HAIRLESS HANK KEPT THE PEACE IN WAGON SPOKE BUT WHEN IT CAME TO A SHOOTOUT, HANK HAD A SECRET WEAPON.
Since Hairless Hank took over as sheriff, Wagon Spoke was whatchacall a peaceable town, at least compared with other Wild West locales. Sure, there was a powerful lot of fistfights and barroom brawls, but that was to be expected. Boys gotta be boys, y’know, ’specially after they’ve got liquored up. But these little ol’ conflicts hardly never involved nothin’ more than a broken bottle or two, and that only rarely.
Now, afore Hairless Hank, things was a right smart bit rougher. The boys was lots freer with the gunplay, and a bunch of outlaws made things pretty bad for everybody else. The leader of the gang, Pecos Gizzard, was a right mean hombre and just about the crackest shot in these parts. He took out nine sheriffs in a row, and so no one was partic’erly itchin’ to be sheriff of Wagon Spoke.
Then Hairless Hank showed up. He had been asked by Barber Boyle to come and save Wagon Spoke, and save it he did. When he and Pecos Gizzard had their high noon showdown, Pecos missed — for probably the first time in his life. Hank disarmed him with one shot and sent him scurryin’ from town. The rest of the outlaws followed, and when the local boys saw that Hank meant business, they took to behavin’ themselves in a more civilized fashion.
Oh, sure, every now and then some danged prairie dog of an outlaw would ride into town, lookin’ to stir up trouble. But come high noon, they’d get their comeuppance from ol’ Hank, and things would get back to normal.
Sidewinder Sam meets Hairless Hank
Now, one fine fall day Sidewinder Sam rode into town. Sidewinder was a real skunk of a man. He ate cactus needles for breakfast. He rustled cattle from poor defenseless widder women. He ambled into a bar and used other fellers’ glasses for cuspidors, and then gave them to kiss his six-shooter, Bess, if they complained. He turned Harvey Girls into good-time gals and, what was worse, turned good-time gals into Harvey Girls. Mean, if you know what I mean.
But what he liked best of all was killin’ lawmen. Marshalls, if he could get ’em, but sheriffs were good, too. Hell, if he’d gone for too long a spell without layin’ down a lawman, he’d even settle for an uncorrupted judge, if he could find one.
A skunk of a man.
And now he had come to Wagon Spoke. Started in on his usual rough ways. He done walked in to the Third-to-Last-Chance Saloon and forcibly removed Sally Ann’s lacy right garter, the one where she keeps her stash of tips. And when she complained in that mighty fierce voice of hers that we all know means business, he just smirked and rolled that garter right back up her thigh — but without the money. And, as it turned out, what he rolled right back up her thigh weren’t no lacy garter but a gol’ darned garter snake.
Sidewinder Sam was laughin’ fit to bust a gut when a voice drawled behind him, “That ain’t the way we do things in my town, Mister.”
It was, of course, Sheriff Hairless Hank, who, as you might have guessed from his name, was as bald as a baby’s behind. Shaved his head clean once a week at Barber Boyle’s and showed it off proudly, and was, as Sally Ann and the girls had it, “the most bee-yoo-ti-ful hunk o’ man around these parts.”
“I’ll see you in the town square at high noon,” Hank said, “and will teach you how we do things round these parts.” He sauntered out of the saloon but not before addin’, “I’d get a trim and a shave if’n I were you. I’d hate to send you to your maker lookin’ like the skunk you obviously are.”
Sidewinder Sam grinned. This was goin’ to be good. And why not get a haircut? He always liked to look his best when goin’ gunnin’.
Words of prairie wisdom about Hairless Hank
“You must be the new victim,” Barber Boyle said as Sam burst through the door. “Been expectin’ you. Sit down, and don’t worry — it’s on me. I never ask a dead man to pay.”
“Haw-haw,” Sam said as he settled into the chair and Boyle began scissorin’ away. “It’s that ornery sheriff of your’n that’s gonna be pushin’ daisies, not me.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Boyle said. “You’re the, what, 22nd? 23rd? man that’s said the same thing to me. Hank don’t send victims to me unless he’s really got it in for ’em. The cemetery is proof o’ that.”
“You’re tellin’ me there’s 23 men in that cemetery ’count o’ this sheriff?’ Sam asked, a slight unease in his voice.
“Or 22 — I lose count. ’Course, there wouldn’t be none in there if they’d have listened to me. I told ’em, I said, don’t look at his bald head, whatever you do. He chooses high noon for his shoot-outs for a reason — so the sun will shine off his head and blind you so you can’t see. So don’t look at his head, I tell ’em, look at the bell tower behind him. But they don’t listen, just like you won’t, and so they end up in that cemetery, just like …” Boyle didn’t finish the sentence.
Sam smiled. Now he knew how to play this game. At the appointed time, he walked onto the square. As he took his ten paces toward Hairless Hank, he kept his eyes on the bell tower. He’d keep his eyes away from the bald pate and shoot the cussed lawman. But just as he counted his tenth and final step, his eyes firmly locked on the bell tower, the sun struck the bell and a huge glare struck Sam’s eyes. He fired wildly, missin’ Hank, who easily shot the gun out of Sam’s hand and put another bullet in his arm.
“I’m feelin’ merciful,” Hank said grimly to Sam. “Get out of town before I count to 10, and I might let you live.”
Sam was out of sight before the sheriff reached 8.
“Well, Boyle,” Hank said to the barber, “it worked like it always does. Hard to believe folk are dumb enough to think a bald man’s head is goin’ to be so shiny it blinds ’em.”
“Let’s hope they stay that dumb,” Boyle said, “and that we never run out of polish for that blessed bell!”
And that is the secret of how Wagon Spoke stayed a peaceable town.