Everybody in Frisco, Utah knew Bill Thomas.  He had arrived in town in 1879 to help Sly Smith the dairyman with his small herd.  Of course, nobody really knew much about Bill’s past, but that was common for most of the people in town.  He worked hard to take care of his wife and small family.

            It would be Christmas day, 1880, in a few hours, but now it was still black outside and the north wind blew bitter cold.  There were a few stragglers in the Lawrence Saloon when Bill walked in.  Curby the gambler, sat alone at one table.  Without a word Pete Lawrence poured a shot of whiskey into a glass.  It was a common routine during the winter months.

 “Them cows are jist waiting fer the feel of my warm hands.”  Bill smiled at Pete.  The bartender laughed, and the stragglers around the pot-bellied stove in the corner laughed too.  But Curby didn’t laugh. 

            “Hey, cow-kicker!  What’s the idea of trackin’ cow manure in here?”

            Bill stopped sipping.  He turned slowly to face the gambler.  “I don’t see nothin’.”

            “Well, I do, and I want it cleaned up.”

            “Then you clean it up.”  Bill’s words were flat, without threat. He turned back to the bar but watched the gambler in the mirror behind the bar.  He also slowly drew the .44 from under his duster, cocked it but held it hidden.

            The gambler sprang to his feet and drew a derringer from his belt, but before he could fire he saw Pete Lawrence standing at the end of the bar with a sawed-off shotgun aimed at Curby’s stomach.

“All right, Curby that’s enough.  Curby, you fire that pistol and I’ll blow you in half.”  Pete said.

            “I’ll see you later, cowboy.”  Curby backed up and slipped out the door.  He stumbled across the frozen street to Pat Malloy’s Saloon. 

Pat had just opened up the place.  Curby found a table where he could look over Pat’s swinging doors to the front of the Lawrence’s Saloon.  He demanded a bottle and sat brooding over his humiliation.  Thomas’ horse was tied to the rail in front of Pat’s place.  The cowboy would have to cross the street when he came out, and Curby made plans. 

            “Curby had a bad night at the table.”  Pete was wiping down the bar.  Thomas had replaced the .44 and finished his drink.  “Watch out for him.”  Pete offered.

            Bill finished his drink.  “I could have handled him.”  He said quietly as he turned to leave. Pete hadn’t seen Bill quite so steady before.     

            Thomas stepped from the Lawrence Saloon and walked across Frisco’s Main Street to his horse.  Curby saw him coming and stepped out on Malloy’s porch. “Where’s Pete now, cowboy?  You’re a yellow belly, hiding behind someone else’s gun!!”

            Thomas backed a few steps and opened his duster to reveal the .44 in a holster at his belt.  Curby gazed at the figure in the street, poised like a gunfighter with feet spread apart.  The cold morning wind blew across the gambler’s wet forehead.

            “It’s yer move, Curby.”  Bill said softly.

            A small crowd had gathered up Main Street.  Pete had come out and was standing on the porch with his shotgun at his shoulder. 

            “Put the gun down Pete, I’ll handle this.”  Bill didn’t move.  Pete backed slowly into his bar, but watched through the doorway with his shotgun by his side.

            Curby turned and swung Pat’s doors wide inward.  As the doors swung back he turned, drew his derringer and fired a single barrel at Thomas, wounding him in the right shoulder. 

Thomas drew and as the doors swung inward fired two shots striking Curby in the nose and above the right eye.  The doors came to rest, Curby pitched forward and sprawled across the porch.

Pete ejected the shells from his 12-guage as Thomas mounted his horse and rode up Main Street.

So, Christmas began in Frisco, Utah.

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