Skeeter’s Last Words

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Skeeter was a dapper dresser and was proficient with both revolvers and autos.

No one will ever fill Skeeter Skelton’s boots. He was a once-in-a-lifetime gift to those enjoying gun prose. There’s a simple reason guys like John Taffin enjoy writing about him — he’s a huge fan, wanting to spread the word and share in the knowledge of how wonderful Skeeter was.

I’ve never met Skeeter, but consider him a friend, just as others do, after reading his works. Writing about him is a fitting way of honoring the man by passing-on his brilliance, in hopes of igniting enthusiasm for the next generation to enjoy his works. For those never hearing, or reading something by Skeeter, do yourself a favor and get acquainted. You’ll be glad you did.

The sentence below are the last words penned by Skeeter. The marvelous, descriptive words instantly paint a picture consuming your full attention and immediately suck you into a story he never finished. After reading this sentence, I knew a story had to follow.

“A curl of mesquite smoke surrounded his hat as he bent before the hot fire. Bacon spread its savory aroma, and black coffee added to the mix …”

Skeeter’s famed 7.5” Ruger flat top Blackhawk.

Colt built Skeeter this fully engraved and gold inlayed custom SAA
with his badges in it from his Sheriff days and work at Customs.

The Story Continues

… The bacon sizzled, splattering in the well-used, cast-iron frying pan. Dobe heard the heavy oak door moan as Esteban, his faithful ranch hand entered the century-old adobe house. He appeared more anxious than his casual self, approaching Dobe with yesterday’s mail. Head down, avoiding eye contact, he slowly handed a letter to him.

It was post marked from Deming, New Mexico, and had Skeeter’s return address written on it in plain, neat cursive, rather than Skeeter’s flamboyant flared script. Having a well-developed sixth sense from a life of military and law enforcement work, Dobe felt an uneasiness only bad news can bring.

He had this feeling before. As Dobe walked over to his large, scared pine table, the pine rung chair screeched against the cool Spanish tile. Sitting, he felt sick to his stomach as he opened the letter with a razor-sharp jigged-bone jack knife. With trembling hands, Dobe read the letter.

It was from Bart, Skeeter’s son. Dobe knew Skeeter was sick, off and on, the past two years. Still lacking a telephone in his century-old home, news traveled at a more leisurely pace. Last he heard, Skeet was admitted to the hospital a few months ago. Bart’s letter informed Dobe, that despite everything they could possibly do, Ol’ Skeet finally succumbed to his illness.

Dobe was numb. He hadn’t felt this way since he was notified his only son was killed in action, during World War II. During that empty time, he met Skeeter while working a narcotics case across the border and the two became fast friends. A love for guns, sour mash whiskey and tales of the old west sure didn’t hurt things either.

Skeeter had become an unofficial adopted son to the older Dobe, and they had a respect and bond only a father and son could experience. Dobe’s steely blue eyes welled up, as he stiffly got up from the kitchen table and walked over to the wood box.

With a lack of .44 Special sixguns, Skeeter had Ruger .357s converted
to his favorite caliber. This is Tank’s custom built by Alan Harton.

Behind it, a tattered cardboard box Skeeter brought on his last visit, during better days of his illness. “Groceries for the house,” Skeeter would say, with that classic smirk of his. A split case of Henry McKenna sour mash bourbon and Centennario tequila filled the box. Dobe grabbed the last bottle of McKenna, and asked Esteban to get three glasses, then meet him in the spacious living room by the fireplace.

Deep in thought, staring at glowing embers, he turned his head at a “clanking” sound. Esteban carried three jelly jars into the living room. With a dying mesquite fire in the fireplace, Dobe thought of Skeeter. Here, they would sit, smoke, drink, cuss, swap lies, tales, and chide each other affectionately.

“Set them down right here,” a choked voice said, as he filled the glasses half full of the amber liquid that was a staple of the two old friends. The first swallow triggered flashbacks of memories the old cowhand, retired lawman and soldier played back in his mind.

Wiping his bushy mustache with forefinger and thumb, Dobe thought of all the casting, reloading, shooting competitions, hunts, building of guns, and the few cases he had worked with Skeeter, as more memories flooded the codger’s mind.

Esteban brought out three jelly jars and the house favorite …

Dobe and Esteban sipped their bourbon in silence. This was how Dobe and Skeeter liked it. In fact, they could go hours sitting next to each other, sipping, nodding, listening to the rain on the roof, saying nothing, but speaking volumes to each other. That third jelly jar? That was for Skeeter. Out of respect and love, a final toast was given, a salute of sorts, for such a great friend, amigo, compadre.

Dobe stared at the fading embers through the tinted jar feeling empty, tired, and weak, like someone had let all the air out of him. He knew what he had to do. He had to drive the 600 miles along the river that shows where Mexico is, in his old pickup, to New Mexico, to go see Bart, and Bart’s mom, Sally.

Charles Allan “Skeeter” Skelton died on January 17, 1988. Dobe Grant was a favored fictional character Skeeter often wrote about.

I’ve been fortunate to meet and know Skeeter’s son, Bart, and call him friend. I’ve even been blessed to handle, shoot and admire some of Skeeter’s guns, holsters, badges and other memorabilia. There will only be one Skeeter Skelton and I suggest you get to know him.

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