High Noon in Troutwood

[March, 2002]

Once upon a time there was a village of a few dozen denizens called “Troutwood,” overlooking a glistening Alpine lake.

But for many years no one could catch the lake’s exotic and agile “prancing redhead” strain of golden trout, no matter how hard they tried. Indeed, the Flycasters International Association dangled its coveted World Gamefish Cup as bait for any flycaster who came up with a lure that could conquer the cagey critter.

As it happened, the village moneylender (affectionately tagged “Cash”… after the sawbuck he kept conspicuously tucked into the band of his black Stetson hat) stumbled across a river Thames trout fly called “Royal Coachman” that had just about all the right stuff; with minor feather-tweaking and the substitution of an improved, special-alloy hook (i.e., just enough tweaks to later try to claim the li’l gizmo as entirely his own design), it was a trout temptress extraordinaire. And it proved to be eminently bad news for those elusive redheads. He named his creation “Cash’s Coachman.” The simple lure went on to become legend, and Cash captured the World Gamefish Cup and countless accolades for his achievement.

But Troutwood was a small village, and Cash couldn’t turn a profit selling his hand-tied flies. His Coachman had had its day in the sun; now it was time to move on. He abandoned Troutwood to pursue other endeavours, joined by Hank, the larger-than-life village blacksmith who had hot-hammered those high-nickel-content #289 hooks for Cash’s flies.

In the meantime, back in the village there were Troo Bleevers—a budding core of enthusiasts who never had the opportunity to own a “Coachman,” but who deemed it to be The Holy Grail of trout fishermen, and meriting a second chance at life. And they all felt great warmth for THE MAN, this towering figure of their pastoral pastime. To the last worshipping follower they each felt deeply that Ol’ Cash hisself walked on the very water those “prancing redhead” trout swam in.

Only a year or two after Cash cast off to parts unknown, one of the village’s residents named Arnold set out to fashion something similar himself. He started producing his “Arnie’s Coachman” and sold them to other Troutwood residents. Word spread. His flies were so wildly popular that out-of-towners traveled to Troutwood to purchase them, and the little village started growing in population. Within only a few years the population of owners of “Coachman” variants had reached over 700, steadily climbing.

As the years and decades passed, dozens more Troo Bleevers in Troutwood got into fashioning their own variants of “The Coachman.” In the meantime the village had become a small town, then a medium-sized town as resident-owners of Coachmen surpassed the 30,000 mark. In Troutwood’s unbridled enthusiasm to perpetuate “The Coachman,” the fabled fly had long since taken on an entirely new life of its own. Why, there were young Troutwood dwellers who hadn’t even been born when Cash fashioned his first fish seducers, but they too were none-the-less avid Coachman enthusiasts. Their allegiance and their keeping alive and spreading the word about The Coachman served to propel Ol’ Cash into Legend status, to etch his place in Troutwood’s hallowed hallways. There were even “Cash Clubs” and “Coachman Rallies.” All because of those devotees and Troo Bleevers and new recruits who had kept the fly flying all those years. Blue skies. Everyone was happy.

Even Ol’ Cash, still meandering aimlessly somewhere out there in the wilderness, was happy. Why, for years after the first Coachman variants were introduced and serving to multiply the population of Coachman-aware Troo Bleevers, Cash was quoted and paraphrased time and again that, in regards to the countless Coachman variants, “Imitation is the best form of flattery.” He even routinely obliged folks’ requests that he carve his gnarly ‘X’ on their filet boards. For a fee, of course. 250 smackers.

Then, one fine spring day well nigh three decades after he rode over the horizon, word reached town that Cash and his on-again/off-again bosom-buddy Hank were scheduled to arrive on the noon train. Later that same day a foreboding telegram arrived reporting that they were packing six-guns, and were aimin’ to snuff out all Troo Bleevers… that is to say, all of Troutwood. Cash had somehow convinced hisself that all those golden trout meant that thar’s gold in them thar waters of long-bygone Troutwood. And that gold belonged to him, to be surrendered to his countin’ house. His’n Hank’s matched braces of Walker Colts would see to that. This’d be easy; why, nobody in town even carried a gun, much less anything to match the firepower of those big Walkers. More a carbine than a six-gun. Might makes right, eh, pardner?

The town was stunned, disbelieving. Sure, Ol’ Cash had had a serious run-in with the sheriff (altho’ he dismissed it all as a frame-up), and Hank had got hisself into a scrape for the alleged shoddy shodding of nags that resulted in some folks whining that they’d got burned. But shucks, shuffle shuffle, did these widely-publicized faux pas provide any clue that this formerly high-flying fly-tying tag team would one day turn their shootin’ irons on their Troo Bleevers? Can it be that Cash and Hank… our heroes... are now out to gun us down? Can this be true?

It was true.

When the locomotive whistle began sounding at quarter-’til-noon, trembling Troo Bleevers peered from their windows to get a glimpse of the impending carnage. Then there THEY were, Cash and Hank, stalking their way down Main Street, their fingers twitching by their big Colt sidearms: These Damned Troo Bleevers. There would be no prisoners. At the stroke of 12 the two gunslingers cleared leather; withering fire exploded from all four Walkers.

The first to go down were two of the Town’s most popular Coachman fly tyers, Matt and Bob. Wounded, point-44 slugs im bofum. Cash and Hank elated, congratulating themselves, glowering. Those two bullet-riddled burghers were Admirers and Troo Bleevers and skilled at casting those flies, and they were held in warmest regard in Troutwood. Why, darn near every adult and child in town had chipped in and contributed their jar of butter-‘n’-aig money just to help Bob with his ailing Tiny Tim. But Bob lay there bleedin’ alongside Matt just the same. Sneers. Next came those damned medium-sized and mom-‘n’-pop fly-tyers. Good family folks, mostly, their hearts and minds tied to fly-tying. And in holding Cash and Hank in their highest esteem. Indeed, most uv ’em’s barns ‘n’ stables were chock full uv Hank’s blacksmithing handiwork. Shot daid. Sneers.

But the shootin’ ain’t over jest yet. There’s the dregs to deal with… those pesky legions of enthusiastic, giddy, autograph-seekin’ Coachman casters, even their wide-eyed chillun proudly showin’ off their little “Cash’s Coachman” T-shirts. A pox on ’em all, the varmints. If you spot one uv ’em with so much as a Coachman clone snagged onto his fishin’ fedora, kneecap him and let ’im suffer. Shoot ’em. Shoot ’em all. Shoot ’em daid. Empty their pockets, pry the gold fillings from their ivories, barter off the sorry young’uns to the Comanches. More sneers. More shootin’. Nothin’ left now but Troo Bleever casualties and corpses scattered ’round everywhere. Wafting stench of black powder fumes. All quiet ’cept for the reloadin’.

Not over. Not yet. Cash and Hank swagger over to the lake and kick over drums of chlordane, emptying them into the crystal-clear water. Within minutes all the trout had bellied-up to the surface.

“We won!” whooped Cash, slapping his thighs with his B Western Stetson as sidekick Hank gleefully danced The Funky Chicken.

Curt Scott’s standard CobraCountry signature


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