The West had long been won by the time Ernie found the gun.
The Widow-Lady Edwards had hired him to look after the farm right after her husband died. Her brother Lyle ought to have helped her, but that involved work and that just wasn’t Lyle’s way. Ernie felt bad for Lucy, and she’d always been Fay’s best friend, so he set to work on the Edwards place every morning before the tavern opened.
Lucy’s husband had taken to storing the sacks of feed in the old Edwards cabin, and Ernie didn’t see any reason to do anything different. The front edge of the old cabin’s roof wasn’t turning much weather anymore, so the sacks of feed were piled up in the far end. When the storm came through, it really wasn’t a shock when the front wall kreeled away from all of the wet and the wind. There amongst the logs was an old Colt .45 that had seen better days. Ernie checked that it wasn’t loaded and then tucked it inside his britches.
During slow moments at the tavern, Ernie hid in the store room and cleaned up the peacemaker while he wondered about how it had wound up in the old Edwards cabin. Nobody had lived in the cabin for a generation or more, but then again folks had stopped carrying Colt .45’s a generation or more ago, too. He asked Lucy about it, but she didn’t know where it had come from and didn’t want it around. Ernie figured it was his. Once he’d cleaned and oiled the gun, he could just make out “1873” on it just above the trigger. That sounded about right to Ernie. He discovered that you could still buy ammunition to fit it, so he bought him some bullets and figured he might get to shoot it someday.
Lyle hadn’t stepped up to help his sister out when she lost her husband, but he sure did have a lot of ideas about how other folks should be behaving in the situation. And once he got a bellyful of whiskey he wasn’t bashful about sharing his ideas, either. Lyle was slurring to his buddies about how Ernie was just going out to his widowed sister’s farm to take advantage of her, about how it just wasn’t right, her a widow and Ernie a widower taking up like that so soon. Someone had to do something about it, he said. Ernie’d heard Lyle talk tough before, but when Lyle took a new knife out of his coat to show his buddies, Ernie found a reason to go back into the store room.
When Lyle hollered loud for one last round, Ernie came over with his barkeep’s apron tied neat and an empty tray held in front of his belly.
“Why’s that tray empty, boy? I want another whiskey before I cut you up!” His friends laughed at that.
Ernie put the tray down in front of Lyle and lifted up the apron with his left hand. With his right, he drew the Colt and leveled the barrel at Lyle.
“The tray’s empty because you’re going to go home now, Lyle. And if you don’t, I’m going to blow a hole in you big enough to walk through.”
With that, Lyle and his buddies left, and peace returned to the saloon hall for the night.