Time has a way of trickling down the streams of destiny
and I find myself standing on the precipice looking back
and wondering where it has gone.
A whole lifetime ago in this very town, I started down
a path that shaped my life into what it has become. They
called it "Four Corners" back then--before the railroad
came in and brought the hand of progress with it. The
main street that we walked so many times in our day is
unrecognizable now, consumed by a vast forest of buildings
and concrete. The world we knew here is gone. I'm almost
glad you're not here to see it.
I remember the first day I came to this town, not much more
than a sapling, and eager for adventure. At the first sound of
gunfire, I jumped from that stage and landed myself smack in
the middle of the wildest group of men I'd ever known. Six hard
men from backgrounds as different as the colors of the rainbow.
Little did I realize that they would shape me into the man I was
to become. They were all running from something. Me--I was
running to it.
We first came together under your wing to save that village,
remember? And for nothing more than a nod and a thank you.
Of course, in my youth and stupidity I barreled right in there
with you. We were seven men against an entire unit of soldiers.
What in blazes were we thinking?
The thirst for glory satiated my very being. Still does I guess,
but now the pains in my hands make even writing difficult. I used
to dazzle my children with gun twirling, spinning my pistols around
my fingers the way I used to show off. I haven't done that in
years. I am an old man and my body can no longer keep up with
You were the first man I ever really looked up to, Chris. You
brought us together with no words. Just your very presence
commanded respect and I wanted more than anything for you
to be proud of me. Damn, I wanted so much to be like you. We
all would have ridden to Hell and back for you if you asked us
to. And God knows, at times I think we did.
It's funny how over time your memories of the bad times fade
away and only the good ones remain. I think about the old days
more as the years go by and often find myself wishing I could go
back to the way things used to be. 'Course, I decided a long time ago
never to say "good bye." Just "see you later."
We were quite the lot, weren't we? Had our laughs and, from time
to time, our fights. Good ol' Buck saw to that. You know,
as much as he irritated me with all his bragging and advice,
I loved that son of a bitch. He was like a big brother to me and we
sure did we get into some trouble. He was a good man. Looking
back, that unwanted advice saved my life more times than I'd
care to remember.
I learned so much in those years we spent riding through the
territory. Each of the boys had their own little lessons to give,
some more willingly accepted than others. Vin taught me his
methods of tracking, although I could never hold a candle to him.
Took me years to get good at it, but then I never lived with
Indians like he did. He accepted me into the group quicker than
anyone else, especially you. I reckon Vin was probably the
easiest for me to get along with, aside from Nathan. They both
usually kept their opinions to themselves to avoid confrontation
when I was busy shooting off my mouth. Damn near got me
killed sometimes, but I learned my lessons the hard way in a
Nathan was a downright pleasant man to be around. I wish I
would have noticed it at the time. What's that saying about
hindsight being 20/20? Nathan was the only one I could afford
to play poker with. And he had the deepest bass voice in the
world. One time I heard him sing "Amazing Grace" and it liked
to brought tears to my eyes. I bet you didn't know that he sang,
did you? I can't count how many times he saved my life. None
of us would have ever survived our jobs without him.
Then there was Ezra. The man was truly gifted. He actually
showed me a few of his secrets-can you believe that? Told me not
to tell anybody-but I reckon it doesn't matter much anymore. I
still haven't figured out how he beat my straight that one time,
though. Anyhow, we had some good times in that saloon. At least,
I sure did. You know something, Chris? We didn't trust
Ezra in the beginning, but over the years I came to respect him in
a way. I saw sides of Ezra I never had thought possible. I
think deep down he was probably more loyal than anybody.
He just didn't want anyone to know that--it would ruin his image.
And in Ezra's business, image was everything.
You know, I actually go to church once in a while. Every time
I step into one I am whisked back to Josiah and his little church
project there in Four Corners. That old church is one of the only
things left in town that has gone on unchanged. Kinda like the
man himself--standing like a stubborn ox in the road. He helped
give me faith, even when he'd lost it himself. So many times
when it seemed nothing was going my way, he would come out
with some witty remark or biblical phrase and it just seemed to
help scare the demons away.
And here I stand at the foot of your forgotten grave, Chris. The
grave of a man who was more of a father to me than my own
blood. You gave me something to live up to-a mold to shape
myself. I can't tell you what that did for me.
I guess what I'm getting at is that our relationship went beyond
the definition of professional. You boys were my family--my
brothers. We spilled our blood, broke our backs, laughed, cried,
fought, and lived at each others' side. We were a family in
every way that counts, even though we could never break down
our walls of pride long enough to admit it.
You always said I was "in a hurry to die" and that I wouldn't
last two years in the West. Who'd have thought I would outlive
every one of you.
I've come back to the town we called "Four Corners," to the
place where my real life began. I came here as a young man and
learned how to live. It's only fitting that this be where I die.
You were right in that respect, Chris. I would be buried here in this
town. Now I can see the trail's end just beyond the horizon. Took
a little longer to get here than I figured, but whose complaining?
I lived the life I always wanted to live. For helping me find the
right path, I'll always be grateful to you boys.
So here's to you, Chris Larabee. And to the guns of the magnificent
seven who blazed a path across an untamed land and helped to
shape the future of a great nation. We sure did make a difference.
What did I gain in my youth? A lot of stories to tell my grandkids.
More bullet holes than I'd care to remember. And the six
best friends I have ever had.
It seems that when I rode with you boys I was always bringing
up the rear. Some things never change. Wait up, boys. I'm
November 3, 1947
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