Imagine the sun staring down at you with a disapproving look. Imagine the land vast and barren, a desert. Imagine the hooves of horses taking their passengers to different parts of the continent. Imagine tumbleweed rumbling across the landscape. Small towns that comprise of wooden houses; carriages transporting their cargo; the howling of wild coyote’s in the distance; campfires blowing smoke towards the horizon. You’ve just found yourself in a western world, an era of “cowboys and cowgirls”.
It’s a rough life, dangerous and unforgiving. The chances of death are high and lurk in every corner. If you can avoid the biological suffering, the diseases, and the illnesses; you have to watch out for the mechanical. If you can survive through natural disasters, hurricanes, heat strokes and earthquakes; you have to fight off the wild. Not a lot of medicine is as effective, houses and carriages are not built with as much safety precautions, Mother Earth often gets vicious and angry, and the wolves, bears, snakes and such are rather hungry. If you can get past all that and make it through unscathed, then the last thing to avoid is the fellow man; probably the most savage and harmful creature there is.
Often times, the fight between fellow man or woman comes down to sonic speed, pinpoint accuracy and sheer luck. This is apparent when the two stand in the middle of the town road, face to face, a fair distance away, their hands to their sides, in their place of zen, waiting for judgment. This act is referred to as a standoff, a five-second duel to the death.
The world around them is silent, peaceful. The townsfolk stay to the sides, near their banks and saloons, and hotels, and fun houses. No one dares to intervene, no one dares to stop the fight. One of these two warriors is meant to die and they are both expected to have made their peace with that.
Just like any competition, they wait for the starting whistle. They wait for the signal. It’ll be over before you know it. Their hands are as close to their pistols as they can keep it without touching. Once the duel starts they will have to get their weapon out of its holster, aim, and fire at their opponent before the enemy can do the same. The only way to win is to be sure of yourself. Even the slightest hesitation and you’re done for, even the slightest delay and your life is over.
To watch it, to hear about it, to think about it, makes it sound a noble tradition, a fair way to end a fight, but to actually experience it, to actually live it, makes one wonder how such a vile and horrific moment in someone’s life even came into existence.