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When Flapjack Collins got wind that the Mexican government was shelling out up to fifty American for Apache scalps, he pondered if he was the killing kind of man.
He worked grain at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Franklin County, Kentucky and being that there was no future as far as he could see, he packed up with no notice and hit the open trail.
The going got rough somewhere around South Texas or ... Hell, it could've even been Arizona. It was hard to tell. One thing was for certain - this frontier wasn't what he read about in those silly adventure pamphlets.
His vices ate at him like a cancer and soon realized that if the desire was strong enough, nothing can stop them, whatever your poison...
Be it the sinful flesh of a woman ...
The sweet high of the opium plant ...
Or that fresh aroma of burning tobacco.
He swooshed his match against his aged, weather-beaten saddle and as he licked the tip of his cigarette, only one thought ran through his mind.
"What I wouldn't do right now for a shot of White Lightnin'..." Flapjack used the last of his stash - stolen from the distillery, of course - midway through Texas and he was starting to get the shakes.
At sundown and amid tumbleweeds, he made camp and burned a can of beans over a small fire. He was starting to wonder if he'd ever see an Apache on the godforsaken goose chase.
# # #
The next morning, Flapjack's horse Anchor was gone. Vanished into the dust of the plains. The cowboy was now stranded and had no choice but to forge ahead on foot.
Not two miles up the trail he saw one. The red skin and long silky black hair glistened in the Western sunlight. But with no horse, Flapjack was at a tactical disadvantage.
The Apache saw him and after thinking twice about the white stranger, made a friendly gesture. Flapjack smiled.
As the cowboy approached, all the Indian wanted to know was if he had any coffee.
Flapjack gripped his knife and answered, "I do..."
# # #
That night, under a moonlit sky, Flapjack's new horse - Sanuye - couldn't relax and twitched about while the cowboy unrolled his sleep sack. The Apache told him that the horse's name meant "Red Cloud at Sundown" and if Flapjack wasn't damned to see a crimson glow in the night sky.
But Sanuye stood on his hind legs, fussing.
"Dang animal ... Makin' a ruckus since dinner..." Flapjack searched his knapsack for a sugar cube and gave it to the fidgety horse. "'Whatsa matter, girl? You looked stronger than a Kentucky flagpole earlier today."
A smarter fella than Flapjack would perhaps raise an eyebrow as to why the Indian only wanted a measly bag of coffee for this cursed horse.
Flapjack just figured Sanuye was ornery because he watched his master die.
Flapjack found out quickly that he was no good at scalping and realized it took a certain kind of man - and strength for the matter - to eloquently extract a significant of one's hair. So he did the next best thing - shot the Apache with his six shooter and hacked off his head. Hell, it was still a bounty and as far as he saw, a perfectly portable proof of trophy. He was getting his fifty no matter what.
Sanuye was calm now and Flapjack noticed a bulge in the saddle bag that certainly wasn't there before.
"What in the blazes?" It was an unlabeled bottle of hooch filled to the brim. Flapjack bit off the cork and spit it to the ground.
He sucked it down and smiled. The bourbon tasted as if it were aged in a special oak casks reserved only for millionaires. And by golly, it went down easy. Flapjack knew his hooch and this was pure gold.
But then he started to choke. As he stumbled to the ground, Flapjack soon started to hear voices in his head. They sounded ancient and powerful and told him to get his gun and sit beside his new horse.
Cocking the trigger, the last thing Flapjack saw was the dead Apache's head in the dirt smiling at him.
After the gunshot, Flapjack drifted towards death and it finally dawned on him: You never mess with an Apache shaman in the middle of the Arizona desert.
Music: Native American Flute & Drum "Allah Humah" Track 6 from the "Sacred Space." Download it HERE.
Art: Oldwesternboy1 at Flickr and Wikipedia.