“The Legendary Garrett Girls” tells how a pair of (fictional) barkeep sisters take on the (historical) con artist Soapy Smith in Gold Rush Alaska. It’s published in Jessica Spotswood’s anthology, A Tyranny of Petticoats (Candlewick Press).
“They now say there are more liars to the square inch in Alaska
than any place in the world.”
— The Seattle Daily Times, August 17, 1897
When the stranger whips out a pistol, everyone hits the floor.
Everyone except John and me, that is. He goes perfectly still, one thin brown hand flat on the table. The gun is pointing straight at him, yet his dark eyes are calm. Me, I just feel exasperated. It’s been such a long day, and it’s still only midnight. “Put that down,” I say, in my sharpest tone. I touch my hip and feel the reassuring handle of my bullwhip, looped to my belt.
The newcomer’s gaze bobs around the dimly lit tavern and finally locates me beside the bar. “You trying to tell me what to do, little girl?” He gives me a once-over that might be insulting, except he can’t focus properly. Still, the gun droops in his hand.
“I’m not trying; I’m giving you an order.” I point to the handwritten sign tacked above the bar:
Garrett’s Rules for Bar-room Brawls
- Don’t do it.
- Really. Don’t do it.
- You will regret having done it.