Revenge is Sweet

by Patty Cornish

Revenge is Sweet

Originally written in 1966-1967 when I was in 6th and7th grade

Edited for grammar and content 06/14/04



It was early morning as Slim Sherman and Jess Harper walked down the main street of Laramie. The two men had come into town early so that they could gather up their supplies and head back to the ranch before dark.

They soon went their separate ways, each having different tasks in different parts of town, but they agreed to meet at the saloon around mid-afternoon.

Sometime later, as Jess was walking down a back alley to pick up a bridle he had left to be mended at the blacksmith’s shop, he became aware of footsteps behind him. Although his reactions were quick, he did not turn fast enough to duck as the man behind him drew a gun and fired several shots. Suddenly a searing pain shot through his whole body. It soon became too much for him to bear. His knees buckled and he met the ground with a hard thud.

Jess’ vision blurred as he struggled to see who had shot him. He instantly recognized the man, now standing looking down on him with a very ugly smile on his face. Then unconsciousness completely overcame him and he lay limp on the alley path.

His errands completed, Slim walked into the saloon. Seeing that Jess hadn’t yet arrived, he sat down to have a drink and wait for him. Around dusk he began to worry, as Jess still had not shown up. Slim knew that Jess was not the type to go chasing around after girls or to get into trouble so he went out to look for him.

As he went from store to store each owner replied that he had not seen Jess all day. Suddenly Slim remembered Jess saying something about picking up a bridle at the blacksmith shop.

He ran quickly down the alley path and then stopped abruptly as he spotted Jess lying before him, his clothes stained with blood.

He rushed to the limp figure and stooped to check for any signs of life. To his great relief he felt a faint heartbeat. Quickly he ran back up the alley and called to some men to help him while one ran ahead to alert the doc.

Minutes later Slim could be seen pacing back and forth in the doctor’s office. Every minute the doc was in that back room seemed like an hour to Slim. Finally the doctor came out. Slim’s first question was, “Will he live, Doc?”

The doc responded, “Slim, it’s a miracle that man’s alive. I never saw anybody lose that much blood and live even this long. I can’t tell you if he’s going to die. Right now Jess’ fate lies in the hands of the Almighty!”

Slim asked, “Could I leave Jess here with you?”

The doc responded, “I’m afraid not. The only place he could stay is in this back room and it gets colder than a mackerel back here at night.” Slim reluctantly agreed and went outside to get the buckboard.

It was getting late when Slim came in sight of the ranch. He had figured that Jonesy would be sleeping but the kitchen light was lit.

As the buckboard drew up in front of the house Jonesy came out with a fierce scowl on his face. He glanced at the wagon and then let his temper go.

“Slim Sherman, what did you do? Forget your head this morning? Where in the world are the supplies and where in the blue-blazes is Jess?”

Slim replied, “Jess is in the back of the wagon, Jonesy but…”


Jonesy did not let him finish but marched to the back of the wagon muttering to himself about fixing Jess for sleeping on the job.

Suddenly he cried, “Slim, what happened to Jess? Is he dead?”

Slim replied. “ No Jonesy, he ain’t dead but he will be if you don’t help me carry him in the house.”

“Sure, Slim, sure” was Jonesy’s quick and quiet reply.

“Jonesy, is Andy still up?” Slim asked.

“Yup”, replied Jonesy “He wanted to show Jess that lasso he made out of the twine you brought home the other day. How ya going to tell him? How ya going to tell a boy that age?”

“I know that Jess and Andy are close, but we’re not going to give up hope yet”, Slim muttered.

Just then Andy came running out of the house shouting, “Jess! Come here and see the lasso I made for you!”

Slim felt a lump in his throat as Andy ran to the wagon. “Hey, Slim!” Andy shouted. “Where’s Jess? Ah, Slim, what’s the matter?”


“Listen, Andy”, Slim replied, “Something happened in town and Jess got hurt real bad.”


Andy’s face, which had been fixed in a happy grin, immediately turned slightly pale.


Slim, who noticed his younger brother’s change in color wanted to take back everything he had just said but he had to go on.

“He’s not dead, but he’s hurt real bad and it may be a long time before he gets better. You’ll help won’t you?”

Andy replied, “’Course I will, Slim. We won’t let him die. He’s just got to live!”

Jonesy, who had been standing by motioned to Slim to carry Jess into the house.

Andy ran ahead to get the bed ready. Minutes now passed but they seemed like hours to Slim and Jonesy. Neither of the men had had any sleep but they were willing to sacrifice it.

Towards morning Jess seemed to be burning with fever and Jonesy kept cold cloths on his forehead. As evening approached the fever seemed a little better but now Jess was moving around and Slim and Jonesy were afraid that the wounds would open up again.

Slim stayed with Jess the rest of that next night.

On towards morning Slim awoke abruptly. Jess had been moving restlessly in the bed. Suddenly he uttered a low groan. Slim waited tensely for any signs of consciousness.

Then, slowly, Jess’ eyes began to open. Gazing about with a quizzical look Jess’ eyes finally fell on Slim. Talk did not come just then and Slim raced to his friend telling him to be still and rest. Slowly Jess’ eyes began to close and Slim silently gave thanks that the most critical stage was over.

Meanwhile back in town at the Laramie Bar, a tall man was sitting having a drink. He smiled to himself. His name was Jim Reed. He had ridden into town a few days ago and nobody had really noticed him. Townspeople figured he was just an ordinary stranger. But Jim Reed had a special reason for being in town. He was the man who had shot Jess.

Jim had shot Jess out of revenge and right now he was thinking that revenge was sweet. He was glad Jess was dead – or so he assumed. His reason went back a number of years.

At that time Jess was a stand-in deputy for the sheriff in Cheyenne. He was riding posse to catch the two Reed brothers. The younger brother had shot down another man in cold blood.

Eventually the posse had split up and Jess rode toward a high rocked wall to the south. As he entered a canyon near the wall he came upon an old abandoned shack. In front of the shack were the two Reed brother’s horses.

Jess now approached the building with caution. Upon entering the building Jess found it to be empty. Just then he heard voices in the back.

As he slowly opened the back door he found the two Reed brothers who were more than a little surprised at his abrupt appearance.

Pat Reed, the younger of the two panicked and suddenly drew on Jess but there was a bullet in his chest before he could pull the trigger.

Pat stumbled forward and fell on Jess.

Jim Reed was enraged by the apparent death of his brother. He drew his gun on Jess who was regaining his feet after being knocked down by Pat’s weight.

Suddenly hoof beats could be heard in the distance advancing rapidly. Jim panicked and ran for his horse.

As he ran he turned to Jess and shouted, “I’ll get you yet, Harper. I’ll get revenge on you for killing my brother if it’s the last thing I do!”

At this he rode off and Jess never saw him again until a few days ago.

Jim was still sitting there thinking when two men came stomping in to the saloon.

“Hey guys!” they shouted, “The sheriff wants some men for a posse. He’s looking for the man who shot Jess Harper. Jess ain’t dead but Slim sure wants to catch the guy who did it.”

Jim’s smile immediately disappeared. Thoughts raced through his head. “Next time those men came into the saloon they’d be saying that Harper was dead”, he thought.

Meanwhile, back at the Sherman ranch Jess was slowly getting better. He could talk now and was able to eat solid food. Andy seemed to be continually waiting on his every need. It was not that Jess wanted it this way but Andy wanted his friend to return to the healthy side of life and this was the only way he could help.

Jess, with all of this lavish attention, was not enjoying himself at all. He was a man of the outdoors and greatly disliked being confined to a bed.

The passing of several days found Jess in an extremely bored mood. His wounds did nothing for his comfort. The critical stage was over and now it would only take a period of time before he was back in the saddle.

Andy had gone into town with Jonesy this particular day and Slim was out in the barn working. With no one in the house Jess gradually drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile, on a ridge overlooking the ranch a lone figure watched the buckboard disappear over the hill. Then, after one quick glance to make sure Slim wasn’t around, Jim Reed rode down a back hill towards the ranch.

As he slowly advanced toward the house Jess awoke abruptly to the sound of a horse’s snorting. Thinking nothing of it he lay back on his pillow.

Suddenly Jess’ attention was drawn toward the back door, which was now slowly opening.

As it swung completely open Jim Reed entered with that same ugly smile on his face.

“Well, Jim”, said Jess, “You finally came back after all of these years. I can remember what happened now.”

“Yeah, Harper.” said Jim. “It’s been a long time. But I told you I’d come back to get revenge because of you killing my brother.”

Jess quietly responded, “Well, Jim, you might as well get it over with. I can’t do anything but Slim might come back from the barn.”

Now Jim could see that Jess was stalling for time by talking so he quickly glanced around the room in search of something.

As Jess watched and waited Jim appeared to finally have found what he was looking for.

From behind the kitchen stove he pulled out a large torch lit it and threw it into the far corner of the kitchen.

“So long, Harper!” he exclaimed. The door closed with a jolt as Jess listened to the departing hoof beats.


Now Jess’ attention was drawn towards the fire. Even though it was not spreading fast it caused a good deal of smoke. He started to choke and then gradually fainted from lack of fresh air.


Slim who had just walked out of the barn, saw the smoke and dashed toward the house.

Upon entering he was nearly overcome by the smoke and immediately put his bandana over his mouth and nose.

He found Jess and dragged him outside some distance from the house and rushed back in.

After dousing the fire with water Slim was relieved to find that only the kitchen had been damaged. He thought of how furious Jonesy would be when he saw his kitchen.

Now he rushed back to Jess and was grateful to see that he was all right.

“Doggone it, Jess! What were you trying to do? Set the whole ranch on fire?” demanded Slim.

Jess replied wearily, “Oh don’t be funny, Slim. You know I couldn’t set a house on fire any more than a horse could. Jim Reed did it.”

Slim paused and then asked “Jim Reed? Who in the world is he?”

Jess then explained, “Well, first of all he was the one who shot me. I’m beginning to remember it all now.”

Jess then proceeded to tell Slim the whole story. He later repeated it to Andy and Jonesy.

The next day Slim rode into town to ask the sheriff about Jim Reed while Jess spent the whole day thinking about what happened.

Several days after the fire Jess was able to stand up and walk. Now that he was up on his feet again he insisted on going outside by himself. Nobody was to go with him, and he wore his gun at his side.

As Jess walked down a small path he suddenly heard a rustle in the bushes and Jim Reed stepped into view.

“Yeah, Harper, I’m back again”, he said. Then after glancing at Jess’ gun he stated, “Now it seems like a fair fight.”

“Ok,” Jess replied, “I’m ready when you are.”

It was over in a few seconds. Slim and Jonesy heard the shots and came running out of the house.

They found Jess standing over Jim Reed. Jim was clutching his shoulder. Jess growled, “I wanted this guy alive for the sheriff!”

“Well, partner,” stated Slim, “Now that you’ve proven you can handle a gun again I’ll have you riding the range in a few days!”

“Oh no you won’t!” Jess shouted. Then, leaving Jonesy to deal with Reed, he slowly chased Slim back up to the house.


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