Five shots or six?

"Sir", said Jack to the downright confuzzled Billy Ruggin, "you are out of bullets as am I. Therefore, by ancient medieval custom, when both opponents become unarmed, the challenger shall have second choice of weapons."

Ruggin looked half annoyed, half amused and three quarters arrogant. Unlike Jack he hadn't learned to count from an early age. But, finding that his cartridge belt was empty and his pack was twenty feet away, and he would have to pass the armed deputy who was also a friend of Jack's to reach it, he shrugged.

"Ain't heard of no med-eeval custom," he grunted.

In truth, there was no such custom, but the illiterate and uneducated Ruggin would have no way of finding this out.

"I can show you the relevant passage if you wish?" retorted Jack knowing full well Ruggin would refuse.

"So choose your weapon clerk."

Jack was silent for a few breaths, then made up his mind.

"A foot race. From here to the railroad. If one of these bystanders would be so kind as to ride out with two flags which we will both mark, whoever reaches the railroad and brings back a flag to this spot will be the victor. The loser will leave the town for good."

"Not a damn chance," blurted Ruggin.

"Then I win by default and you shall leave town anyway."

Ruggin thought for a moment and sized up his opponent. Scrawny little rat, he thought. I can outrun him. I chased down a deer for an entire afternoon not two days ago.

"Done," Ruggin agreed.

Two pieces of red cloth were found and Ruggin and Jack both made their marks on each piece, witnessed by the sherrif and the growing crowd of farm hands and miners finishing work for the day and heading back to town.

The sherrif dispatched his deputy to the railroad two miles away with the flags with instructions to place them next to the railroad weighted down by large rocks and to shoot either opponent who tried taking both.

The deputy galloped off even as bets were being made. And Jack began taking off his outer clothes leaving just long johns and boots as people first gaped with astonishment then began laughing. Even Ruggin looked fit to burst with laughter.

After a few minutes, the sherrif decided that the deputy had had time to place the flags and got ready to start the race.

The End

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