Even this word was insult. Cowboy - a child, irresponsible and a child's word. Moo-cow. There were steers as often, more often, than cows. Cowboy, as opposed to Cattleman. It was a jeer, lacked dignity. But they took it to themselves.

In Arizona though, near the Mexican border, they were not even cowboys anymore, driving the big herds up from Texas. They were still fighting the Civil War, insipid heirs of Quantrill, putting one over on the North. They were lazy. Thieves, raiders, hold-up men and murderers. Destructive for a whoop and whiskey. Destructive for the sake of irresponsibility.

Year: 1881
Guns in the night, shouts, shattering glass. Damn cowboys shooting up the town again. Weariness. They had not wanted to be lawmen, but to build a frontier empire - solid business, intrigue - yes, politics, shrewdness. They followed Fred White out nevertheless. Duty. To back up the sheriff against lawless Texans.

Curly Bill, strangely sober. Feigning drunkenness.

"Give me your gun."

He had handed it over, at the last second spun it in his hand - a border roll they called it. Fred fell into John's arms, bullet in his gut and clothes aflame.

Later they found it had been a set-up. Murder.

Year: 1881
John looks at the question out of the corner of his eye.
Wyatt had said John was afraid of nothing on Earth.
Wyatt had said John would have been more wise had he been afraid of himself. This last had always been said with a smile, fond and amused, but weary.

John had a great deal he could have feared. Death. Incapacitation. Pain. Bad Luck. Bullets. Jail. These possibilities he learned to live with, adjusting for them, taking them inside himself until they were gone and he had learned to use their presence in others to serve him.
In truth, he was afraid of Wyatt.

The other things he had subsumed. He had let his fear transform into certainty and expectation.

But of this he could not let go. To want is to fear. To hope is to fear. To look forward is to fear. Because they are an investment of feeling. And if they do not fulfill themselves that feeling will bankrupt itself. John saw this possibility clearly. And dreaded it, but he could not accept it, could not kneel and offer himself one more time to fate. It meant too much - loss of those investments would have broken him, he thought. Instead it was the fear that ruined him. And he betrayed himself, lost it all.

He feared Wyatt.
He should have feared himself.
And a great deal of what he valued in Wyatt was John's own trust in his friend.

Had he left Georgia because he feared Mattie, or himself? He had been so young then, but he had been right. And Mattie had remained with him.


Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Fandom: History.
Word Count: 270
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