“Nobody move! This is a hold up!”
Those words woke David Nathaniel Ryder the Third from a deep sleep. As he opened his eyes, he saw two men with bandanas covering the lower parts of their faces. Each had a sixgun pointed at one side or the other of the train car Nathan and his fellow travelers occupied.
“Now this will all be over in a minute if no one tries to play hero. I want you to take any weapons you have on you and put them in the bag my partner is coming around with. Then take everything of value that you have and place it in this bag. Just do as you’re told and we’ll all get out of this without a problem.”
The shorter of the two began to walk up the aisle collecting weapons from the men in the passenger car. When he got to Nathan he stopped.
“Come on, gambler, I know you have a gun somewhere. It’s either in an arm holster or a hidey on your arm.” Nathan held up his Bible, “I believe you are mistaken, sir. I am not a gambler. I am a Minister of the Gospel on my way to the New Mexico Territory to work on a circuit.”
“If you’re one of those Bible thumpin’ preachers, why are you dressed all fancy like a gambler? I weren’t born yesterday, mister. I may not be a church goer, but I seen a few preachers and they dress plain and simple. Who you tryin’ to fool? Now hand over your piece.”
The outlaw thrust the gunnysack at Nathan. “I assure you I am indeed a preacher. These are the clothes I left New York in. I have not yet had a chance to change my attire into something more western.”
“You assure me, do you? You talk like one of those rich businessmen from New York. Maybe you’re carrying a lot of money.”
The taller outlaw noticed the commotion. “What’s the holdup, Shorty?”
“This here fella claims to have no weapon. He dresses like a gambler or fancy businessman, but says he’s a preacher headed for the territory. I think he’s a lying, Slim.”
The taller outlaw, called Slim, stepped closer and looked Nathan up and down.
“Well, Shorty, I agree he don’t much look like a preacher. What’s your name, Preacher?”
“David Nathaniel Ryder the Third.”
“That name sounds familiar to me. I think I heard about a rich preacher in New York named Ryder.”
Now it was Nathan’s turn to sigh. He had hoped not to have to admit to being the son of the most prominent preacher in New York. “That would be my father.”
“Shorty, he really is a preacher. He don’t have a weapon on him, but I bet he is loaded with cash. How about it, Preacher? Don’t your Bible say something about giving to the poor? I think you should hand over your money to us poor men right now.”
Slim held out his gunny sack while pointing his gun straight at Nathan’s face. Nathan reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a money pouch filled with gold double eagles. He opened the pouch and showed the contents to the outlaws.
“This is all the money I have in my pockets. I will give it to you under one condition. You take it and leave all these other people alone. After all, this is more money than you will probably get from all of them combined”.
Slim looked Nathan in the eye and laughed. “I don’t think you understand the situation here, Preacher. I’m in charge, not you. Now put that money bag in my sack and sit down before I put a bullet in your noggin.”
Nathan thought about it for a minute. He knew with the training his grandfather had given him, he could defeat these two. However, he wasn’t sure he could do it without causing one of the other passengers to get hurt. He slowly put his money bag in Slim’s sack and sat back down. Slim turned away from him and took in the other passengers.
“Well, the good preacher has made his contribution to our poor box today. Now it’s time for the rest of you to do so. I want all jewelry, cash and anything else of value put in this sack as I come to you.”
With Shorty standing by the door just behind Nathan, Slim approached each passenger. They slowly dropped their valuables into the sack. Everything was going perfectly until Slim got to a pretty, dark haired mother and her young son. As he was collecting her money, he noticed a gold cross necklace she was trying to hide inside her dress.
“Lady, I said all your valuables. Now give me that necklace.” Slim reached out to yank it off her neck and as he did so, her son, seeing the masked man reaching for his mother, reacted.
“Leave my Mama alone!”
He grabbed Slim’s arm and bit him on the hand as hard as he could. Slim reacted without thinking and slammed his sixgun up against the side of the child’s head. The blow sent the boy flying, to land two seats down the aisle. Blood began pooling under the child’s head. Shorty stepped towards the action, his pistol moving back and fourth, looking for any reactions from the passengers. Nathan watched in anger as the mother gave up her necklace and rushed to her son. He knew he had to do something.
Just as he was about to rush Shorty, one of his Grandfather Nate’s stories came to his mind. It was a story about using Indian stealth and cunning to outwit several outlaws who wanted his gold. He stood slowly and walked towards Slim.
“You do not listen too well, do you, hooligan?”
Slim spun toward him, thrusting his gun at Nathan. “Whatcha talking about, Preacher?”
“I told you that was all the money I had on me. I never said it was all the money I had. I am escorting an offering to the New Mexico Territory from my father’s church for a mission project to the Mexican people.
“Why don’t you and your companion come with me, collect that strong box and leave these people alone?”
Nathan motioned towards the baggage car behind him. Slim, greed shining in his eyes, motioned to Shorty.
“Well, Shorty, since the eastern preacher is so willing to part with his cash, why don’t you just take him to the baggage car and empty that strong box of its contents?”
Shorty motioned for Nathan to proceed to the baggage car. Neither outlaw saw the smile that played across Nathan’s face as he walked calmly out of the passenger car. No sooner had he entered the baggage car than Nathan dropped down on all fours and swept Shorty’s legs out from under him. As Shorty fell Nathan stood and used his right hand to knock the outlaw’s gun from his fingers. With a powerful left uppercut, Nathan knocked Shorty unconscious. Nathan dragged him farther into the baggage car, grabbed some of the rope netting that secured the passengers’ bags, and tied the outlaw up.
Nathan retrieved Shorty’s sixgun, then slipped his coat and shoes off. Running quietly to the far end of the baggage car, Nathan exited and climbed up on top of the car. He cautiously proceeded back to the far end of the passenger car. He dropped as stealthy as an Indian back down to the entrance to the passenger section. He silently opened the door and rushed Slim but the padding of stockinged feet must have reached the outlaw. Slim turned straight into the flying fist of the young preacher. His feet flew off of the floor and he landed hard on his back. The sixgun in his hand discharged harmlessly into the ceiling. Before he could bring it back to bear on his attacker, Nathan wrenched it from his grasp and smashed the grip down between Slim’s eyes, rendering him senseless.
Nathan handed the gun to the conductor and informed him of the other outlaw tied up in the baggage car. He proceeded toward the place where the mother held her child’s head in her lap. Another male passenger turned to him and whispered,
“Preacher, I’m a doctor. I’ve done all I can, but that little boy isn’t going to make it.”
Nathan dropped to his knees beside the child and did the only thing he knew to do. He placed a hand on the child’s forehead.
“Oh, God, we cry out for mercy and healing for this child!”
As the astonished passengers’ watched, the bleeding stopped and the knot on the side of the boy’s head slowly shrank. The child’s breathing became less labored. Nathan thanked God aloud for his healing touch and smiled at the mother. She just nodded her head and continued to love on her child. Nathan stood and announced to the doctor,
“Sometimes, Doctor, you just have to appeal to the Greatest Physician to do what only he can.”
He turned to help the conductor drag the stunned outlaw to where his companion was tied up. Returning to his seat, he settled in to await the next stop and a lawman.