Who the Hell are You?
He was in a semiconscious state when he felt his body decelerating, and then stopping. He was roused completely awake when he felt someone shaking him and asking, “Who the hell are you?”
He replied, “I don’t know. Where am I?”
When his eyes cleared, he saw it was a railroad cop asking, “What are you doing in here?”
“I wish I knew,” he replied.
“Well, whoever you are, get your ass out of here and off of railroad property.”
Looking around, he saw he was in a box car. He repeated, “Where am I?”
“You are in a Southern Pacific box car in the Houston, Texas, switching yard,” came the answer.
“What in the hell am I doing here?” he asked.
“That’s what I want to know, too,” the cop said.
Still groggy, he struggled to his feet and for the first time looked at himself. He saw western boots with spurs, dirty jeans, and a western shirt with blood spots on the front and shoulders. Some blood had also made its way to the front of his jeans. He also saw he was wearing a tied-down, hand-tooled holster, but no pistol. The cartridge belt supporting the holster had cartridge loops but no cartridges.
The cop, sounding louder and meaner told him, “Get out of this car or I’ll hit you on the head with my night stick!” With the cop’s assistance, he managed to climb down from the box car. He was still so dizzy he could hardly stand.
The cop told him, “Boy, you had better go see a doctor. You have a nasty bump on top of your head, and another one on your forehead that has been bleeding.”
He staggered and almost fell, but the cop supported him. Then he said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who I am or where I came from. I can’t remember how I got here or what happened to me.”
With that, the cop’s tone softened and he said, “I guess I believe you. Jump in my wagon and I’ll take you to see a doctor.”
The boy reached in his jeans pockets and felt nothing. “I guess I have no money to pay a doctor.”
“OK then, I’ll take you to the sheriff’s office.”
“Fine with me,” the boy said.
“By the way, I am Sergeant Mike Murphy of the Southern Pacific Railroad Police. Are you sure you don’t know your name?”
“Sorry, but I can’t remember a damned thing.”
Murphy drove the boy to the sheriff’s office and helped him get inside and seated on a chair. Bill Tilden, the sheriff, greeted Mike warmly, as an old friend would.
“Bill, I found this kid I a box car in the switching yard,” Mike explained. “He says he can’t remember his name or what happened to him.”
Tilden took a closer look at the boy as he said, “This kid needs a doctor.”
“I know,” Murphy replied, “but he says he hasn’t got any money to pay for a doctor.”
“What do you want me to do with him?” Tilden asked.
“I don’t know, but I thought you might help him somehow,” Mike replied.
“Well, I can always arrest him for vagrancy, and that will get the county to pay for a doctor, and some food for him,” Tilden explained.
Mike interrupted, “But won’t he need a name?”
“OK--we’ll give him one. He is obviously from Texas and was found on Southern Pacific property, so we’ll call him Tex Pacific.”
“Very original,” Murphy laughingly agreed. Then the sheriff barked an order to a deputy lounging in a corner of the room.
“Go fetch Doc Adams and pronto.”
The deputy took off. The boy had said nothing. Tilden then said to him, “You are lucky Murphy found you. He is a good, kind-hearted man. If some of those other railroad cops had found you, they would have thumped another knot on your head and put you in another box car headed out of town.”
The boy finally spoke. “Thank you both for being kind to me. I appreciate it. I will find a way to repay you.”
“Son, I am going to have to lock you in a cell, but I’ll keep you separated from the other inmates,” Tilden said.
After he was locked in and resting on a cot, the sheriff and Murphy took turns going through a large stack of wanted posters. Tilden explained, “That tied-down holster might mean he is some kind of gunman, or even a bounty hunter; ever since the war ended there have been plenty of young men hanging around with nothing else to do but try to make some easy money by killing a wanted man.”