charlie slowly made his way behind the bar. His left hand reached for a bottle as his right hand eased the shotgun from under his coat. Sparks flew as the gun blast set Willie’s clothes on fire. A cry was heard as Pete tumbled sideways to the floor. Screaming the women ran out the door followed by the mayor. Charlie throwing the shotgun reached to claim himself several bottles before leaving by the back door.
A gruesome sight faced the few men who rushed into the bloody saloon. Sheriff Coffee said, “Where’s No Name Charlie?”
Zeb replied, “Charlie’s gone. He’s Charlie Grant.”
A surprised look was on Sheriff Coffee’s face as he replied, “The Charlie Grant that was marshal in the Dakota Territory.!”
“That’s him. I knew him but if he wanted to keep his name a secret, I wasn’t going to tell. Outlaws killed his wife and two little boys. He trailed and killed all five of them one at a time. They didn’t die easy. He tortured them worse than the Comancheros. This town owes a debt to No Name Charlie.
The driver yelled at the eight horses as the stagecoach left town. He was unaware of No Name Charlie under the canvas at the back of the coach.Charlie opening a bottle of whiskey knowing he had two more in the pockets of his coat.settled down for the ride to an unknown destination.
By Revia Jenks Perrigin