There was one time when I ran into that guy.
Just once, and he was the most sour looking, and smelling fella you could ever meet.
His name was Pickled Pete.
He never struck it rich, but he never gave up tying either He’d wait for some greenhorn to wander into town and act like he knew where the gold was being picked up in the water by the handfull and then jump the greenhorn’s claim if he actually had one.
Most of the time it didn’t work.
Pickled Pete was tall, well over six foot. He was scrawny, never shaved, was missin’ quite a few teeth, had a patch over one eye, walked with a twisted foot and his clothes hadn’t been cleaned in years. He was more like a creature than a human, and that’s what scared most people away from him. When he talked it was like he was getting’ ready to fight you.
Pete never carried a gun, but was awfully good at whippin’ out a knife and he could throw it with deadly aim. That one eye had was more than equal to a hawk.
He never bothered to clean the blade. It was covered in brown stains from the blood of those that got antsy and reached for their pistol, but soon found out that a knife in the throat is just as deadly as any bullet.
The Sherriff doesn’t bother with placing ol’ Pete in Jail either. When you live in Gold Miner’s town, the law don’t mean much. The badge looks good, and sometimes the Sherriff will lock someone up, but when it comes down to it ain’t worth it because he’s got to keep an eye on the jailbird, and give him food and such, and try to walk around town to keep the peace.
It doesn’t work.
A lawman can’t keep a prisoner locked up because they always escape, and if there’s trouble on the streets, the Sherriff’s gotta be there to be the witness as to who shot who. So, with all that being said, Pickled Pete isn’t worth feeding or watching in the jail, and he’s just to damn dangerous to keep inside.
He’s one desert dog that can’t be cooped up.
It’s best to let him roam the streets. In strange way, he’s kind of like a Sherriff. When he’s around, nobody acts up.
Pickled Pete loves to fight, and he’ll take any opportunity to get into it with someone. It doesn’t matter if they got a badge on or not. I heard tales of him getting’ into some fights with some the Desert Cats, but he never stabbed them. I know one of those cats nabbed him with one of her long finger nail. Poked him right I the eye.
I guess that was the only time Pete backed away from a fight.
I’ve never messed with a desert cat, and I don’t want to. They Desert Cats are meaner than a rattle snake and got more poison in’em too.
When I met Pickled Pete, He just got done fighting with a card cheating, cigar smokin’ city slicker that thought he was smarter than Pete.
Pete isn’t dumb.
He might not say a lot of words, and when he does they are often slurred.
He almost sounds like he doesn’t want to talk. His voice is real low, and he comes across seeming kind of weak kneed…like maybe a 12 year old girl could beat him up. He never looks directly at you. His eye meanders down to his feet and then over one side. You can see what he’s doin’. He’s looking at your holster and checking to see if it’s open or closed.
The advice that’s given if you see Pickled Pete is: If you seen him, keep your holster closed don’t even try to place your hand near it.
He’ll cut your hand off if he thinks your gonna shoot.
He’s got no remorse.
Anyway, like I was saying, when I met him he just got done teachin’ a city slicker how cards are played out here. I could see the city dude gripping two fingers on one of his hands as blood was dripping out from them. I watched Pickled Pete spit on the fella before walking away while looking at his knife that had some of the fella’s blood on it.
Ol’ Pete sent am arctic chill up my spine when he looked at me. I thought he was comin’ after me, and saw his eye drift down and looked at my hand.
I hand my hand on my holster.
Pickled Pete stopped walking and let his long arms drop to his side.
I was thinkin’ I’m a dead man, but my hand was shakin’ so bad I couldn’t even begin to open my holster. Ol’ Pete was watching my hand. His head tilted to the right, and then he slowly began nodding his head back and forth.
He told me something like: “Get yer hands away” I knew what he meant even if the words were slurred. I slowly began to raise both my hands up and away from my hips. Pickled Pete started shaking his head up and down real slow.
I felt like he was gonna’ kill me.
He just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t put some lead in him, and too be honest, I really wanted too because I wasn’t feeling very manly.
He started wlaking toward me and told him that this ain’t a fair fight.
He didn’t say a word. He kept on walkin’ unitl his nose was touchin’ mine, and then I heard him say: “Fights aren’t supposed to be fair.” He huffed some of his breath onto me, and the stench was so bad, so strong it made my eyes water and I nearly lost my own breath from inhaling what must be the insides of his own rotting body.
I ain’t never smelled something so bad. I can only compare it to 10 rotting deer carcasses.
I had to close my eyes just to make believe the smell wasn’t there, and when I did that, that’s when he body slammed onto the ground.
There I was, layin’ in some dusty street in the middle of some town in the desert with a man getting’ ready to puncture me with his knife that still had fresh blood on it from his last victim.
That knife was just about to enter my leg, I felt the tip break through my worn out leather pants, but I grabbed his wrist and squeezed real hard and heard a snap. I know I didn’t break his wrist, but then I heard it again. This time it was louder and Pickled Pete wasn’t moving.
He turned his head and I could see that city clicker smokin’ a cigar while he was whipping Ol’ Pete, but it didn’t seem to bother Pickled Pete. In fact, he was smiling.
The city slicker whacked Pickled Pete again, and I could here him laughing.
I closed my eyes again and waited for Pickled Pete too stab me with his bloody knife, but I felt a sudden yank as my entire body was pulled out from under Pickled Pete. I was dragged for about 10 feet and then someone stood me up and said: “You’re one of the luckiest Bastards ever.”
That was true, and I could feel it as I started to breath some dusty, but clean air compared to be trapped underneath someone that had his innards rotting away from drinking alcohol all day for his whole life.
Clean, dusty air.
It felt, and even tasted good.
Like it was cleaning my body’s blood system.
As I stood there, I saw Pickled Pete lay on the street taking a whip to his backside. He was motionless and I was listening to some people whisperin’ about how he might be dead.
The cowboy that yanked me out from under Pickled Pete told me somethin’ in a real quiet voice: “His name is also Possum Pete.”
There wasn’t a sound comin’ from nobody, or nothin’.
Even the wind was layin’ low.
That city slicker walked up to Pickled Pete and said: “You aren’t gonna be living much longer, so quit your faking and stand up and fight.”
Pickled Pete just laid there. He chest wasn’t moving up and down. It looked like the city slicker whipped him to death, but as quick as lightning, Pickled Pete was upright.
Nobody seen what he did until after he did it.
He slit that city slicker with his knife.
We could see his belt dangle, his pants fell down and he had a long, bloody slit from his stomach up to his neck. As that city slicker began to keel over Pickled Pete gave him a shove and stood over him and said some final words: “You ain’t livin’ much longer.”
Pickled Pete looked back at me as he placed his knife inside his belt loop.
He started walking toward me, but I didn’t even think about grabbing my gun. I watched his eye as he watched my hands. I kept them away from hips.
I had them folded across my chest so he knew I wasn’t gonna’ do nothin’ stupid.
As Pickled Pete walked by me he spoke in a very clear voice:
“That’s enough stabbin’ for one day.”
He walked into a nearby saloon and was out of sight, but I turned to the cowboy that saved me and said thanks, gave him a couple of dollars and got out of town.
Even-though there was a motherlode found not too far from that place…
I made sure never to return.
There's often more than meets the eye when you meet you people, and Pickled Pete is one of them. This story is about an encounter with someone that doesn't carry a gun, but does carry a knife. His knife has never been cleaned, and is marked with those that dared to think they could out smart him. Pickled Pete is one of several characters that are featured in the New American Western series of short stories by Von Kambro which are designed as a series of journal entries from gold miners and cowboys that share their adventures and encounters from the wild west.