Four Dollars and Fifty Cents - “

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					                                                “Four Dollars and Fifty Cents”
     It‟s a terrible thing to call a cowboy a    tree in August. But she still wasn‟t sold,       tombstone. As for Shorty, he was sure it
deadbeat, but in Shorty Long‟s case it was       although she kept her suspicions to herself.     was a posse of dead cowboys riding back
true. He owed everybody money, from Big              “Poor Shorty. It hurts my heart to see       from the grave for one last roundup. He
Oscar the blacksmith to Widow Macrae,            him like this. Where do you boys figure on       lay in his coffin, stiff as rawhide, hoping
who ran the Silver Dollar Cafe and baked         burying him?”                                    that with all the graves up there they
the best biscuits west of the Rockies.               “Why, here on the ranch.                     wouldn‟t notice one extra corpse.
     “Shorty ain‟t a bad sort. He just hates     Somewheres.”                                          Three riders reined in at the top of
to pay for anything he thinks he can get             Widow Macrae frowned. “That‟s not            Boot Hill. They got off their horses. One
free,” Big Oscar told the widow one              right. Shorty deserves better than               lit a lantern while the other two lugged an
afternoon over coffee at the Silver Dollar.      sagebrush and coyotes. I know you don‟t          iron strongbox over to the open grave.
     The widow brought Oscar another             have time to spare, what with the spring         Anyone would recognize them at once. It
plate of biscuits. “How am I gonna keep          roundup coming on. But if you let me take        was Big Nose George Parrott and two of
this place going if folks won‟t pay their        Shorty back to town, I‟ll see he gets a          his gang, Smiley Dunlap and the Oregon
bills? Shorty‟s the worst. He owes me four       decent burial.”                                  Kid. The outlaws started bragging about a
dollars and fifty cents.”                            The Circle K boys could hardly refuse.       train they robbed that afternoon. They
     Big Oscar shook his head. “You got as           “Then it‟s settled. Some of you boys         came to the graveyard to divide the loot.
much chance of collecting that money as          load Shorty onto the buckboard. Try not to       No one would think of looking for outlaws
seeing Custer ride back from the Little          bounce him around too much.”                     on Boot Hill. Not live ones, anyway.
Bighorn.”                                            “I‟ll nail the lid down,” Duck Pooley             Shorty was in a heap of trouble. If
     Widow Macrae picked up her rolling          volunteered.                                     those outlaws caught him spying on them,
pin. “That‟s what you think. I‟m driving             “Not just yet,” said Widow Macrae. “I        he wouldn‟t have to worry about being a
out to the Circle K this afternoon. If Shorty    want to see him one last time before I put       fake corpse. Big Nose George drew his
won‟t pay what he owes, I‟ll lay him out         him in the ground. Shorty Long was my            six-gun.
flatter „n the bottom of a skillet.”             friend.”                                              “Stand back, boys! I‟ll settle this
     As soon as Oscar left, Widow Macrae             That sure was news to Shorty. He             business!”
hitched her two horses, Clementine and           didn‟t say a word, but he was thinking                He fired a shot into the strongbox
Evangeline, to the buckboard and drove           hard, mostly about what he‟d like to do to       padlock. Shorty nearly gave up the ghost.
out to the Circle K ranch. Duck Pooley           Duck Pooley.                                     He thought that bullet was meant for him.
saw her coming. He rode back to the corral           With the coffin loaded, Widow Macrae              “Yahoo! We struck it rich!”
to warn Shorty.                                  headed back towards town. She turned off              The Oregon Kid kicked open the lid.
     “Widow Macrae‟s coming! She‟s got a         onto the Boot Hill road. Boot Hill is where      He and Smiley reached inside and began
rolling pin in her hand and an awful mean        they bury cowboys like Shorty, who die           throwing fistfuls of hundred dollar bills
look in her eye. You better come up with         with their boots on. It‟s a mighty rough         into the air. That made Big Nose George
that money, Shorty.”                             road for a feller‟s last journey.                real mad.
     “Boys, you gotta help me!” Shorty               Widow Macrae reined in at the top of              “Quit that clowning! This ain‟t the
yelped.                                          the hill next to a freshly dug grave. She got    circus! You boys pick up them greenbacks
     “Why don‟t you just pay what you            down from the buckboard, unhitched the           and put „em back where you found „em!”
owe?”                                            horses, and turned them loose to graze.               “Aw, George!”
     “It ain‟t that simple. If I paid the        Then she took hold of the coffin and                  “Aw, George nothing! We‟re gonna
widow back, everybody I owe money to‟d           dragged it out of the wagon. Shorty saw          divvy it up business-like. No grabbing!”
expect the same. I‟d end up broker „n a          stars when the coffin hit the ground, but he          The Kid and Smiley started picking up
mess of eggs.”                                   was bound and determined not to pay that         the money. One of the bills landed in
     The Circle K boys decided to help           four dollars and fifty cents, so he lay still.   Shorty‟s coffin.
Shorty out just for the fun of seeing what           The widow studied him hard. “Can                  “Holy Hannah! What‟s this? There‟s a
would happen. They knocked together a            you hear me, Shorty? If you can, listen          dead „un here!”
few boards to make a coffin. When widow          good. I don‟t know if you‟re dead or not,             “Don‟t drop your britches, boys. Dead
Macrae drove up, she found Shorty lying          but I‟m gonna keep my eyes on you all            „uns don‟t bite.” Big Nose George
in it. He looked real peaceful. The Circle K     night. If you ain‟t moved by morning, into       moseyed over for a closer look. “Why, it‟s
boys stood around blubbering, wiping their       the ground you go!”                              some poor cowpoke whose burying had to
noses on their sleeves.                              Poor Shorty! It was pay up or be             wait till morning. They should‟ve covered
     Widow Macrae got down from the              buried alive— and he couldn‟t make up his        him up, though. It ain‟t decent leaving a
buckboard. “What happened to Shorty?”            mind which was worse! The sun went               feller out in the open where the buzzards
she asked.                                       down. With Widow Macrae‟s eyes fixed             can get at him. But that ain‟t none of our
     “He‟s gone to the last roundup,” the        on him tight, Shorty lay still in his coffin,    concern. Bring over them bills and let‟s get
Circle K boys told her. “A bronco threw          not moving a muscle, not hardly breathing,       started.”
him. He landed on his head.”                     waiting for something to happen.                      “Can‟t we close that coffin first?” the
     The widow leaned over for a closer              On about midnight something did.             Kid asked. “Dead „uns give me the
look. Shorty looked deader „n a Christmas        Riders! He heard them coming up the Boot         willies.”
                                                 Hill road. Widow Macrae ducked behind a

    “Sure, go ahead,” said Big Nose              “What‟ll we do?”                               Shorty was too embarrassed to say
George.                                          “Easy! He don‟t need a sniffer where      anything. He and Widow Macrae gathered
    The Kid slammed the coffin lid right    he‟s going. I‟ll cut it off with my bowie      up the money the outlaws left behind. In
down on Shorty‟s nose! Tears came to        knife!”                                        the morning they took it to the railroad
Shorty‟s eyes. He clenched his teeth to          That was enough for Shorty. He sat up     agent in town. He gave them a five-
keep from yelling.                          in his coffin and hollered, “Hold on, boys!    hundred-dollar reward to divide between
    “What‟s the matter” Siñiley asked.      I ain‟t that dead!”                            them.
    “This lid don‟t fit.”                        Big Nose George nearly dropped his             Shorty rubbed his nose. “I reckon
    “Let me try.” Smiley sat down hard on   teeth.                                         we‟re even now.”
the coffin. He packed a lot of weight The        Smiley let out a yell as the whole gang        “Not quite,” said Widow Macrae.
lid mashed Shorty‟s nose into his face      ran for their horses.                          “You still owe me four dollars and fifty
Shorty saw stars, but not the ones in the        Those outlaws shot out of that            cents.”
sky.                                        graveyard faster than fireworks!                    Shorty stared glumly at his pile of
    “What‟s keeping you two?” Big Nose           Widow Macrae laughed fit to bust.         fifty-dollar bills. “I don‟t have no change.
George growled.                             When she was all laughed out, she came         How about if I come by tomorrow and
    “This lid won‟t lay flat.”              from behind the tombstone and gave             settle up?”
    “Let me see.” Big Nose George had a     Shorty the scolding of his life.                    “I‟ll expect you,” Widow Macrae said.
look. “Are you both crack-brained? Use           “I hope you learned your lesson. You           But so far as anyone knows, he hasn‟t
your eyes. This feller‟s nose sticks up a   nearly got your nose cut off for four          paid her yet.
mile. It‟s way too long for the coffin.”    dollars and fifty cents!”

                       “Four Dollars and Fifty Cents”
Drawing Conclusions

Drawing conclusions is a reader‟s general idea about a story character or event that‟s
based on small pieces of information. A conclusion should be supported in the text by
statements, or by clues from which the reader can figure out things that the author does
not say directly.

Answer the following questions on drawing conclusions in the story “Four Dollars and
Fifty Cents”:

   1. On pages 58-59, write the clues that the author provides about Shorty’s character (what
      type of person is he).

   2. What is one conclusion you can draw about the way Shorty treats other people?

   3. On pages 60-61, what do you learn about Widow Macrae?

   4. Draw a conclusion based on the information you learn about Widow Macrae.

5. What other conclusions can you draw about the characters in the story?

6. Why is this story called Four Dollars and Fifty Cents?

7. What are some ways the author makes this story funny?

8. What did you learn about money from this story?

9. Is the author’s point of view in this story told in the first person or third person?


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