I was born on Jupiter. I heard it burned up not long ago. It was a good saloon. Clean women and the liquor wasn't watered down. My Momma died shortly after I was born, from sex, whiskey, or both. Doesn't matter. Things never lasted long back then, whether it came from Jupiter or Montana.
I was raised by them women. Ill repute but good hearts. I was a barkeep at eight, and a gunslinger at twelve. Standing in front of a gaudy mirror in Saucy Sadie's room one day, I struck some poses. Did some quick draws. Saw a smart lookin' fella with a fake mustache. Brown eyes, dark skin, black hair. Nice vest on, but a crap shirt. Must have some Injun blood in him.
Later that day, I was working the bar. Part up the middle, hair slicked back. Poured a red headed cowpoke a drink. He looked me up and down.
"Hey there lad, you remind me of someone!"
"Keep drinkin' and I bet you'll remember," I answered, and poured him another shot after he finished the first.
"Thanks neighbor! Now where was I . . . that's right, Tim, that's him. Back in Tallahassee."
From then on, I was known as Tallahassee Tim, even though my name was John. Them women taught me everything I needed to know about courtin' and lovin'. Them men taught me everything about ridin', shootin', and naturally, the stare down. Never cottoned much to reading nor writing.
Time came for Tallahassee Tim to move on. I was a man by then, killed a few, befriended a few. Joined a cattle drive out to San Francisco. A thousand head of cattle all along the northern trail, then down the coast. Learned ropin' along the way. Earned my saddle sores, I did.
When I left Jupiter, each of my Mommas gave me something to remind me of them. One gave me a locket, another a curl of hair, one even gave me a book. I looked at her queer. She showed me it was filled with pressed flowers from the prairie, to remind me of home. I think I liked that one the most.
With my stake from the cattle drive, I bought a burned out saloon near Chinatown. Took a while, but it succeeded. The landed gentry called it the Fixer Upper and the name stuck.
"Tallahassee Tim, how come you've got no woman?" the Mayor asked me one night.
"Whatdya mean? I've a whole stable of women! You got just one."
"You know what I mean."
"Hey, you there, barkeep!" yelled a mean-looking cowboy in a bowler hat instead of a ten gallon.
"Yes Sir," I answered.
"Them boys cheatin'! What kind a poker tables you runnin'?" He had them green eyes like a crazy rattlesnake. Sounded like he hissed his words.
"They ain't my tables!" I answered, "Speak to China Sal over there, by the player piano."
As he turned I drew down on him. "Now just before you go, I want you to ease them six guns out of your holster nice and slow. Lay them on the bar right thar." The Mayor eased back away from me, sensing trouble.
"I ain't gonna . . . " that cowboy hissed over his shoulder. Then he whipped around pulling his pistols and fired, but I already had him dead to rights. Shot him down.
When the smoke cleared, the Mayor and I walked over to where he lay bleeding and mouthin' dyin' curses. I looked down and said, "Politeness. Thus endeth the lesson, feller. Courtesy of Tallahassee Tim."
"Maybe you ought to pull up stakes and move to Telegraph Hill," the Mayor suggested as the snake took its last breath. "Bring in a better crowd."
"I like it here just fine. But, I've been thinking of expandin'. Bigger hotel, more ladies, less opium. The smokers don't spend money like the rest of this rabble."
"Give it a look then."
A year later, I opened Golden's Spurs up near Pioneer Park. I kept the Fixer Upper as the gals didn't want to leave Chinatown. Let Sal manage the joint, which was just fine by her. I didn't even mind if she skimmed from the till, especially if the gals needed help.
Leaning on the corner of the bar, admiring my new sleeve garters and smoking a cigar, I watched the opulence before me. Painted women escorting bankers up the grand staircase. The red velvet and gold wallpaper by the poker tables lit by the chandeliers. (The Spurs turned out to be the archetype on which Las Vegas would later be built.)
I was enjoyin' myself when an out-of-place guy in bear-skins came to the bar with a large dog. He ordered whiskey, paid with Alaskan gold. The bartender turned to me and I nodded. The stranger nodded back while the liquor was poured. Then I felt a gun barrel pressed hard to the back of my neck.
"You done killed my brother, now I'm gonna kill you!" a waft of foul breath encircled my head.
I heard the snick as the hammer was pulled back. I saw my end of days, smiled with my accomplishments. When the explosion came, deafening me, I was startled to still be alive. A rifle butt had whizzed past just before the shot, I heard someone stumble and fall. When I turned, a large white dog had the assailant pinned to the floor with two paws on his chest, growling.
The man in bear-skins was still holding his rifle, a smear of blood on the butt. "Looked like you were in a fix. Figured you needed helping out."
"Mighty neighborly of you, sir. I'm Tallahassee Tim, can I fix you a drink?"
"London's the name. Jack London, and yes, you can."
We had that kind of warm handshake given only by best friends. No longer strangers, we shared stories through the night. "You know Jack, if I was a writer, which I ain't, I would write that tale of yours about building a fire."
"I just might, maybe I will," he contemplated over a smoke, petting his dog. The dog smacked his lips and licked happily.
"How'd you come by that dog?"
"Well, that's a long story Tim."
On the roof of Golden's Spurs a child was born that night to another working gal. She screamed louder than a pole cat. Yelled out to the sky at one point, "Jumpin' Jupiter, I'm a wantin' this kid to have a better life than mine!"
One Irving Morrow was born then and there. He was destined to design a suspension bridge in town. He named it after his birthplace.