Murder In Old Doon

It happened in the livery barn, after an argument in the Saloon

Reprinted from "OF LIZARDS AND ANGELS"
by Frederick Manfred

Editor's note: Long, long ago in Doon's early history there was a murder at the local livery barn. The year is believed to have been 1877.


It all started as an argument between two stagecoach drivers who got "likkered up" in the saloon. It was a silly argument that ended in a violent death for one man.

Novelist Frederick Manfred came upon the incident while researching local history back in the year 1943. This murder in Doon was fictionally told in Manfred's most recent book, Of Lizards and Angels, published in April of 1992.

"The story is basically factual," said Manfred, who granted special permission to reprint it in this history.

The story opens in the livery barn. Here then is Manfred's account of murder in Old Doon:

"Ain't much you can hide in a small town." Smucker picked up Gyp's hoof again and began trimming it with a pincers and a hoof knife.

"You didn't see the stagecoach coming in, did you? Jack, the driver, is supposed to bring in a shipment of shoe caulks for me today."

"Not in the heavy snow. In fact, I doubt if a driver would want to be out in it."

"Oh, I'll get my shipment all right. Because Jack's got the ribbons today, and he'll come or die." Smucker lifted the plate of sheet steel under a horseshoe and began to nail the two in place, driving the flat nails into the hoof and then clinching them where their points showed through. "Too bad about our drivers, Jack and Lon."


"Jack Church drives for the Bonnie-Le Mars line and Lonnie Brandon drives for the Bonnie-Wodan line. Apart neither one is a bragger. But when them two get together, they've got to brag. The one has to outbest the other. No help for it either, I guess. Jack Church and Lonnie Brandon are like two bulls in a pasture with only one heifer between them. They've got to show off in front of her."

Tunis liked the smells of the blacksmith shop. There was something appetizing about the heated metal; the taste of baked apples was in it. The drifting smoke from the pink burning coals in the bellows made him think of a fabled city in dream.

There was a rattling sound in the falling snow outside, then the muffled clopping hooves, then a great shout, "Whoa!" in front of the Bonnie Hotel.

"There he is now. Good. Now I can make me some more horseshoes."

Gyp seemed to understand good was being done for him, and quit leaning on Smucker. He nickered in pleasure at the stagecoach horses outside.

Smucker rasped the edges of Gyp's hoof even with the shoe. "There," he said, dropping Gyp's hoof to the dirt floor. "That's better than it was before. That'll be one dollar."

Tunis paid up then led Gyp back to the livery barn.

That afternoon, when the snow let up and the sky cleared, creating a blue made dazzling by the pure white fallen snow; Tunis heard loud voices in Wilter's Saloon. They were boasting voices, roaring what they could do. Tunis guessed it was Jack Church and Lonnie Brandon at it again. Tunis stepped down off the boardwalk and shuffled through the snow-streaked rutted street and then up the steps into the saloon. Sure enough, the two drivers were bragging about who had the fastest horses.

"Jack," you're a . . . liar. "Your watch must've stopped."

"Lonnie, nobody calls me a liar."

"But Jack, you couldn't have done it that fast."

"Ask Oekie over at the livery stable. And then ask Quimby down at Le Mars. They'll tell you."

Just when it looked like the two drivers were about to come to blows, Wilter, the saloonkeeper, interposed. He warned the boys he'd throw 'em both out himself if they didn't shut up. "So make up, or else."

With hanging lower lips, knowing all eyes were on them, the two shook hands. Then they went back to drinking.

Tunis saw the truce wasn't going to last. Their handshakes'd been too limp.

Just before supper, Tunis went out to the livery stable and fed Gyp. Gyp whickered in pleasure, standing solid on his new horseshoe.

Tunis had just started up the alley to leave when Lonnie came chasing Jack into the barn entrance. Lonnie was brandishing a heavy singletree, cursing like a madman, foam at the corners of his mouth. "No ... skinny ... is going to tell me I don't know how to shake hands like a man."

Jack nimbly avoided Lonnie's wild swings, his blue eyes turning light. Jack spotted a pitchfork standing near a wooden upright and jumped for it. Then he whirled on Lonnie. He made several stabbing motions with the tines of the fork; finally managed to get in a thrust that nicked Lonnie in the side.

"Ow!" Lonnie roared. and then seeing his singletree was no match against a pitchfork; he dropped the wooden bar and ran out of the livery stable.

"That ..." Jack murmured.

Oekie the proprietor came out of his office with a white face, shaking. He'd witnessed it all through a dusty window. "Jack, you better stay out of sight for a while."

"Lonnie will be back. And the next time he won't come with just a club. I know. He carries grudges."

"He also carries a big mouth."

"Just get out of here. Because he'll be back."

Jack's neck and head came up, "Well, first I'm gonna feed my horses."

"Suit yourself. But don't say I didn't warn you."

Jack shook his head, as if to say wasn't that the limit? He started feeding his four horses.

Tunis stopped to tell Oekie he'd be leaving early in the morning and that he'd probably better pay up that night for the keep of his horse. Tunis had just handed over the money when there was another bellow behind him in the doorway of the livery stable.

It was Lonnie Brandon carrying a shotgun. "Where's that braggin' ... 'oh, there you are. So you thought you could stab me in the guts with a pitchfork, huh?"

Jack was standing between two of his chestnut bays.

"Now, Lonnie, let's not use guns. You shouldna come after me with that singletree. Then I wouldn't have grabbed the fork."

"But you were still gonna spill my guts with that pitchfork, warn't you? Well, I'll never forgive you for that." Lonnie was so engorged with rage his gray eyes were almost shut. He raised the shotgun; aimed, pulled the trigger.

There was a bright flash of light, a roar that shook the rafters of the livery stable and made every horse in the place rear up at the end of its halter ropes. A big hole showed up where Jack's nose and mouth had once been even as Jack was blown back. Jack slid out of sight. A blue cloud of gunpowder smoke slowly drifted up toward the rafters.

Lonnie lowered his shotgun, "You don't tamper with my guts ... you."

Tunis jumped for Lonnie, jolting him from the side. Tunis's weight carried the two of them down, the shotgun flying off to one side. Tunis straddled Lonnie as Lonnie lay sprawled on his belly. Tunis grabbed Lonnie's wrists and jerked them up behind his back.

Tunis said, "Oekie, call the Marshall."

Oekie came walking over. He looked down at Tunis and Lonnie, then over at where Jack had fallen between the two chestnut horses. The chestnut horses had begun to jump around. Oekie went over and pulled Jack out from under the trampling hooves. "Yeh, And we better call Mel the undertaker too."

Faces began to appear in the doorway, wondering eyes as big as goose eggs.

A man stormed in past the faces. He was carrying a tablet, pencil caught under his blue cap. "My God, Jack's shot!"

Oekie grimaced sourly, "You newpaper men can't help but smell blood, can you? Like hyenas."

The newspaperman began to scribble furiously in his tablet. "Cold-blooded murder." he muttered as he wrote. "Jack Church is shot down like a dog in the local livery stable."

Presently Marshall Brandt appeared. He collared Lonnie Brandon and led him off to the cooler.

Tunis went to his room. He wanted to hit something.


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