By Ron Flewelling
This is the conclusion of a two-part installment in the Middlinville Chronicles published on consecutive Fridays.
Now, the chances are that trouble would have started anyway, but on that particular day, Trouble wore the run-over boots of an unsavory character by the name of Turd Booke.
Turd Booke was of that class of bully that as a child, had pulled the wings off flies and tortured baby birds. As an adult, he was constantly looking for somebody smaller and weaker than himself to berate, abuse or punish. When someone stronger than himself was around, Turd either faded into the woodwork or became a simpering sycophant.
In appearance, he looked like a rabid buffalo with the mange. He took a bath only when unavoidably caught in a rain storm and shaved only every other month or so when the lice finally became unbearable.
Evil little eyes peered slyly out from under bushy eyebrows as he eyed the fancy dressed stranger.
Sylvester had just made Turd Booke's day...
Sylvester was unaware of Booke until a meaty paw clapped his shoulder. He glanced sideways with distaste at the filthy hand with the chipped finger nails.
"If you please," Sylvester said coldly, removing the offending hand from his shoulder. "I do not care to have my person touched by people to whom I have not been introduced."
Turd Booke was taken slightly aback. Usually by now, a slick fancy dan like this one would be knee-knockin' and swooning with fright. He decided to take another tack.
"Where 'bouts you from, Fancy Pants?" He demanded, leaning over to peer into Sylvester's face.
"Massachusetts, if it is any of your business," Sylvester replied. "And kindly remove your face from the proximity of mine for I find your breath revolting at best."
Somewhere at the back of the saloon someone chuckled.
"Oh ya do, do ya!" Turd snarled..the best verbal riposte he could conjure up at the moment.
"Quite," Sylvester said with calm iciness. "And furthermore, I find your entire presence equally disgusting so please remove yourself at once and leave me in peace."
Several people in the saloon were now snickering. Turd found his position rapidly disintegrating.
"Ya know what I do with fancy pants smart-talkin' dudes?" the Middlinville bully asked, sliding a skinning knife out of his belt. "I skelps 'em...sort of like this..."
He reached up and snagged the derby hat from Sylvester's head. He inserted the wicked-looking blade into the crown of the hat and with a few deft moves, completely sawed off the derby's top. He examined his handiwork and giving a grunt of satisfaction at a job well done, replaced the mutilated lid back on Sylvester's head.
"Now yer a skulped city slicker," Turd guffawed. "What do you think of that?"
"I'm afraid I don't think very much of that at all, my uncouth friend," Sylvester said quietly.
Turd Booke, not being an observant person, failed to notice that easterner's eyes had narrowed and turned slat-gray..not unlike the color of a tombstone.
"That hat cost eight dollars and seventy-three cents back in Birch Falls, Massachusetts," He continued. "Here in the wilderness, however, it is irreplaceable at any price...Besides, that derby had a great sentimental value to me."
"So what do ya want to do about it?" Turd demanded, deciding it was time to conduct his seminar on dude-bashing.
Sylvester removed his coat and tie, handing them to a near-by bartender.
"Oh," He said, almost offhandedly. "I shall have to chastise you to teach you some civility...It will hurt you much more than it will me...and believe me, I shall enjoy it immensely."
All of this fancy back-East talk was starting to give Turd a headache so instead of answering, he just gave a lumbering swat at the loquacious stranger with the malignant intentions of rearranging his dental work. Sylvester, however, easily ducking the haymaker, stepped forward, and with both hands, jerked Turd's floppy hat down tightly upon his head, half-obscuring his vision.
Turd Booke gave a squawk of consternation and reached up to pry the hat away from his eyes. When he did, Sylvester delivered a short, devastating blow that struck him just below his heart.
For a minute, Turd thought the stranger had pulled his goozle right out of his chest...A white ball of pain exploded behind his eyeballs at the same time a loud "Whoof!" escaped his lips.
When he involuntarily dropped his hands to his stomach, he quickly found his head snapped back with a wicked jab. Turd fell back against the bar. He pulled himself upright just in time to see two of his teeth bounce to the floor.
"What's all this crap?" He had time to wonder as he stalked towards the back-pedaling stranger.
What Sylvester had neglected to mention to Turd Booke was the fact that for two years Sylvester Mapleton had been the captain of his university's boxing team...and in that time, had never been beaten.
What happened in the next few minutes was awe inspiring and truly educational. Sylvester was so confident and competent that he began calling his shots, treating all bystanders to a view of the entire gamut of blows in scientific fisticuffs.
Later, onlookers all agreed it was a fine display of modern pugilism and that it had been one of the most efficient thrashings they'd ever seen administered. Within a very few minutes, Turd Booke was stretched out cold on the floor with his head resting comfortably in a spittoon.
It looked as if Middlinville had themselves a teacher...
Word spread around the community like wildfire, and a few days later, when the Middlinville Free School opened, the students filed quietly and obediently through the doors. As a matter of fact, Sylvester never did ever have a discipline problem. Shoot, any schoolmarm could paddle you with a switch, but by golly, that Middlinville teacher could really give a high class drubbing!
Years later, when Sylvester assumed the presidency of the State College, he still had calluses on his knuckles...
And while he was president of the college, they never did have a time when the students challenged the authority of the faculty.