Titus Gatelock was well known to just about everybody around King City who possessed a horse, a mule, or any close approximation with four legs and a whinny; though this commonly used phrase would be highly misleading in the case of Mr. Gatelock. Titus was acknowledged principally as an exceptional craftsman in all manner of fine equestrian leatherwork and a harness maker without peer in that part of California. But people knew him in that context alone. In all other respects, Titus Gatelock s life, past and present, was an absolute mystery, and not just of the quaint and curious variety, but an enigma that became so tantalizing over the years, that it begged every kind of speculation by every category of citizen. And if the truth were told, old Titus made a point of doing nothing whatsoever to alleviate this confusion. In fact, his oblique and sometimes clipped responses to public curiosity only heightened the mystery, in some cases to the point of public irritation. He did this by never affirming or denying anything people said about him, no matter how unlikely or absurd.
It all started to get out of hand when, at the point of frustration, a fellow tradesman tried to get a rise out of Titus by saying that he d overheard that Titus had once been a dangerous bandit who rode with the notorious Jose Baraga when the Sacramento gold train was robbed back in 1891. Titus just looked up, smiled, and said that he had heard that particular story as well. When the meddler looked surprised and asked whether the story was true or not, Titus just shook his head and said that the truth was hard to pin down after all these years. He said that it seemed to him as though people just made up their truths as they went along. He closed down further discussion with, There s real history and real truth out there everywhere, but when it bumps heads with a whopping good yarn that everybody enjoys, then the truth is sure to cross the line in last place every time.