July 22nd, Midnight, The Broken Oar, a saloon.Johnnie Landis and Steve Hogan were gamblers. That is to say, they liked to gamble. Two poor ranch-hands who cared less for the daily grind of frontier life and more for the development of the simple slight of hand that could give them an edge at the next poker game. And it didn’t matter, the game of chance of their choice that night. Poker, faro, blackjack; they had worked out signals and tells for everything. And on top of that, they weren’t above giving themselves a little edge either.
One night, Steve and Johnnie went down to the local saloon for a few hours of beer, whiskey, and poker. When they arrived, they noticed the place was busier than usual for a Thursday night. As they made their way to the card tables, they noticed that Hershel “Boss” Jericho was sitting at the poker table.
They had had their spouts with Jericho and his men in the past, as Boss’ property was right next to Old Man Taylor’s ranch that they worked for. Boss didn’t much care for Taylor or the fact that every once in awhile a cow or steer would settle onto his property to graze. Johnnie and Steve, having taken note of the situation, decided it may be fun to pull one over on surly and cantankerous Boss.
They took their seats at the card table and went to work. Card drops, blind tells, one-eye calls; they used them all over the course of several hours, taking Boss for every last Confederate Dollar he had. And with each lost dollar, Jericho’s ire towards the two ranch-hands grew into a rage and fury. After awhile, the banter between card players became a commotion and finally a tumult of bitter rivals. With every snide remark that Boss Jericho would make, Steve and Johnnie each had one of their own.
Five hours and several bottles of hooch later, Boss had enough. He came up swinging at Johnnie, knocking the card table over onto Steve in the process. After a short scuffle, Steve and Johnnie both found themselves in a fistfight with Boss, who despite his age was managing to hold his own quite well. Amidst the tussle, though, a gun discharged, and buried a bullet deep into Boss’s abdomen. It was unclear as to where the shot came from, but what was clear is that Jericho was dying, and the men that had joined him in the saloon that night were suddenly paying close attention.
Johnnie knew that there would be no explanations. Out here, disputes are far too often settled at the end of a barrel, and with Boss Jericho now lying there, bleeding out on the broken, green felt card table, his men were not going to wait around for an explanation. He grabbed Steve and jumped through the nearest window. “Get going! We’ve gotta get back to the ranch before Jericho’s men make it there! We’ve got to grab the others and get gone!” As they made their way back to the homestead, they stopped for a brief respite and checked their guns.
Johnnie checked both of his Colt .45 Double-Action Peacemakers, two guns he had had custom-made which he called the “Suicide Kings”. He had all six shots chambered in both of his guns. Steve checked his revolver as well, and he also had all six rounds chambered. At that point, they knew that it wasn’t possibly for either of them to have been the one that caused Boss Jericho’s mortal wound, but at the same time they knew it wouldn’t matter. Boss’s son Elwood had a worse temper than his father, and would stop at nothing to avenge his father, and wouldn’t think twice about mowing down Steve, Johnnie, Old Man Taylor, and all of the other farmhands back at the ranch.
As they made their way back, Johnnie went off to warn Old Man Taylor, and Steve went to warn the others in the barn where the farmhands slept…