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Calendar >  Close Shave -Thomas Calabrese

Close Shave -Thomas Calabrese

By   /  February 13, 2022  /  7 Comments


Waited His Turn

Thomas Calabrese –It had been a rough sixteen days for U.S. Marshal Cole Devlin. He was ordered to take infamous and ruthless bank robber Nicodemus Carp from Escondido to San Juan Capistrano for trial. It was not a totally uneventful journey as Carp was as mean and unpredictable as a young rattlesnake. He was foul-mouthed and cursed and grumbled incessantly along the trail. Carp saw a slim opportunity when they made camp outside San Clemente and decided to take it. A violent fight ensued and Carp lost two teeth, suffered a concussion and a dislocated shoulder while Cole Devlin sustained two broken ribs and multiple bruises.

As he looked up from the dirt, Carp grimaced, “You can’t blame a fella’ for trying.”

Cole firmly tied the injured prisoner to his saddle and Carp complained, “That’s too tight…you’re cutting off my circulation.”

Cole responded without emotion, “Decisions have consequences…bad decisions have painful ones.”

When he reached the jail in San Juan, Marshal Devlin added the charges of attempted escape and assault on a law enforcement officer to the incorrigible criminal’s charge sheet. He looked at Carp in his prison cell and vowed, “I’ll be back for your trial.”

Carp responded defiantly, “Devlin, no jail can hold me. I’ll live long enough to put you below ground and spit on your grave!”

            “Even a soul-less creature like yourself needs to have some glimmer of hope while you’re rotting away in some hole,” Cole opened the cell door and punched Carp in the face and broke his nose, “I reckon you can add that to the list of why you want me pushing up daisies on Boot Hill.”

Cole had a good meal at Juanita’s Cantina before he hit the trail for his return home and was making good time when he noticed that his horse was not walking properly. He dismounted checked his horse’s right hoof and noticed a loose shoe. Rather than ride his trusty mount, Cole walked his horse eleven miles to Oceanside. He slipped his badge in his pocket and stopped off at Sweeney’s Blacksmith Shop and asked. “My horse has a loose shoe…do you think that you can take care of it for me?”

Buck Sweeney flashed a toothless grin and responded, “Give me about an hour…just finishing up another job.”

            “Good enough, I can use a shave and a haircut.” Cole responded. “You got a barbershop around here?”

            “Jubal’s is not far from here.”

When Cole reached the barbershop, he asked. “I need a shave and haircut.”

Jubal Tanner had one cowboy in the chair and said. “I’ve got one ahead of you.”

            “I’ll wait.” Cole said and sat down and pulled his cowboy hat low over his eyes and dozed off.

Twenty minutes later, “You’re up, pardner.”  Jubal said.

Cole had just sat down in the barber’s chair when Bigtree Bender, Wexton Geary and three rough looking men come through the door.

Bigtree walked over to Cole, “Get out of the chair!”

Cole replied, “Wait your turn.”

Bigtree pulled his Colt 45 and put it up to Cole’s jaw and snarled, “If you don’t get out of that chair, the next shave you’ll get will be by the devil’s hand.”

Wexton Geary warned, “You better do like he says, he’s not joshing.”

Cole stepped down from the chair and took off the apron. As he walked out of the door, one of the men kicked him in the seat of the pants. The group laughed.

Thirty minutes later, Cole was sitting outside when the five men exited the barbershop. At first, they didn’t notice him, but Cole got their attention with this simple statement, “There’s a price to pay for jumping to the front of the line. It’s time to pay up.”

Bigtree didn’t know what to make of this man who was standing there and outnumbered five to one, “What price would that be?”

            “I figure a hundred bucks and an apology might ease my troubled mind.”

Wexton Geary was dumfounded and replied. “You’re plum loco.”

            “Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but I’m a flexible kind of guy.” Cole’s voice turned cold and threatening. “Skin those smokewagons then.”

Two men reached for their pistols and in the blink of an eye, Cole shot the holsters off their hips. He fired another shot that nicked a man’s ear. Bigtree looked at Wexton then reached into his pocket and pulled out two fifty dollar gold pieces. He tossed them to Cole who caught them. As Bigtree and Wexton walked by, Cole kicked both of them in the seat of the pants and they fell face first in the dirt. A group of townspeople laughed and this angered and embarrassed Bigtree who screamed at Cole. “This ain’t over!  I’ll see you soon…real soon.”

Slagin LaRue, the barber warned, “He’ll kill you first chance that he gets.”

Cole smiled, “I get that a lot. I still need that shave and haircut.”

After getting a shave, haircut and a hot bath. Slagin Larue said, “That will be two bucks.”

            “Got change for a fifty dollar gold piece?” Cole asked.

Slagin shook his head in amazement, “You’re mighty calm for a dude whose days are numbered.”`

            “It ain’t going to do much good worrying about it.” Cole said.

As Cole exited the barbershop, Sheriff Willard Kerner was waiting for him. Standing next to him were Bigtree Bender and Wexton Geary wearing deputy sheriff badges.

Sheriff Kerner called out, “You’re under arrest, Mister.”

            “And these two hombres are your deputies?” Cole inquired, “You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

            “Keep talking and when we shoot you full of holes you’ll be singing a different tune.” Bigtree laughed.

            “It was self-defense, Sheriff. There were enough witnesses around to tell you that I didn’t draw first.” Cole said then added, “Did you bother to ask?”

            “That’s for a judge to decide.” Sheriff Kerner said.

            “I reckon you’ll have to arrest me.” Cole said and pulled his badge out of his pocket and pinned it to his shirt. “Cole Devlin, United States Marshal.”

Sheriff Kerner was at first surprised then apologetic, “Cole Devlin, I’ve heard of you…sorry for any trouble I’ve caused you.”

            “Am I still under arrest?” Cole asked.

            “Reckon not.” Sheriff Kerner said and walked away

 Bigtree called out in outrage. “You coward! It ain’t over ‘til I say it’s over!” and shot Kerner in the leg. Cole pulled his pistol and shot Bigtree in the forehead and he fell face first in the dirt.

 Wexton instinctively reached for his weapon and that proved to be a fatal mistake and Cole shot him down too.

As he was leaving town, Slagin Larue quipped, “Remind me to never get on the fighting side of you.”

            “Don’t break the law and always give me a close shave and you’ll be fine.” Cole said and kept riding to Vista.”

Slagin called to the legendary U.S. Marshal. “I bet that Bigtree wished he had waited his turn. Happy trails to you, lawdog!”

Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance

The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org


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  1. Tony says:

    A very nice and a very positive law enforcement story this Sunday in the Vista Press by Mr. Omahas Calabrese. This story took me back to the time I was a kid and went to the movies on Saturday afternoon to watch the old favorite westerns where the good guy always got his man. But, it was a lesson well learned, “Don’t break the Law or you will pay the consequences” Thanks Mr. Calabrese for taking back to an era we will never see again.

  2. john michels says:

    Now that was a fine read Pardner!

  3. Robert says:

    Thanks for the Sunday story. Always enjoy your stories, keep them coming.

  4. wolf says:

    Entertaining story

    Cole was lucky that there was no ACLU or criminal activist group during his tenure as Marshal, otherwise he’d be the one in jail.

  5. Skip says:

    Great story! I like it!

  6. Clyde says:

    I always enjoy westerns. This was a good one

  7. Terry Lutz says:

    Good story Tom. I think I’ll watch an episode of The Virginian now!!

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