Johnny Agenda - By Brian Law

The Deputy, nearly out of breath, rushed into the Sheriff’s Office where his Boss was dozing in his chair, his boots up on his desk, his hat covering his face. “Sheriff, Sheriff, ya gotta come right now! Somethin’s bad gonna happen right soon!”


The Sheriff was used to his high-strung Deputy getting all riled up about little things so he took his time swinging his boots off the desk and sitting up in his chair. “Okay, Deputy, what is it this time? A cow caught on the train tracks?”


“No, Sheriff, no! He’s back, Sheriff. Johnny Agenda is back in town. He’s drinkin’ down at Uncle Bill’s Saloon and sayin’ things, Sheriff. Dangerous things. Ya gotta go down there and put a stop to it, Sheriff,” the Deputy continued.


The Sheriff was no stranger to danger. He’d been at Wyatt Earp’s side in Dodge City and had helped clean up Abilene with Bill Hickok. He’d seen a lot of rough characters in his time. But Johnny Agenda presented a unique kind of risk. A risk that would scare off most men. Some things just can’t be fixed with a shotgun or a brace of pistols. And Johnny Agenda was one of those things.


“Sheriff, you want me to grab a rifle and come with you on this one?” the Deputy asked, hoping the Sheriff would decline the offer.


The Sheriff shook his head. “Remember what Agenda did down in Tascosa, Deputy? He turned that whole town upside down in just a couple of hours of talkin’. And the Sheriff there had five deputies loaded for bear. Didn’t do no good down there, Deputy, and it won’t do no good up here. No, you stay here. I gotta handle this situation my ownself.” He straightened his hat, stuck an unlit cigar in his mouth, and as he headed for his office door and Uncle Bill’s Saloon he asked the Deputy, “How long’s he been shootin’ off his mouth, Deputy? Has he got the whole town up in a lather yet?”


The Deputy, relieved he wasn’t going to be needed, informed the Sheriff, “Maybe so. He’s been at it for the better part of three hours, Sheriff. The Saloon’s packed and there’s an overflow crowd out onto the street. You don’t have much time, Sheriff. It may already be too late.”


The Sheriff stepped out into the midday heat, squinted his eyes, adjusted his hat, and turned toward the sound of the crowd down the street. He knew he couldn’t take on the whole crowd and so there was only one way to grab hold of this situation before it wrecked the town. He had to settle this mano a mano with Agenda. And he had to make sure that the crowd stayed out of it.


As he approached Uncle Bill’s Saloon, some in the crowd spotted him walking tall down the middle of Main Street and told the others. The crowd, angry and nearly out of control after listening to Agenda for several hours, turned their attention to the lawman as he approached. Several started to yell out epithets. Some wanted to run the lawman out of town. But he kept on coming, unafraid.


Agenda’s booming voice could be heard from inside the Saloon. It was his usual blather. The Sheriff had heard it all before. “Your elected officials are all in on it! The elections are all rigged! You’re all being played for suckers and you’re paying for it! Pretty soon they’ll be nothing left for law abiding, God fearing, hard working citizens like you!”


The outer ring of the crowd at first didn’t look like it was going to let the Sheriff through, but then they thought better of beating up on an eighty-two year old man and cleared a path towards the front door.


More lies spewed forth from the man inside as the Sheriff pushed open the door to Uncle Bill’s Saloon and stood there listening. “There’s only one way to take care of the Indian menace and that’s to round ‘em all up and wall ‘em off.”


The crowd inside turned as one and faced the Sheriff. They, too, were reluctant to take on this old legend of the West and so a path was parted from the front door to where Agenda was standing and telling one last lie. “You folks ought to be able to cut down as many trees as you can for farmland. Don’t believe them when they tell you it will lead to disaster later. It’s a hoax, folks!”


The lawman ambled up to where Agenda was standing. The Sheriff said nothing but got close enough so that nobody except Agenda could see what he pulled from inside his coat pocket. He held it out for a few seconds to let Agenda get a good look at it, then put whatever it was back into his pocket and turned and headed for the door and back to his office.


The crowd closed in behind the Sheriff and turned its attention towards Johnny Agenda. They were hungry for more of his rants, but all they got was an empty platform. Agenda had disappeared out the side door and was long gone on his waiting horse.


There was some grumbling and some more epithets, but within a few short minutes the crowd had started to disband and by Noon the street was back to normal and folks were about their Sunday business.


The Sheriff got back to his office without incident where he hung up his gunbelt and resumed his position in his chair with his boots up on his desk for a well-deserved nap, his hat tipped down covering his face. He was fast asleep and dreaming when his Deputy barged in about an hour later wanting to know how he had handled the crowd.


Without moving from his chair, and with his hat still covering his face, the Sheriff reached inside his coat and withdrew what he had shown Johnny Agenda. He threw it onto his desk for his Deputy to see.


The Deputy reached down, picked it up, looked at it and smiled. It was a photograph, one of those new-fangled things from the East that lets someone capture images on paper with something called a camera.


The picture was of Johnny Agenda with a very young girl. Wouldn’t do for that picture to get around to all these law abiding, God fearing, hard working citizens to see. No, siree, wouldn’t do at all.



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