That afternoon Wil Sunday and Johnny Waco reined up at the top of a rise where Buck had suddenly stopped, waiting for the two riders to catch up. Below them, a covered wagon sat at an awkward angle, the two horses still in their traces. Reaching into his saddlebag, Wil pulled out a pair of field glasses and looked down at the wagon. After a couple of minutes, he handed the glasses to Johnny with a smile on his face.
“You’re kiddin’ me,” said Johnny, lowering the glasses, looking back at Wil.
“You see ‘em,” said Wil as Johnny put the glasses back up to his eyes. Three women stood on the tailgate of the wagon looking down at two women on the ground bent over the back wheel of the wagon.
“Ladies in distress,” said Johnny, handing the glasses back to Wil, “waiting for their knights in shining armor.”
Wil returned the field glasses to his saddlebag and heeled Goldie, following Johnny and Buck down the rise.
“Riders comin’,” said the youngest of the women on the tailgate and disappeared into the wagon. The other women, putting their hands to their foreheads to shade their eyes, looked toward the rise and the oncoming riders. Buck was the first to reach the wagon and was warmly greeted by head scratching and ear rubs.
“You boys are close enough,” said the young woman, stepping onto the tailgate, sighting down a levered Winchester. “State your business.”
“We saw you was in trouble and thought we could be of some help,” said Johnny, making sure his hands were up away from his guns.
“May, put that thing away, these boys don’t mean us no harm,” said the oldest of the women, standing near the back of the wagon scratching Buck’s head.
“That’s what you say,” said May, not moving from her position on the tailgate.
“You boys gotta excuse May, her manners ain’t so good. Step down, my name’s Madge Jennings.” She offered her hand to Wil and Johnny when they approached the wagon.
“This here’s Claire Olson,” Madge said, pointing to the woman next to her. Two of the woman jumped down from the tailgate. “The golden haired one is April Hanlon, the other is Jillian Sinclair. The ill-mannered one up there is May Perkins.”
“Ladies,” said Wil, tipping his hat.
“Glad to meet you,” said Johnny. Both of them got smiles and nods from all the women except May, still standing her post on the tailgate. “Now, what seems to be the problem here,” said Johnny, bending down to inspect the wheel leaning at an odd angle as it sat in a hole.
“Axle’s broke,” said Wil, looking under the rear of the wagon. He stood up, looking around. “I don’t see nothin’ we can make one out of, neither.
“Got one,” said Madge, pointing under the wagon, “in the possum belly, under the dry firewood.”
“You got a wagon jack?” asked Johnny.
“In the wagon,” said Madge pointing toward the open tailgate. Wil Sunday, climbing up into the wagon, found looking down the barrel of May’s Winchester a bit unnerving.
Without warning, Wil swept his arm up, causing the cocked weapon to discharge into the air. Before May could react, he grabbed the Winchester’s barrel, wrenching the rifle from the woman’s grasp.
“Little girls shouldn’t play with loaded weapons,” said Wil, as he levered the rifle, littering the back of the wagon with unspent shells. What happened when he handed the empty rifle back to May surprised everyone. As Wil squatted to open the trap door in the floorboards of the wagon, May grabbed the barrel of the Winchester.
“WIL,” shouted Johnny, as May raised the rifle above her head. Wil barely had time to block the blow with his forearm, grabbing the rifle and pulling it from the grasp of the enraged woman despite the pain shooting up his arm.
With all the power he could muster, Wil exploded from his crouch and planted his right fist on the side of May’s face, knocking her from the tailgate of the wagon. Throwing the Winchester to the ground, he resumed his search for the wagon jack as April and Jillian rushed to May’s side.
By the time Wil and Johnny repaired the wagon, May was being helped to her feet by April and Jillian. Sitting her down in the shade with her back to the wagon wheel, Jillian stretched to lower a dipper into the water barrel on the side of the wagon and offered it to May.
“I want to thank you boys for your help,” said Madge, as Wil returned the jack to the back of the wagon. “You’re welcome to tag along with us if you’re going our way.”
“And where is it you’re going?” asked Wil.
“A new town called Bentley sprung up at the railhead near the west Texas border. A friend of ours opened a saloon there and invited us to join him.”
Wil looked over at Johnny. “ New town, most likely, don’t have much of a lawman. Be a good place for our boys to hold up.”
“It’s worth a look,” said Johnny.