The Guns That Won the West
On the sprawling porch of the old adobe ranch house, Janet sat. The dying glow of twilight filled the western sky with a rainbow of color. Janet’s raven black hair gleamed in the soft light and her blue eyes looked eagerly down the long road. It was plain she was waiting for something. Finally that something came into view. It was a tall young cowboy on a big bay horse.
“Hi, Mike,” Janet called, gladness clear in her voice.
“Hi Janet,” he replied. There was a tender light in his dark blue eyes as he rode past on his way to the barn and looked down at the young woman.
After he had unsaddled and fed his horse, he walked back to the house and climbed up to the porch to sit by Janet. “Jan, dear,” he said slowly, “I have something to talk over with you.”
“Get busy,” she said lightly.
“I have a duty to do for our country with the war starting. The cavalry commander is asking for volunteers. I want to join but I hope you’ll promise to wait for me no matter how long I’m gone.”
“I promise,” Janet whispered. “I’ll wait. I’ll be proud to wait.” The look in her eyes promised too as she gazed up at him. The next morning Mike disappeared down the road for the last time.
After that, the days dragged for Janet. Weeks slipped past. Then a dashing dark haired, brown eyed young cowboy rode in one stormy night. Janet’s father hired him at once since cowboys were getting scarce with so many off fighting. Janet soon found that Martin was fun and gradually he began to take Mike’s place in her life as well as the ranch work.
Martin had been there several months before he got the wandering urge and decided join the cavalry also. That night they sat together on the porch as Mike and Janet had sat almost a year before.
She noticed that he was wearing a fancy double holster. He took one of the pistols out and showed it to her. “Janet,’ he said, “Look at these guns. I put them up while I was working but I could be a gunfighter. Maybe it’s time to put them to work again. They were given to me by a Texas Ranger. I wasn’t able to save him but I got him to help, hoping he’d make it. He gave them to me when he knew he wasn’t going to survive. Someday they’ll be called the guns that won the west.”
Janet touched one with the tip of one finger and then drew back. She knew guns were needed but she did not really like them very much.
Martin went on. “Will you wait for me until I complete an enlistment and come back again?”
“Just a minute,” Janet said. “I already promised one guy that I would wait for him. How can I wait for two?”
“Well, if he doesn’t come back I will get you, anyway,” Martin said, a little hotly. He gave her a hard, fast kiss before he leaped on his horse and galloped off into the night.
After that, Janet often looked down the road and wondered if someone would ever come riding back and if so, who it would be. Time passed more slowly than ever and it seemed nothing ever happened.
But the same was not true far away on the battlefield. Both Mike and Martin were busy indeed. It happened that they both ended up in the same company and became friends. Together they fought many successful battles and only once did they have to retreat. Someday, they both hoped, the war would be over and they could return to the girl who had promised to wait for them. They never talked much about her, not even her name, so they never guessed it was the same girl.
Finally nearly three years had passed. One summer evening Janet sat, as she always did, on the porch as evening fell. She could hardly believe her eyes when she saw a rider approaching. Could she be dreaming? The big bay horse with two white stockings looked very familiar. Yes, it was really him!
“Mike, Mike,” she cried as she leaped up and ran to meet him. She met them at the big log gate. As Mike rode through, he swung her up to ride in front of him.
“Oh Janet.” “ Oh Mike.” They both spoke at once. “I’m so glad to see you. It’s been so long.”
Together they unsaddled the bay and fed him. Then they walked slowly back to the house and sat down side by side. Suddenly Janet noticed the guns and holsters that Mike wore.
“Mike, where did you get those guns? “
“It’s a long story,” Mike said. He took a deep breath and then he began. “Over a year ago a new man joined our company. His name was Martin and we became friends and fought together. One day he told me how he’d gotten this special gun outfit from a Texas Ranger. He said after the war, he was going to move on and win the west with them. Then in our last big battle, Martin was shot.
“I got him back behind the lines but he knew he was dying. He told me to take the guns and use them for good and always to remember him and how he got them. I cleaned them before I put them away until I mustered out. In the barrel of one I found a gold button. It reminded me of the ones on a dress you often wore, the blue one I liked so well.”
“It may have been,” Janet admitted. “Not long after you left, Dad hired a cowboy who rode in one stormy night. We got to be friends. The night he left he showed me his guns and told me the story. It must be true because he told you the same one. I’m not sure how he got the button but I did find I had lost one off that dress. He wanted me to wait for him but I told him I was already promised. He said then that if you did not come back he would return to me, but it was him who never returned.”
She heard Mike sigh and felt a little worried. “I didn’t really forget you but I was lonely and he was nice. Can you forgive me?”
“Why would you think I wouldn’t? “
“I don’t know. I never stopped loving you but I did get lonesome.”
“Maybe this will convince you that you’re forgiven.” Mike took her in his arms and kissed her eagerly. He didn’t stop with just one, either.
When he lifted his head, they were both breathless. “I guess it does,” Janet said with a small laugh.
“Most gals get a certain reward for waiting for their guy,” Mike said. “Could you wait about a week for that reward?”
Janet looked at him, confused. “A reward?”
“I mean getting married if you’ll have me.”
“Oh! That’s the best reward I could hope for. But please, don’t go out with those guns on looking for any trouble. The west is about won already.”
“I won’t go anywhere without you and I wouldn’t put you in any danger,” Mike promised. “I love you too much for that.”