The life and times of Marshall Luke Johnsonby a. j. Lombardi Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved
A Conscience Seared
The site of watching this young boy trying to wake his father who just shot himself was something I could not turn or walk away from! I did not want him to see the blood that was slowly pooling onto the right side of the table. I headed over to the boy and tried to get his attention to look into another direction, over to the bald headed man with no teeth playing the piano. “What’s your name boy?” Shyly staring to the floor he replied “My name is Ben just like my Pa.” I suggested that we go outside and not disturb his Pa who may be taking a nap.
Outside the entrance of the Dove Tree saloon I saw a young woman sitting alone in a small buckboard type wagon. The thought kept rushing through my mind, “How do I tell this complete stranger that her husband just shot himself to death less than ten minutes ago?” The young boy then pulled on his mother’s shawl and said ‘Pa won’t get up, I think he is sleeping and I think this man is a friend of Pa, his name is Luke!”
The woman greeted me with a polite and cordial smile. She then abruptly turned to the boy and said, “Come on Ben, we have to go, we’ll come back and pick up Pa later! I then grabbed the reins before she tapped the horse to move along. “Ma’am, there is something you must know. Your husband had a bad accident inside! I did not have the heart to look her in the eye and say that he just shot himself to death. Hearing the news to what I just said did not bring any emotion to her. She seemed unresponsive. At that, I had to just come out and say, “Ma”m your husband is dead!”
She then turned to me and said. “Mister, my husband died a long time ago thanks to you Yankees! I was stunned by what she said!” She then gave a tap for her horse to move on. As she rode away I was left alone in the dusty street in front of the Dove Tree saloon in a town far from home.
I headed back into the saloon and to my amazement the dead man was still sitting in his chair with his head lying on the table in a pool of blood. Not one person in the saloon took notice as the drinking, loud laughter and dancing continued on. I could not leave him there. I figured to head over the sheriffs office and inform him of the situation. As I headed to leave, the thought of the man’s engraved Colt 44 revolver came to mind. I could see the gun’s shiny barrel pointing out under his jacket as he lay slumped over on the chair. Surly someone would steal the highly valued gun, and maybe I should get it before someone else did. My thoughts went back to the first major battle in the civil war at Bull Run. The Union army lost so many soldiers to the Confederate troops under General P.G.T. Beauregard. I remember watching the Confederate soldiers rummaging through the dead bodies of the Union soldiers taking everything they could. “The scene enraged me and yet, “Here I was about to do the very same thing to a southern gentleman who just lost his life!”
Without a second thought I shamefully pretended that I knew the dead man who was just slumped over in a drunken state. As I pretended to go over and say something into his ear, I then slipped my right hand under his jacket and took the gun. To this day, it was something I have regretted the rest of my life. The handle of the Colt was wet with blood. It was a day my conscience was seared and stained as the bloody handle of the Colt 44.
I decided to head over to the sheriff’s office to inform him of the situation. When he arrived he looked at the man lying dead, and looked up at me and said, “Did you shoot him?” “Of course not sheriff! Why would I kill a man and then come and get you?” Ok, so then where is his gun, and why is there blood on your right hand? I guess he was referring to a small amount of blood I got on my hand when I took the bloodied gun.
“Sherriff, I think someone in the saloon must have stolen the gun when I went outside to talk to his wife. The sheriff then shook his head saying nothing.” After a few moments of silence, he took a cigar from his front pocket, lit it up and said, “There is a lot of this kind of stuff going around these days. I guess it’s just another casualty of war!”
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