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 The Fastest in the West by Don Urbanus

     Don could hear the piano player banging the keys and the rumble of men gambling and laughing as he crossed the dusty street and sauntered toward the saloon.
     He pushed on the swinging doors and headed for the bar.  Tex Brisco glanced up from his cards and noticed the powerful six foot one two hundred pound frame with the Felco pruners tied down low on his hip. His mouth went dry. He shot a quick glance at his buddy, Tommy Fox, but Tommy was already staring.
     “He’s the fastest……”, Tommy started.
     “I know, I know,” Tex snapped irritably.
     “But isn’t he the owner of the Rising Sun?” Tommy added.
     “Yes. And he always prunes to an outside bud. I’d like to see that for myself.” Tex said sourly, “One day he’s going to cut off more than he can chew.”
     Halfway to the bar the piano stopped playing and suddenly the only sound was Don’s boots echoing on the wooden floor. Don pushed up to the bar and said “Rye”.  The bartender nervously filled a shot glass while Don carefully surveyed the room in the large mirror. He downed the whiskey in one gulp and slammed it on the bar. “Another.”
     The pretty barmaid, Leanne, was watching too. Whenever she saw Don her insides went all kind of funny. There was just something about his presence that made her feel like a schoolgirl.
     “Can I help you with anything else, Mr. Urbanus?”
     Don turned around and for a moment he forgot what he came to do. There stood the prettiest little filly a man ever set eyes on. Her little turned up nose and high cheekbones were well formed and her hair was piled up on her head showing her graceful neck. She smiled and Don sank into those soft brown eyes. He couldn’t help notice, glancing at her curvy figure, that she was all a man would ever need and then some. But that wasn’t why he was here.
     Don tipped his hat. “Please call me Don, ma’am. Actually, I’m here to hire a couple good men.”
     Ed Baxter, the grizzly owner of Nurseryland West, stood up and faced Don. He was short but built like a mule. There was poison is his eyes. “I know you. You think you’re so high and mighty winning Best Nursery of Calaveras County. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m taking over this range. I’m running you out of this county and when it happens, you’ll be the first to know.”
     Don grinned. “That a fact? I got over a thousand customers signed up on my email newsletter with links to my website. I write gardening articles for the Lodestar. I just gave a class on pruning fruit trees. Nobody is running me out of this county.” He turned back to his drink.
     Ed tugged on Don’s arm. “I’m talking to you.”
     Don turned but he wasn’t smiling anymore. His hand instinctively went down near his clippers. His eyes went cold.
     Baxter licked his lips and blinked. He didn’t want a direct confrontation. There were other ways to handle this. Other and more devious ways. He could wait his turn.  Baxter took a step back. “I’m just saying. You’ve been warned.”
     Don stood up tall and faced Baxter. “You can take your big box store and put it where the sun don’t shine, Baxter. I’m staying.”
     Baxter’s face turned crimson but he stayed silent.
     Dave and Randy Willet were sitting at the bar. They worked for Baxter but they didn’t like him. They didn’t like him at all. There was something about the tall man with the Felco pruners that they liked.
     Randy spoke first. “I’m Randy and this here is my brother Dave. We’re looking for work. We’d be proud to work for the Rising Sun.”
     Ed turned his head slowly glaring at Randy. “You’ll never work for another Nurseryland in California if you do.”
     Dave grinned and stood up. He pushed his hat back on his head. “Why Mr. Baxter, whatever gave you the idea that we wanted to work at another Nurseryland? We’re giving our two week notice here and now whether or not we get hired.”
     “Save your breathe. You’re both fired. Now get out of my saloon.” He turned and sat back down on his table. Some of his hired help got up and stared hard at Dave and Randy.
     Don faced them down. “Now that’s no way to treat your employees, Mr. Baxter. I was just buying them a drink. When we’re done, we’ll leave this joint and not before.”
     Leanne looked from Don to the other men confronting him. What kind of man was he, she thought?
     “That’s OK, Mr. Urbanus,” Randy said softly. “We don’t want to cause any trouble. We just want to work for you.”
     “Sit down, boys,” Baxter growled. “Let ‘em have their drink. It’s a free country.”
     “Much obliged, Mr. Baxter.” Don touched his hat and turned to face Dave and Randy. “Just call me, Don. What you guys packing?”
     Dave eagerly produced his pruners. “They’re new but they’re sharp.”
     Don looked them over. Red Roosters. A new brand. They felt good in his hand. He opened them and reached over and sliced a piece of paper on the bar.
     Randy added, “They’re Komodo’s and ergonomic.”
     “They’re sharp,” Don said, impressed. He handed them back to Dave.
     “I know they aren’t the most expensive pruners but they are a great buy for the money,” Dave replied.
     “People are always looking for great value, Dave. You can start first thing Monday morning. You too, Randy.”
     Dave and Randy looked at each other and flashed a smile. “Sure thing, Don. We’ll see you then. Come on, Randy. Let’s get out of here.”
     Dave and Randy headed out while Ed Baxter glared at them. He would take care of those two also. He had his ways.
      Don turned to walk out too when his eyes met Leanne’s. He smiled and his whole face lit up. Leanne’s heart fluttered. He touched his hat. “Ma’am. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
     “I’m sure we will, Don.” Her eyes lingered on him as he strode across the bar and left. She turned and saw Ed Baxter watching her, his face red with fury like a pressure cooker about to explode. He doesn’t own me, she thought angrily as she wiped a table. But someone else might own her heart one day. Yes, maybe one day.


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