In 1872, the people of Poplar Ridge, Wyoming, population around 200, if you include The Chinaman and Crazy Willy, elected a new sheriff when Sheriff Martin decided to load up his family and move to Santa Fe. The new sheriff was Billy Moon. Billy had lived there all of his life and most folks just called him Moonie. As fate sometimes has a way of making the impossible possible, he was elected to that difficult position on his twenty-fifth birthday. The town was a typical, wide-open, friendly, western sort of place where everyone knew everything about everyone else, and some, a few things they shouldn’t know. Still, all in all, it was a good place to live and raise a family. Really, there was only one problem with Poplar Ridge. It was exactly half way between the Tallen Ranch and the Barton spread and half way between Cheyenne and Laramie. Now, Jake Tallen was not an overly ambitious sort of man. All he wanted was what was his and what belonged to John Barton. John, on the other hand, was a man of the people. He wanted to raise his cattle and live in peace. The Barton ranch covered about 200,000 acres of some of the best grazing land in the territory, and the ten miles that separated his ranch from the Tallen spread was a line drawn by nature. The Tallen ranch wasn’t much good for raising anything but Hell. It was mostly scrub land and had a couple of small streams running through it. These barely supplied enough water for the livestock and were mostly dry creek beds during the summer months. Oh, Tallen had a lot of money from his gold strike back in ‘49, but he had moved to Wyoming too late to get his hands on a place like John Barton’s. The Barton ranch was bordered on two sides by the Little Horse River. Even in mid summer, there was a steady flow of water. Well, Mr. Tallen had been casting his eye on the Barton spread for more than ten years, but could never quite seem to persuade Mr. Barton to sell out to him. Sheriff Martin had a lot to do with it, too, since he was married to one of John’s daughters. Trace also knew a secret about Tallen, which people wouldn’t find out until many years later. With the arrival of the wagon trains traveling the Oregon Trail and a new gold strike, people began to pour in. Now it was Billy's turn to keep the peace. Oh, one more thing. If you catch yourself laughing or trying to hold back a few tears, don't worry about it. It just proves you have feelings.
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Sample Chapter- Below is a peak at one of the chapters in Sheriff Billy Moon.
Early one morning, a man rode into town on a dapple mare. He looked like he had been on the trail a while. Rowdy happened to be up in the loft of the livery stable getting some hay down and watched the stranger ride past. Cowboys from parts unknown were always passing through. He didn't think much of it and went back to his duties. The man rode on down the street and stopped in front of the jail. Bob was sweeping out the office. The stranger tied up his horse and pulled a Winchester from the scabbard. Bob looked up when the stranger opened the door and saw he was wearing a US Marshal badge. He didn't recognize him, though.
"Help ya, Marshal?" asked Bob.
"I'm Marshal Biggs. Lookin' for the Sheriff. He here-bouts?" he asked.
"Reckon he's over't the saloon. The Silver Spur, there 'cross the street," Bob said and pointed.
"Much obliged," said the marshal. He turned and closed the door.
Billy was sitting at a table, eating some Bullets and Beans, when the marshal walked in. Strangers stand out like a sore thumb in a small town. The marshal looked around the saloon and fixed his eyes on Billy. Fred watched the man walk over to the table. Billy stood up and held out his hand. They shook.
"Billy Moon, Sheriff of Poplar Ridge. How can I help you?"
"Bret Biggs, Territorial Marshal out of Bismarck. Looking for a man." The marshal sat down and pulled a wanted poster from his coat pocket.
Billy leaned over and took it. The man on the poster didn't look familiar, so Billy shook his head. "Ain't seen him round here, Marshal. Think he might be headed this way?"
"Spec so. His brother lives round here some place, so I'm told."
Billy read the name again aloud. "Jason Mc Baine. There's a Mc Baine hanging around the Farris ranch. Could be his brother."
"I'm told his brother is known as Wild Eyes Mc Baine," said the marshal.
"That's him, alright. Bushel of trouble, that one. One of Farris' hired guns." Billy motioned to Fred for some coffee. "You like a coffee, Marshal?"
"Won't say no to good cup of Joe."
Billy was wondering about his plans and asked, "How do you want to handle this Jason Mc Bain if he shows up?"
The big man rocked back in the straight chair. "I reckon it might take both of us to sort this feller out. I have jurisdiction all over the United States, and you have it here in the county. Shouldn't be no problem which one of us kills him."
"Says 'Dead or alive'. Reckon you don't figure on giving him a choice. That right?"
The marshal nodded. "This Mc Baine ain't going to give me no choice. He's wanted for six killings and who knows how many holdups? He won't be taken alive. Ain't the type. Been after him the better part of three months. Rides a Paint. Where is this Farris ranch?"
Billy thumbed over his shoulder. "Take the Laramie Road west out of town. Road runs right past. 'Bout five miles."
The marshal stood up and turned to leave.
The big man turned.
Billy got a serious look and said, "Marshal. You be careful. Farris' bunch don't take to kindly to the law. They'd just as soon shoot you as swat a fly. Wouldn't bother 'em a bit. You want me to go along?"
Marshal Biggs put a hand up. "Dont worry, Sheriff. I done this kind of thing before." Biggs said.
Billy watched from the saloon doors. Biggs mounted, touched his hat brim and sunk spurs.
Fred walked up behind Billy and asked, "You know that man?"
Billy shook his head and said, "Says he's a US Marshal out of Bismarck. After Mc Baine's brother. Keep an eye out, will ya, Fred?"
Fred slapped Billy on the back, nodded and went back to his duties.
Bob walked out of the jail and stood on the porch, waiting for Billy to walk over. Randy happened to walk up about the time Billy hit the first step. He saw the concerned look.
Bob asked, "Trouble comin'?
Billy sat down in the rocker and checked his Colt. "Maybe. We'll know soon enough. Marshal Biggs out of Bismarck come through. Randy, get over to the livery and tell Rowdy to watch for strangers coming in riding a Paint."
Randy headed for the livery and Bob mulled the information over a little.
"Paint? This feller part Indian or something?"asked Bob.
"Don't know. Maybe he just likes Paints or that was the last horse he stole," said Billy and holstered his Colt.
A few hours later, Marshal Biggs rode into town and went straight into the Silver Spur. Billy walked over to find out what he could about the marshal's meeting.
The marshal was still alive, so that was a good sign. Marshal Biggs walked into the saloon and downed two straight shots of whisky before Billy got through the doors. Fred already knew Billy would want coffee, so he poured a cup and set it on the bar. The marshal nodded toward a table as Billy picked up the cup.
The marshal sat down hard and downed his third shot. "Sheriff Moon, I have seen some tough customers in my time, but that bunch at the Farris ranch was the worst. My hat's off to ya."
Billy felt a bit of pride at that comment. "I have some good deputies to help out. The town folk help out, too. I let Farris know right away that I ain't putting up with none of his outlaw ways. Still ain't easy, though. All it did was slow him down a little."
The marshal nodded and poured another drink. "You know, Sheriff, I don't scare easy. I been a Peace Officer for nearly twenty years, and that's the first time I ever felt uneasy about being around men with guns."
"Did you find out if Mc Baine's brother was headed this way?"
"No. Not likely to. I didn't figure they'd tell me even if they knew, but I wanted 'em to know I was after him. No doubt they'll try to let him know. If they do, and he still comes into town, I'll be ready for him. Is there a place to stay here in town that's clean and warm? I can afford the best, so don't worry about the cost."
Of course, Billy knew the best place in town. "You go over to the boarding house down the end of town. You passed it on your way in from the ranch. It's the best place around, and it won't cost you a nickle. The town will pick up the bill. Stay as long as you need to."
"Well, thank you, Sheriff. It must be good if you recommend it."
"It's good. I live there, myself. The lady who runs it is my wife, Roberta," Billy said, smiling.
The marshal looked at the clock on the wall near the rifle rack and said, "I'll drop my horse at the livery and be getting on over there, then. See ya 'round, Sheriff Moon."
"Tell Roberta I said to give you the room at the front."
The marshal nodded and walked out.
Rowdy knew Billy would be around to check out the horse the marshal was riding. He never left anything to chance where Farris' bunch was concerned. It helps sometime to be nosy. Rowdy was pouring a bucket of feed in the trough when Billy walked up to the stall.
"Howdy, Rowdy. Fine looking mare."
Rowdy turned around with a big smile on his face. "Sheriff," he said and unfastened the cinch. He pulled the saddle off and set it on the hook. The horse was eating like there was no tomorrow. "Looks pretty hungry. Horse don't usually eat like that. Must have been a while since he had any feed."
Billy walked over to the saddle and spun it around to look underneath. He saw the initials PG burned into the leather. "Strange."
Billy pointed and said, "Them initials, PG. Should be BB, for Bret Biggs, hunh?"
"Could be it ain't his rig," Rowdy said and drew a bucket of water from a barrel.
"Maybe. I'll ask him about it. See ya. Rowdy." Billy slapped the mare on the rump and walked into the street. He was about to head for the jail when he noticed a man riding into town down the Cheyenne road. He put a thumb in his belt near the Colt. The stranger rode on past and stopped in front of the Gold Digger. Billy walked on back to the jail and sat in the rocker on the porch. He studied the horse a while, figured he belonged to just another drifter and decided to go on home.
Marshal Biggs was siting in the parlor, waiting on supper, and waved when Billy walked past. The Spring breeze through the windows was nice and feeling lazy came natural. By the time Billy had washed up for supper and changed into something more comfortable, Biggs was snoring his head off.
Roberta nodded toward the table, meaning supper was about ready, so Billy walked into the parlor. He knew that some people spook easy and react to sudden shocks by drawing their gun and firing away before coming to their senses. He stood by the door, knocked on the door frame and said 'Marshal Biggs' a couple of times. The marshal roused and looked around.
"Ah, Sheriff Moon. I must have fell asleep." He laid his head back and sighed. "This is the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in." He looked at Billy and smiled. "You wouldn't consider selling it, would you?"
"Well, Marshal, I can't. It belongs to Roberta. It was given to her by Mrs. Meridith. She used to own this place. I don't think any amount of money could buy that chair."
Biggs looked disappointed, but shook his head in agreement.
"Better go wash up. Supper's about ready," said Billy.
Roberta set the food on the table and went back into the kitchen. There weren't any other guests, so all that mountain of food was more than enough for the two men. Well, almost. Biggs put away enough to keep three big men going for a week. Billy was enjoying watching him eat. It was probably the first decent meal he'd had in weeks, if not longer. Biggs finally stood up and walked out onto the porch. The swing looked inviting, so he sat sideways enough to rest himself in a very relaxed position. Billy sat in the rocker and waited for Biggs to start the conversation. He knew it was just a matter of time. All lawmen are naturally curious about things in a new town.
At last, Biggs spoke. "So, Sheriff Moon, how long have you been ridin' herd over Poplar Ridge?"
"Well, lets see. I was a deputy for a couple of years before I was elected sheriff and it's been, um, 'bout twelve years all together."
"Twelve years? That's long enough to know what you're doing, especially with Farris and his bunch hanging around. That tells me I can trust you," Biggs said and sat up straight in the swing. "This brother of Wild Eyes was last seen in Plowman, just south of here, and before that, he hung around Deadwood. I tracked him that far and found out he had a brother livin' round here. The sheriffs in Cheyenne and Laramie said they would wire me here if he showed up around there. I figure he'll come here first. So far, he don't know I'm after him, but if Farris gets word to him somehow, he may bypass Poplar Ridge. Should be here tomorrow or the next day, I reckon, if he's comin'?" Biggs settled back and belched as quietly as he could.
Billy could tell he was more refined than the usual men he met around the territory. Tomorrow should tell whether trouble was brewing or luck was in their favor.
Morning dawned bright, and the sun began to bear down. Spring was coming in early this year. Billy had eaten breakfast and was just finishing his first round of the day by the time Marshal Biggs finally got out of bed. Roberta kept an ear out and didn't start warming up the leftover breakfast until she heard him stir. She knew, if he was anything like Billy, he would be hungry enough to eat a whole bait of food. A few minutes later, she was sure that was the case. Biggs was shoveling bacon, eggs, biscuits, and flapjacks down his gullet as fast as he could. She was pleased he enjoyed the meal. Biggs thanked her several times, then left to meet Billy at the jail.
Billy saw the marshal coming down the street and quickened his pace. There was a fresh pot of coffee on the wood burner and he fancied a cup. As he walked down the street, he wondered what most lawmen and gunslingers wonder when they meet a stranger in the same line of work. Biggs had been a lawman a long time and older lawmen are rare. They only get to be old for two reasons. They are fast and smart. You can't have one without the other. Some say luck has a bit to do with it, but no amount of luck can stop a bullet headed for a man's back.
At the jail, Billy poured a cup of coffee and handed it to Biggs. It was obvious the marshal was in some distress from eating so much. It was his own fault. Nobody forced him. Biggs situated himself as best he could in the rocker and moaned.
"Sheriff Moon, I reckon you're the luckiest man I ever met. A woman who can cook like that and you still ain't big as a house. I don't know how you do it?"
Billy smiled and said, "I do a lot of walkin'."
"Yep, I reckon that's what it takes. I'm on a horse most of the time. Don't get to do much walkin'."
An opening had presented itself. Billy asked, "I was over the livery talking to Rowdy and noticed your saddle had the initials PG on it. Just thought it was strange, that's all. No offense."
Biggs leaned over toward Billy and whispered, "It ain't mine. It belonged to an outlaw I run into last month. Horse too. Man was dead and didn't need it no more. Bastard shot mine out from under me. I figured it was a fair trade. Bit too scrawny for my taste. I'll get me another when I get back to Bismarck." Biggs shook his head in disgust. "Bastard shot a real good horse. I had him for nearly six years. The saddle was 'bout wore out anyway. Don't worry, Sheriff. I ain't no crooked lawman." Biggs stretched out his legs toward the wood burner. "I'll tell you one thing. You got a nice little town here. A man could think about settlin' down in a place like this. Uh, your wife have any older sisters?"
"She has one. Name is Emily."
"Reckon she's married," said Biggs.
"Nope. Not yet. The whole Barton family is wonderin' if there ain't something wrong with her, you know? I asked her one time about gettin' hitched, and she said she was waitin' for the right man."
"Humm," Biggs said. "She pretty like Roberta?"
"She'd stop a bar fight . . . or start one. Yep, she's a good lookin' woman. Been a lot of men tried to court her, but ain't none of 'em got lucky."
"This Barton spread far?" asked Biggs.
Billy shook his head. "'Bout four miles down the Cheyenne Road. Turn left at the fork. Tell John I said hi."
Biggs struggled to get up from the rocker. "I'll see you later, Sheriff. I won't be long."
"See ya, Marshal."
It was right at sundown when Biggs returned to Poplar Ridge and left his mount at the livery. He walked straight past the jail and on to the boarding house. Billy was about to make his last round before going home. Bob reported in for the night shift and asked if this Jason Mc Baine feller had showed up. Billy told him no, but to keep an eye out and come get him if anything happened. Chances were, Mc Baine would hit the saloon first for some liquid courage and companionship before facing the marshal. If he was anything like his brother, he would try to get the marshal in the back, which meant he may not be as fast as his brother.
Billy walked into the boarding house and called to Roberta when he didn't see Biggs siting in the parlor.
"Howdy, Sweetheart. Seen the marshal around?"
Roberta pointed toward the back door. "Been standing out there on the porch for ages, staring across the prairie. I'll get supper started."
Billy walked onto the back porch and sat down in the swing. He watched Biggs for a while and figured he may have been bitten by the worst bug of all. When the love bug bites, you can't do much but think about someone. He knew that feeling. It was the same one he had when Roberta kissed him for the first time.
Biggs finally sat down in the rocker, stretched out, and put his head down, like in deep thought. It was nearly a quarter hour before he even realized Billy was there.
"Hey Sheriff. You have a light tred."
Billy laughed and Biggs realized why.
"So, how did things go out the Barton place?" asked Billy.
"Fine, fine. Met John and Lora Mae and Emily. Me and Emily went for a little walk around the place, talked a bit. Real handsom woman. Not much younger than me, looks like. She asked me to come to supper sometime. Set me to thinking, that's for sure. If she can cook like your wife, I'm in trouble . . . if anything comes of it, that is. I ain't kidding myself. I know I ain't no great prize, bit long in the tooth. Still, it would be nice to settle down," Biggs sighed and put his head down, like he was in deep thought again.
It wasn't long till Roberta called for the men to wash up for supper. Billy made a bee-line for the bathroom, but Biggs just sat there, staring at his boots.
Roberta asked, "The marshal coming to supper?"
"He'll be along directly. He's just mullin' over an old feelin'." Billy looked at the fresh pone of cornbread and breathed in the aroma. "Oh that smells good. I'm starved."
The next morning, trouble finally showed up in Poplar Ridge. Wild Eyes Mc Baine rode into town and went straight into the Gold Digger. Billy took a Winchester from the rack and loaded it. He figured Jason Mc Baine would be along pretty soon, if he was coming? Marshal Biggs was down at the livery talking to Rowdy, so Billy decided to slip out the back door of the jail and walk down there. That way, if anyone was watching, they probably wouldn't see him leave. He knocked on the back door of the Wells Fargo Office. Boots came out and walked on with him. Boots knew that look. There was a good sized pile of money in the safe and he didn't want any surprises. Bob saw Billy touch his hat when he looked over at him and knew to be on his toes. Billy told Biggs about Wild Eyes going into the saloon, then the two men walked back to the jail.
The sun was pitched high in the Spring sky when a rough looking cowboy rode into town on a Paint mare. He had that typical look of a gunslinger. He rode tall in the saddle and looked side to side as he passed each doorway, glancing up at the rooftops now and then. Billy and Biggs watched the stranger ride past the jail and stop in front of the Gold Digger.
"I reckon that's Mc Baine's brother. Can't see him real clear, but matches the wanted poster. I ain't never seen him in person, but I'd bet money it's him," said Biggs.
"We'll find out soon enough. It's your show, Marshall. I'll back you up. My two deputies are out of sight, but they'll be watchin'. You do what you have to," Billy said.
Biggs nodded and walked out onto the porch. About the same time, both Mc Baines walked out of the Gold Digger. The town folk are a sensitive lot and know when trouble is brewing. People started clearing off the street and drawing shades and such. In a few moments, the street was deserted. The two brothers stepped onto the street and stood there waiting for Biggs to make the first move. Biggs walked to the center of the street and stopped. Jason walked to the middle of the street and looked at Blaine.
Biggs shouted, making sure there was no mistake as to who he was and his intentions. "Jason Mc Baine! Bret Biggs, United States Marshal! You're under arrest for murder! Drop your gun belt!"
Billy was waiting for Blaine to draw or move or something to distract the marshal, but he slowly walked back inside the saloon. Guess he wasn't as close to Jason as most brothers. Either that, or he figured Jason could take the marshal with no problem. Whatever he was thinking, everything was settled in the next heartbeat. By the time Jason cleared leather, Biggs already had two bullets on the way. Jason Mc Baine dropped to the ground with a thump. A moment later, Wild Eyes Mc Baine walked out of the saloon and got on his horse. He sat there a moment, looked at Biggs, then sunk spurs. Billy breathed a sigh of relief, but he figured Wild Eyes wouldn't let it go at that. Probably figured he would take care of the marshal later. There was no hurry. Bob walked over to get The Chinaman and the marshal went into the Silver Spur for a shot of whisky to calm his nerves. The town folk started coming out into the street again. Poplar Ridge was returning to normal.
Billy walked into the saloon and looked around. Biggs was sitting at a back table, rolling a half filled shot glass between his palms. Fred put a fresh cup of coffee on the bar as Billy passed. That was the first time in more than ten years Billy didn't pick up the cup. Biggs looked up when Billy sat down.
"Not easy takin' a feller's life, even a bad man like Mc Baine. I take no pleasure in it. But that's the nature of the business. Have to do things you don't like." Biggs downed the last bit of whisky and set the glass down.
"Yep, know what you mean. Sometimes you don't have a choice. Just do the best you can and hope innocent people don't get hurt," said Billy.
"Reckon I better get over to the telegraph office and let Bismarck know Jason Mc Baine is dead." Biggs stood up and touched his hat brim.
Fred watched the marshal walk through the swinging doors, then set a cup of coffee on the table in front of Billy. "The marshal there is pretty fast with that Colt. Kinda reminds me of Bill Parker. Same style, leg braced, you know?"
"He should, Fred. The marshal told me Bill gave him a few lessons in shootin' some years back. Probably why the style looks familiar," Billy said.
Billy took one sip of coffee and headed back to the jail. Just as he walked through the saloon doors, he saw a rider coming fast from down the Cheyenne Road. Biggs hadn't made it to the other side of the street yet. He noticed the rider, too. The rider got closer and Billy recognized who it was. It was Emily Barton. Emily pulled the reins hard and jumped down before the horse could get stopped. The momentum carried her right into Biggs. They both fell to the ground in a heap. Emily started kissing him and shouting something about he was a crazy old fool. Billy had to sit down, he was laughing so hard. He figured Emily had finally found the right man, and she wasn't about to let him get away.
Marshal Bret Biggs returned to Bismarck just long enough to draw his pay and turn in his badge. Three weeks later, Emily Barton became Emily Biggs. The two newlyweds didn't stay long in Poplar Ridge. Bret liked traveling and Emily, who had never been out of the county, decided it was time she saw a bit of the world, so the two loaded up a wagon and headed for California. Wild Eyes Mc Baine never made a move toward Biggs. It was probably the only good decision he ever made in his entire life. A little over six months later, Roberta got a letter from Emily. The two of them were doing fine and they couldn't be happier.