Cal's Gun Shop
Just when I thought I was driving the Loneliest Road in America, I had somehow mistakenly turned onto an even lonelier secondary road. And there it was: a tumble-down old shack in the middle of the desert. Decades of sun-bleaching had peeled away most of the paint. If there had ever been a door, there was no longer any evidence of it. “Cal’s Gun Shop” was crudely painted on a weathered old signboard. I would have taken the place for abandoned, were it not for the flashing blue-and-red neon “OPEN” sign hanging out a window.
Normally, I wouldn’t have given such a place a second thought, but the desert heat was stupefying, and I badly needed a cold drink, maybe even a ten-pound bag of ice.
I walked through the doorway, and was immediately struck by the sheer quantity of guns, mostly antique six-shooters, completely covering every pegboarded wall. More guns hung from coat racks spaced throughout the room, and a few dozen old Winchester rifles were stacked into wastebaskets like umbrellas. No one seemed to be home, but behind the counter was a large stand-up cooler with an assortment of drinks in it.
"Hello?" I called out tentatively.
"Howdy, pardner!" a creaky drawl answered from the back room. The wizened old cowboy sauntered in with the rolling gait of a man who had spent many of his hours on a horse. "Kin I help ya?"
It occurred to me that old cowboys never die, they just open up convenience stores in the middle of nowhere.
"Can I have a bottle of Gatorade? Big. Big bottle, please. Yeah."
The proprietor handed me the bottle, and motioned me towards a small wooden table with a few chairs. On the table was a stack of disposable plastic cups. "Set a spell, cool off," he insisted. "If ya need anythin' else, just holler."
"Well, I did want to ask where you got all these guns," I said.
"Used to be a Texas Lawman," he modestly stated, as if this explained everything.
But then I noticed the letters "CB" on his massive silver belt buckle.
"Hey," I ventured, "Are you... Cal Bronson?"
"Guilty as charged, sir."
"Didn't they used to call you Cowardly Cal?"
"That's Crafty Cal, thanks," he countered.
"Granted. So how'd you get all the guns?"
"Well, I tracked a lot o' outlaws in my day," Cal began, "and oftener than not, it'd come down to a shootout. I'd have 'em pinned down behind a barrel or boulder or some such, and the bullets would be flyin' every which way. Now I was the fastest bullet-dodger in the West, so it wasn't long 'til their guns were shootin’ nothin’ but clicks. In their final desperate act, they'd whip their empty gun at me and high-tail it out o' there. I'd make like they'd slowed me down - I wanted 'em to feel like they was doin’ well - but soon as they were out of sight, I'd just pick up their shootin' arn and slip it into my saddlebag.
"Yee-haa! Thanks, sucker!!"