Johnson paused for a minute and reached for the goblet on the table. He sipped the liquid slowly and smacked his lips. “That stuff is nectar, the elixir of life, a veritable dream in liquid form. This is special stuff. It’s made from pumpkins. A friend of mine has a place called Pumpkin Hollow, and he makes a living selling pumpkins and this pumpkin juice brew.”
He returned the glass to the table. “Anyway, on with the story. A fellow named Asa Bacon settled in Bailiwick after making his fortune in the lumber industry. Asa was not only a hard worker, but also an inventor. Although he made more money in his lumber business than he ever did from inventing.
“Asa built a commercial building in Bailiwick, and there it sits today. It’s occupied by a music store called Horns A’Plenty. They furnish all the musical instruments for Bowlegs’ high school band.
“Asa did much of his inventing in that building. And I’m going to discuss one of his inventions tonight. Asa created the first anti-theft device ever invented, to protect folks against horse thieves.”
Johnson paused and took a small sip of pumpkin juice. “Stealing horses in them days was big business. Heck, even if you caught somebody stealin’ your horse and tried to stop ’em, they’d probably shoot you dead in the process. So, Asa figured there’d be a good market for an automatic anti-theft device and felt he was just the man to invent one.
“He purchased several saddles to experiment on. Folks passing by his workshop heard tapping, sawing, banging, and hammering sounds, way into the night. This went on six days a week for almost a year and a half.
“One day, Asa felt that he had finally come upon his ah-hah day. He’d done it. He invented the first workable anti-theft device for a horse. On close inspection, no one would ever suspect that it was there.
“Asa had ingeniously installed a .44-caliber derringer in the saddle horn. It was spring-operated. If a person climbed into the saddle without disarming the mechanism, the cap on the saddle horn would flip open and the derringer would rise up on an expandable armature and shoot the thief in the face. Totally ingenious.”
Johnson took another short snort of pumpkin juice. “Horse thieves in them days were running rampant, and word of Asa’s automatic horse anti-theft device spread quick. When the sheriff heard about it, he was intrigued and rushed over to Asa’s shop. The inventor proudly displayed a model saddle, and the lawman studied the invention carefully. ‘It’s foolproof,’ the sheriff proclaimed. ‘My god, man, you’re a genius.’
“The sheriff insisted on being the very first person in the territory to own such a device and begged Asa to sell him the saddle. Asa quoted a price he never expected the sheriff to pay, and to his surprise the sheriff handed over the cash on the spot and carried the saddle to his stable.
“The sheriff was pleased with his new saddle and its anti-theft device. He patrolled his town more than ever for the next three weeks. He almost wished a thief would try to steal his mount. He wondered if news about the special saddle had spread so fast that no badman was brave enough to try to steal his horse.
“One day, while the lawman was getting a haircut, a cowboy burst into the barbershop and shouted, ‘Somebody just held up the General Mercantile, and he’s about to make his getaway!’
“The sheriff bounded from the barber chair, tore off his apron, ran for his horse, and leaped into the saddle…without disarming the anti-theft device.”
Johnson paused for a minute and took a sip from his glass. “And by golly if Asa’s invention didn’t work exactly as designed. When the sheriff’s behind hit the saddle, the cap on the saddle horn snapped open, the derringer rose up, and KA-BLAM…it blew the sheriff’s nose clean off.
“The robber got away, and the sheriff spent three weeks under Doc Ridley’s care. Asa felt terrible that his invention resulted in the lawman’s great physical loss. He hated the fact that what was once the sheriff’s nose was now two dark holes.
“He felt obligated to make it up to the sheriff and decided to do everything in his power to help him. Soon, he got another idea. He grabbed a few measuring tools, pencil, and paper, and went to visit the recuperating sheriff.
“He explained his plan, and after much discussion, measuring, more talk, and even more measuring, the sheriff agreed to let Asa build him a sterling silver nose. Free of charge.
“Asa felt elated and devoted all his inventiveness to fabricating the best-fitting, most naturally shaped nose he could envision. He threw himself into his new project, and surprisingly it too was a success. Completely.
“The sheriff was astounded. Once again he could go about town and do his job. He wouldn’t worry anymore about frightening women and little children, and dogs wouldn’t bark at him. Sure, his nose reflected the sun, and on some days he nearly blinded his own self, but who cared…he had a nose.”
Johnson paused for another jolt of pump juice. “And all went well until one gray day. It was about midmorning, and the sheriff was passing by a funeral wagon when an unexpected and totally uncontrollable sneeze came from the depths of his lungs and exited through his sterling silver nostrils.
“If you can imagine the highest clarinet note, amplified 25 times, blown almost into the ears of the two horses hitched to that hearse, you’ll understand why they took off running like hellfire was behind ’em.
“The animals made a panicky right turn down Second Street, and the wide hearse door swung open. The box holding the remains of the recently deceased ex-mayor slid out and sprang open when it hit the ground. Old Mayor Thimble sat propped up against the hitching post in front of the post office.
“The sheriff’s nose slipped and dangled from its thong under his right ear, but he didn’t try to adjust it. He was running too fast toward Asa’s workshop.
“All was not lost. Three days later, the sheriff sported an improved nose. Asa had melted the old one down, made a few adjustments, and fitted the sheriff with a redesigned nose.
“The sheriff needn’t worry about spooking any more horses. His nose had a satin finish now and played in a lower key.”
Johnson took one more hit from his glass and said, “That’s it, folks. The next time you find yourself in Bailiwick, look for a music store called Horns A’Plenty. That’s Asa Bacon’s old place.
“Oh, and the sheriff’s nose now resides in a glass box in the Territorial Museum on Main Street, across from a Wal Mart. If you go there, tell ’em W.P. Johnson Jr. sent you.”
Johnson rose, waved to the people in the dining room, and stepped off the dais amid soft applause.
Note: The above is a snippet from my book, Fiammetta’s Triumph. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and from most of the other leading booksellers. Click here, for purchase information.