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The Show-Down
by [?]

In the early days of Tombstone when miners and merchants and cow-men and faro-dealers and outlaws were drifting into Cochise County from all over the West, a young fellow by the name of William C. Breckenbridge came down from Colorado to the new camp. He was, so the old-timers say, one of those smallish men who can wear a flannel shirt and broad-brimmed hat so jauntily that, although their breeches be tucked into their boot-tops, they still look marvelously neat; but while he could come through a hard day’s ride still suggesting a bandbox, there was nothing of the dandy about him.

His people had staked him to go out West and at their suggestion he had hunted up an older brother in Colorado. But two years in the wide reaches of the Platte country, where the monotony of teaming was varied by occasional brushes with the Indians, failed to satisfy his spirit. And so he came riding down into the flaring valleys of the Southwestern border along with the first influx of adventurers.

He was still in his early twenties and the world looked good to him; one of those quiet youths who preface most remarks with a smile because, all other things being equal, they like their fellow-men.

He knocked about the camp, trying this thing and that, and was starting in at mining engineering with an old marine compass as his only instrument when Johnny Behan, who was newly appointed sheriff by the governor, gave him a job as a deputy. Then straightaway the eyes of men were turned upon him, and the query arose:

“How’s he going to stack up when it comes to a show-down?”

Those were the days, you understand, when–to indulge in a Scriptural figure–he who took up the sword must be prepared to perish by the sword. If you buckled on a gun you must be ready to draw it, and once you started to draw it, heaven help you if you did not reckon on going through with the play.

A man could get by, as the saying has it, if he played the part of a neutral; but if, on the one hand, you started in at stealing cattle or if, on the other hand, you pinned on a star–why then, sooner or later, the big issue was going to come to a head; you were going to find yourself faced by a foe or foes, armed like yourself, and like yourself prepared to shoot it out. Then when the show-down came you would comport yourself according to the stuff that you were made of–the material which was hidden away deep down under your skin–and according to your conduct the world would judge you.

So naturally enough in those days men asked this question and waited for events to bring its answer. And those among them who were not gifted with the faculty of reading character but needed to see a man for themselves when the guns were blazing–those individuals had to wait a long time.

As for the others, what they said to themselves as one adventure followed another now in the career of Billy Breckenbridge you who read these words can judge, if you be blessed with ordinary perspicacity. For many things took place and many months went by before he reached down along his lean right thigh toward the butt of his forty-five single-action revolver.

It is quite likely that Johnny Behan was among those who wanted the new deputy to give a demonstration of the stuff he was made of. Perhaps that was the reason the sheriff sent young Breckenbridge over into the eastern end of the county to collect the taxes before the latter had worn his star long enough to get used to it.

In those days the sheriff’s office levied assessments and did the collecting on personal property at the same time. Payments were made in cash; bank-checks were virtually unknown in Cochise County. And thus far the country east of the Dragoon Mountains had yielded no revenues for the simple reason that it looked as if nothing short of a troop of cavalry could go forth into that region and return again with the money.