“Why every Wednesday?” LaRoque asked as he finished loading the buckboard. The warm early September day lacked the oppressive humidity of August.
“It’s the one day during the week at Yale set aside for study. No classes or clinics are scheduled and it’s a free day to catch up on reading or personal activities.”
Both LaRoque and Cotter wore gray dusters for traversing the dry roadbed on his property. They were heading to the clearing over two-miles from the main house.
“How does it feel being back to school after what you’ve been through in the war and after?” LaRoque was fast becoming a friend and confidant.
“It actually feels good. I really think I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
They discussed the renovations and restorations taking place at the old vineyard farm.
“I practically had to re-roof all the buildings.” LaRoque rubbed his right thigh.
“Just let me know what materials you need. Your leg bothering you much lately?”
“It’s all the kneeling on the roof this week. It’ll be okay once it begins to drain again.”
“I’ll have to take a look at it. It might be fixable.”
“Not just now. We have too much to do.” He slowed the buckboard and they dismounted. The clearing was partially shaded by the hill they would be shooting into. The area was shaped like an “L”.
“I’ll help hang the gourds on the lines.” Cotter grabbed some rope and a bag of acorn squash.
They hung the squash from overhead tree branches and placed them eight-feet apart. A total of eight were suspended at a distance of 30-yards from their firing point. Cotter removed his duster and motioned LaRoque to do the same.
“You always wear those buckskins when you use the two-guns?” It was the first time LaRoque had seen Cotter in his bounty-hunting garb.
Cotter explained the reason for the one silvered-gun, the one matte-finish pistol and the one-sided shiny conchos.
“This theory of yours really works?”
“I’m alive. I think it’s helped.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to watch me. After I get through, we do it again but I want you to shoot too.”
“You doin’ this because of the guy you told me about at your brother’s house?”
“Partly. I don’t want to get rusty. I have a friend in Texas who may need our expertise with these.” Cotter patted the handles of both Colts.
“I’m being premature. I told you outright; when I graduate I’m going out west to practice with a friend. He lives in hostile territory.”
“Why not stay here where it’s safe.”
“It’s not going to be safe here.”
“What do you mean?”
“If Louis Pasteur is correct, we–you and I–are activating the vineyard. I’ll explain later. First things first. I’m going to shoot at the first-and-third gourds. After that I want you to set the others swinging. I want them swinging in forward and sideways motion in a way they won’t collide. I’ll show you.”
Cotter showed his hired man the maneuver and explained.
“Some bad guys will be standing still. Some will be abreast and some moving forward, backward and sideways. You have to be able to pick off any target in a rapidly changing situation.” He smiled at LaRoque. “It’s a little different than a linear battle line in the war with a bunch of screaming rebels lined up like ducks. The sun will be overhead. Watch what it does to the silver Colt and the conchos.
As the sun moved between 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock Cotter faced the gourds.
“John, get the ones moving like I showed you and then get behind my line of fire.”
LaRoque moved behind and to Cotter’s left side.
“The gourds–or if they were men are numbered left to right–one through eight. Look at them, give them the numbers in your mind right now.” Cotter turned slightly to the left and shouted. “Number one, three and six.”
Cotter drew both Colts and destroyed gourds three and six with his right handgun. Simultaneously the designated number-one gourd exploded from his left gun’s discharge.” The report of the firing Colt .45’s was deafening and both men had slight ringing in their ears. Cotter holstered the guns quickly in a reverse twirling motion and turned to LaRoque.
“Good. You had your mouth open. I learned that maneuver in the war too. If you shoot with your mouth closed the pressure wave from the guns increases the ringing and makes you temporarily deaf. Opening the mouth immediately decompresses the ears and you can hear what’s going on around you. Another trick I learned is to tell my opponents to shut up and go for their guns. It gives me an advantage in case I missed one or there are others lurking around–I can still hear them.”
“Yes, Jake, I learned about it after my first battle. But how can you shoot two with your right hand and another with your left with the same draw?”
“Training. Your brain can be trained. I want to you to learn.”
“There may come a time in the months ahead when I will need you to be as good as I am.”
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