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 Hell Bent For Leather

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PostSubject: Hell Bent For Leather   Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:48 am

Okay, it's the first of January and time for a new challenge.  This one is a belter, to get the New Year off to a great start.  Chosen by Keays, it's:
 

 cowboy 13 Hell Bent for Leather    cowboy 11 


Last edited by Admin on Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:53 pm

Hell Bent for Leather
 
 
 
Heyes gazed into the big, brown eyes.  “I’ve just been reading about horoscopes.  What sign are you, Mabel?”  He held up a gloved hand to stop the reply.  “No, don’t tell me.  It’s gotta be Taurus the bull.  It’s written all over you.”   
 
 
 
“Joshua?  What the Sam Hill are you prattlin’ on about?”  The Kid leaned back in the railway carriage, “some of us are tryin’ to sleep.”
 
 
 
“I know and that’s why I’m bored.  I’d have to be, to read about horoscopes,” Heyes reached out and stroked Mabel’s auburn hair.  “At least she’s interested.”
 
 
 
Irritated blue eyes glittered through the shadows.  “She’s a cow.”
 
 
 
“Ssh!  She’ll hear you.”  
 
 
 
“A big, hairy cow,” the Kid continued, “hairier than usual.  I ain’t seen a cow like that in my life.”
  
 
 
“At least she stays awake.  She’s way less scary than she looks in spite of the wild hair and big horns.”  Heyes cast admiring eyes over the beast chewing absently on a mouthful of straw with loose lips wobbling at every movement.  “She reminds me of Kyle in a way.”   
 
 
 
“I ain’t seen one with hair over its eyes like that.  It must be real annoyin.’  Should we cut it?”
 
 
 
“She’s a prize winning heifer.  We’re not cutting anything off.  It might be important to her value and it’s our job to make sure she gets to her safely to her destination, remember?”
 
 
 
The Kid pushed his hat to the back of his head with a long forefinger.  “We could curl it, just to get it out of her eyes?”
 
 
 
A smile of disbelief spread over Heyes face.  “Are you seriously suggesting that we coiffure a cow?  No journey is that boring.”
 
 
 
“Coiffure?  Is that some fancy word for animal husbandry?”
 
 
 
Heyes arched a brow.  “It’s more like animal wifery and we’re not doing it.”
 
 
 
“A Highland Cow, all the way from Scotland?  Do all the animals have hair like the people over there?  The sheep must be hilarious.”  The Kid carefully appraised Mabel.  “Why do you think she’s so valuable?”
 
 
 
“She’s from Queen Victoria’s prize-winning herd.” 
 
 
 
The tousled nodded appreciatively.  “It’s all about who ya know, huh?  I bet a friend of royalty wouldn't have a problem gettin’ amnesty.”
 
 
 
“A friend of royalty wouldn’t have to turn to crime in the first place.”
 
 
 
“Not the way Grandpa Curry told it,” the Kid leaned back and folded his arms.  “The Irish are none too keen on the British upper classes.”
 
 
 
“I didn’t hear you complaining about that blonde in San Francisco.  Didn’t she have a title?”
 
 
 
“Yeah, an honourable; whatever that it is?  Soundes more like a nun to me.”  A grin twitched at the Kid’s lips.  “It’s a good job names can be deceivin’.”
 
 
 
“I suppose one of you had to be honourable,” Heyes chuckled.  “Her pa would have shot you through the heart if he’d caught you.”
 
 
 
“That’s a big ‘if.’  I can be every bit as slippery as you can, Joshua.  Besides, she was marryin’ an old bore just for his money and wanted a fling before she committed to him.  She told me so herself.  The Brits are marryin’ for money; Americans marry poor folks with a title to give their families class – and she sure had that in spades.”  The long legs crossed at the ankle.  “Unlike us at the moment; I can’t believe I’m bein’ paid to protect a cow.”
 
 
 
“She’s pregnant and if she’s stolen they get at least two valuable pieces of livestock, not just one.  We’ve had worse jobs.”
 
 
 
“Yup, but why do we have to travel in the truck with the cow while John Clay travels first class?  It ain’t like any other cows can break in.  Does he expect a hold up by a love-struck bull?  If she’s in calf, the damage is already done.”
 
 
 
“Clay’s desperate to make sure nobody gets the calf,” Heyes patted Mabel before tinkering with her velvet ear, “so I guess we’re like gun-toting fathers looking after a rich heiress.”  Heyes’ cheeks dimpled.  “One who can’t give you the run-around with sob stories for a change, so this should be easy.”
 
 
 
The Kid thrust a determined chin towards his cousin.  “Like you’re always so smart around women?  Your first theft was to impress Becky Smart and she ate all those cookies herself without givin’ you as much as a crumb.”
 
 
 
“Well, Mabel here isn’t going to give us any trouble.  Are you, old girl?”
 
 
 
The Kid shook his head.  “Now you’ve done it.  If there’s one thing you never call a female, it’s old.  You just got yourself a mess of trouble there, Joshua.”
 
 
 
“She’s a cow!” Heyes retorted.
 
 
 
“She’s a female and you called her old.  Mark my words, partner.  You’ve got trouble comin’.”  Mabel dropped her head and gathered up another mouthful of fodder before she stared aimlessly  and started ruminating over a drooping thread of dribbling saliva.  Her tail rose and a stream of unctuous, fetid, brown plap slopped onto the floor of her stall.  The air filled with a cloud of rank, ever-expanding malignoquence.    The Kid pulled his hat over his face with a smirk.  “Told ya.  It’s  started.”
 
 
 
oooOOOooo              
       
 
 
“Oh, what a beautiful animal,” a pair of delicate, auburn eyebrows gathered in curiosity.  “The hair is almost the same colour as mine.  I’ve never seen such a beast.  Is he fierce?”
 
 
 
“She.  Her name’s Mabel,” the Kid leaned against the doorframe and smiled at the Titian beauty on the railway platform, “and she’s real gentle.”
 
 
 
“Can I stroke her?”
 
 
 
“If you want to, but she’s only a cow, Miss...?”
 
 
 
“Calhoun.  Amy Calhoun.  She’s a very unusual cow.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like her.”
 
 
 
“Do you know a lot about cattle, Miss Calhoun?”
 
 
 
“They taste nice; apart from that absolutely nothing.  All I know is they’re not usually that colour. She’s chestnut-coloured, how original. ”
 
 
 
“She’s a Highland from Scotland.  There were some brought down from Canada a few years back, but they’re comin’ further south.  Apparently they can graze on land other cattle can’t.  They’re good on mountainous terrain and in cold weather.”
 
 
 
“I can see why that might be popular in some places,” Amy agreed.  “Is she yours?”
 
 
 
“Nope, we’re just helping to transport her.”  The blue eyes landed on someone on the platform behind her and he raised a hand to greet Heyes.  “That’s my partner over there.  He got off to get us somethin’ to eat for the next leg of the journey.”
 
 
 
The pretty strawberry-blonde nodded.  “Yes.  I must get back on the train.  Are you going all the way?”
 
 
 
“Yes, ma’am.  Maybe we’ll see you in Abilene?  We deliver Mabel there, so maybe once we’re free I could buy you dinner?”
 
 
 
Amy swung around, letting loose a coquettish, carefree laugh as she continued to step backwards.  “Maybe, Mr....”
 
 
 
“Jones.  Thaddeus Jones.”  
 
 
 
“I’m travelling with my uncle.  I’ll have to ask him for permission.”
 
 
 
The blue eyes followed the enticing sway of her walk-away until a stony face blocked his view and thrust a greasy package towards him.
 
 
 
“Focus, Thaddeus,” Heyes murmured.  “We’ve got a cow to protect.”
 
 
 
“I’m right here where I should be.  There’s no harm in talkin’ to a pretty girl.”
 
 
 
“No?  Sometimes I think our fate will be sealed in a cloud of perfume and petticoats.”  The wrapped sandwich hit the Kid’s chest.  “Eat; at least one of your creature comforts will be taken care of.”  
 
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
 
“Well, Mabel.  You’re nearly home.  Mr. Clay is gonna take you to the Triple C Ranch where you can have your little, hairy baby.  We’re leavin’ you here.  Our job is over.”  The beastie blinked big, soft eyes at the Kid and huffed gently through a pair of wide nostrils.  “Yeah, I’m off to get myself all gussied up to meet Miss Calhoun for dinner.  You take care now and have lots of ginger kids, huh?”
 
 
 
“Kids?  Wouldn’t they be goats?”  
 
 
 
He turned to face the dimpled smile behind him.  “That’d surprise Clay, for sure.  Did he pay you?”
 
 
 
“Sure did,” Heyes fished notes out of his waistcoat pocket and started peeling some from the bundle.  “This has been the smoothest job we’ve done in a long time.  Anytime John Clay wants us to escort his premium stock I’ll be first in line.”
 
 
 
“Yeah, I’ve gotta say I’ve had worse jobs.  Mabel even grew on me after a while.”
 
 
 
“I thought you only had eyes for Amy?” Heyes grinned.
 
 
 
“What have you got planned for the evening?”
 
 
 
“I thought I’d head to the saloon to and check out the game.  If it’s an honest game I might join in.”
 
 
 
The Kid frowned.  “Is that a good idea?  I’m busy and I won’t be able to watch your back.”  
 
 
 
“You’ll be around.”
 
 
 
“No, I’m takin’ Amy out to dinner.”
 
 
 
 
Heyes twinkled with devilment.  “I know.”
 
 
 
 
“So; I won’t be around.”
 
 
 
 
The dark eyes widened innocently.  “Amy’s gonna have dinner with you in the hotel dining room and have you escort her back to her room safely and respectably.  That’s it, Thaddeus.  Your evening will be two to three hours tops.  I can tell what kind of woman she is just by looking at her.”
 
 
 
 
“You can, huh?”
 
 
 
Heyes nodded slowly.  “And so can you.”
 
 
 
“I guess,” the Kid muttered.  
 
 
 
“That’ll give me time to have a relaxing bath, have dinner and check out the game. “  The cheeks pitted with infuriating dimples.  “Most games don’t get interesting before ten o’clock in any case.  You can have your date and come to the saloon later.”  The only reply was a heavy sigh which prompted the dimples to deepen.  “It’ll be fun; you can have a drink and relax.”
 
 
 
“Yeah, great,” The Kid shook his head.  “Ya gotta stop readin’ those horoscopes.  You’re turnin’ into a fortune teller.” 
 
 
 
oooOOOOoo
 
 
 
The gunman leaned on the bar, his relaxed body language betraying the alertness in the keen, blue eyes.  The evening had gone just as predicted by the suddenly prescient ex-outlaw leader and Amy had been a diverting, but very respectable, dinner guest.  It had been a long time since he had dined with a sweet gal and he’d enjoyed her lightness of spirit but it was all over too soon.  The tryst had rammed home to him that normality was only a place to visit and his spirits flagged as life underscored his predicament once more.
 
 
 
His trained eyes drifted over to the poker table where Heyes was doing just well enough to consolidate their newly-earned funds, but not so good as to annoy the other players – not yet anyway; but the night was young.  The burly man sitting across the table from Heyes merited some attention, his sausage fingers carried a stogie up to his mouth before drifting down to his leg and it wasn’t the first time he’d made that movement.  He was probably concealing something at his ankle and testing how easily he could get at it; it could be a weapon or it could be a set of aces, but either way it held the potential for trouble.
 
 
 
The Kid watched Heyes arrange his hand, carefully appraising the tells and reactions of the other players with his own features artfully bland.  Was it a good hand?  Who knew?  The Kid swirled the amber liquid in the shot glass feigning indifferent curiosity to the game and changed position, leaning back on both elbows, quickly rising to a standing position as their previous employer marched into the bar pointing an accusing finger at each of the partners in turn.
 
 
 
“That’s him, leaning on the bar and Smith is over there playing cards.  Arrest them, sheriff.”
 
 
 
Heyes leaped to his feet while the Kid’s hand crept down to his gun.
 
 
 
“Arrest us?”  Heyes raised his hands to show he was unarmed.  “What for?”
 
 
 
“For the theft of a prize-winning cow.”  John Clay pointed at the man sitting opposite Heyes.  “There’s another one of them.  They’re all in this together.  Look at them sitting playing poker together.”
 
 
 
“I’ve never met any of these men in my life,” Heyes protested.  “This is an open game.  Anyone with stake money can sit in.”
 
 
 
Clay’s face started to colour from the neck up.  “Do you expect me to believe that?”  The hand of condemnation swept over towards the Kid.  “He was seen dinning with his niece tonight.”
 
 
 
“Whose niece?” the Kid demanded.
 
 
 
“His,” the finger aimed straight at the burly poker player with the mutton chops, “Thomas Calhoun.  Not only is he the very man I was trying to protect Mabel from, but I find you two in deep cahoots with the whole family on the night she disappeared.”
 
 
 
Alarm spread over the sheriff’s face.  “A woman has disappeared?  Who is this Mabel and why didn’t you mention this before?”         
 
 
 
“Mabel is a special type of hairy cow, sheriff,” the Kid folded his arms and fixed the lawman with a look of consternation, “and we were paid to escort it here to Abilene.  We delivered the animal safe and sound.  It’s nothin’ to do with us if it’s gone missin’ now the job’s over.”
 
 
 
“Sure it is!” barked Clay.  “The only other man in the three states who owns Highland Cattle is sitting right here.  The same man who filed a court action to stop me from bringing Mabel from Wyoming to Kansas.”
 
 
 
Thomas Calhoun rose to his feet at last.  “That’s because the only Highland bull for hundreds of miles is mine.  That cow is pregnant and if that calf is a full-bloodied Highland, the semen must have come from my prize winner!  You stole it and that calf is mine.  We both know that.”
 
 
 
“Stolen semen?”  The sheriff scratched his chin, the uncertainty in his eyes displaying a man getting increasingly out of his depth.  “Is that what I think it is?”
 
 
 
Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance before striding towards the lawman.  “Sheriff, the Governor of Wyoming recommended us for this job because we can be trusted.  I can show you the letter from him.”  Heyes threw a hand out in the direction of the hotel.  “That cow was safe and sound when we left it in his care.  It’s nothing to do with us if it’s now been stolen.”
 
 
 
The lawman thrust his thumbs onto his belt and rocked back on his heels.  “Yah got this letter?” 
 
 
 
“We sure do,” Heyes nodded.
 
 
 
“And we’ve done loads of jobs for him,” the Kid cut in.  “Send a telegram to Sheriff Lom Trevors in Porterville if you need to check.  He can vouch for us.  We haven’t stolen his cow; search us.”
 
 
 
“Well, I didn’t expect to find Mabel in your back pocket, did I?” growled Clay.
 
 
 
“When was the animal taken?” Heyes demanded.
 
 
 
“She was there when I checked at eight thirty, but the man guarding her was found tied up when I sent someone to relieve him for the night.”
 
 
 
The sheriff cleared he throat with ruthlessly uncouth efficiency.  “What time was that?”
 
 
 
“About ten,” Clay replied.
 
 
 
“Then how could we have stolen that cow?” Heyes reasoned.  “Clay said himself that we’re been in here playing poker.  We’ve got an alibi, with all these good folks in here to testify that neither of us left this table between eight thirty and ten.”
 
 
 
“Yeah,” the Kid agreed, “and I was in the restaurant with Miss Calhoun between eight and ten.  There are loads of witnesses.”
 
 
 
The lawman cocked a bushy eyebrow.  “Is that so folks?”  He looked around at the nodding heads of the townsfolk.  “I guess we’ve got no case against these men.  You’re free to go.”
 
 
 
“But they’re all in it together,” Clay stammered.  “They’d have had someone else do it to make sure they were in the clear.”
 
 
 
Calhoun gathered his money from the table and grabbed his hat.  “Like you did when you tampered with Angus?  I doubt you do your own dirty work.”
 
 
 
“Angus?” the sheriff gathered a gob of phlegm and spat vaguely in the direction of the spittoon causing the Kid to step back rapidly.
 
 
 
“My bull,” Calhoun stuck his hat firmly on his head.  “There’s  no other Highland bull outside Canada that doesn’t belong to me.  If that calf is a full blood there’s only two ways it could happen, and I can tell you that Angus never left my ranch.  Ya won’t explain how she got pregnant either, will ya, Clay?”
 
 
 
Heyes’ brow arched.  “Two ways?”
 
 
 
“Yeah, the traditional way and artificial insemination,” Calhoun asserted.  “That’s where ya just take the...”
 
 
 
“I’ve heard enough!” the sheriff declared, holding up a hand, “and I certainly don’t want to hear any more.  ‘T’ain’t natural.”   
 
 
 
“My point exactly,” Calhoun agreed.  “It’s done with a syringe.”
 
 
 
“No more!  I ain’t listenin’ to the breeding habits of strange cows.  I’m a married man,” the sheriff rubbed his chin.  “You folks are free to go and I’ll get my deputies to start a search for this cow.  There’s gotta be some trace of over a thousand pounds of hairy cow flesh.  I can’t vanish into thin air.”
 
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
 
The shirt hit the bed, rapidly followed by the shaving kit and the balled up socks.  “Joshua, get packin’.  We need to get outta here.”
 
 
 
A pair of pensive dark eyes stared into the Kid’s.  “Do we?  The Calhouns aren’t leaving here until tomorrow.”
 
 
 
A Henley hit Heyes full in the face.  “They don’t have a price on their heads; pack.”  
 
 
 
“The Governor might think we’re part of this.”  Heyes dropped his underwear back on the bed.  “We have to get to the bottom of this.”
 
 
 
“No, we don’t.  We delivered the cow fair and square and now we have to hightail it outta here before we get caught up in it.  You know how corrupt these rich cattlemen are.  They make us look like angels.  They don’t have souls; they have corkscrews.  Kyle could steal from his own grandmother and still be better’n them.  ”
 
 
 
“Nah, that was never proved.”  Heyes stood determinedly.  “I’m going to talk to Calhoun, are you coming?”
 
 
 
“Calhoun?” the Kid snapped shut his carpet bag.  “Suppose someone sees us?  Do you think anyone’s going to believe we’re not in on the theft after that?”
 
 
 
“Some folks will think the worst no matter what, so we might as well have some answers for them.”  Heyes pulled open the door.  “Are you coming?”
 
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
 
“Oh!”  Amy Calhoun’s porcelain cheeks flushed with anxiety as she opened the door.  “Thaddeus?”
 
 
 
“Amy?”  The Kid gave her his most charming smile.  “Can I have a word with your uncle?” 
 
 
 
“He’s busy.”
 
 
 
Heyes insistent hand pressed flat against the door.  “We can wait.”  
 
 
 
Amy stepped back against the pressure, her eyes widening.  “You can’t just push in here.”
 
 
 
Heyes closed the door behind him and leaned against it.  “Where’s your uncle, Miss Calhoun?” 
 
 
 
There was the rattle of a doorknob and Calhoun stepped into the suite from an adjoining room.  “I’m here and you should know that my secretary is in there too.  If there is any suggestion of trouble he will call for help immediately.”    
 
 
 
Heyes’ smile widened.  “There’ll be no trouble, sir.  I can give you an assurance on that, but our good names could be affected by this, which in turn could impact on our whole future.  Don’t you think we deserve an explanation at the very least?  You seem to be the reason that Mabel needed protection in the first place.  What’s going on?”
 
 
 
“This is nothing to do with either of you,” grumbled Calhoun.
 
 
 
“It’s everything to do with us,” the Kid protested.  “The Governor might think we’re involved.”
 
 
 
Calhoun folded his arms.  “Get out of here before I call the manager to get you thrown out.  I’m not afraid of you.”
 
 
 
“And neither am I,” said Amy.  “I had dinner with Thaddeus and he’s a sweet, gentle man.  We can’t do this to him, Uncle Tom.”  
 
 
 
“This is no time for female sentimentality, Amy.”
 
 
 
“Look, if it gets us to the truth of the matter, I think it is.”  Heyes fixed Calhoun with a glare.  “I, for one, don’t care what happens to the cow.  I just want to be able to offer an explanation to the Governor if he asks what’s gone on here.”
 
 
 
“John Clay tricked my uncle years ago.  He drove the same herd around a hill three times so he thought he was paying for far more than he got.  It was the same amount of cows; just time after time, after time.”
 
 
 
“Ya didn’t need to tell them that,” exclaimed Calhoun.  “They’ll think I’m an idiot!”
 
 
 
Blue eyes met brown.  “I don’t think we will, sir.  We’ve seen our fair share of honest men cheated over the years,” the Kid murmured.  “Is this payback to Calhoun, Amy?”
 
 
 
She shook her head.  “No, we learned from it.  My uncle started to look at specialist breeds for different terrains and climates.  Some were expensive failures but others meant that his business took off and started to rival Clay.  His latest successes were the Highlands and Aberdeen Angus, but Uncle Tom refused to sell his any stock to Clay and he was forced to make an expensive import from Canada.”
 
 
 
“He imported only one cow,” Calhoun glowered at his niece but the cat was clearly out of the bag, “and Mabel’s been here a year.  We’re sure he stole Angus’ blow and impregnated his cow.  Even in court he wouldn’t say how she got pregnant.  If that calf is full-blood Highland he belongs to us.”
 
 
 
“Is this really a fittin’ conversation to have around a lady?” the Kid demanded.
 
 
 
Amy smiled at her uncle.  “I told you he was a gentleman.  He didn’t want me to have dinner with one of Calhoun’s ruffians but I told him you were different, Thaddeus.”
 
 
 
“We’re nobody’s ruffians,” Heyes asserted.  “So you’ll give Mabel back when you see if the calf is full-blood?”
 
 
 
Calhoun smiled mysteriously.  “How can we give her back?  We don’t have her.  We’d never stoop to stealing, would we, Amy?”
 
 
 
“But you’d stoop to lyin’?” The Kid shook his head in admonishment at Amy.  “You told me you knew nothing about cattle.  You were brought up on a ranch?”
 
 
 
“No, my father runs a tannery but I do know about Uncle Tom’s business.  I am sorry, Thaddeus.  I just wanted to check out how Mabel was guarded.  Dealing with cowhands is one thing, but two men with tied-down guns is another thing entirely.  I only got involved because nobody would suspect a young woman was checking out the security arrangements.”  Amy flushed red.  “I’m sorry, Thaddeus.  I didn’t expect you to be so sweet.”
 
 
 
“And I don’t suppose anyone will admit to stealing Mabel?” Heyes asked.
 
 
 
Calhoun fixed the partners with an icy glare.  “Do I look like my head buttons up the back?  Now you’ve got your explanation.  Get outta here.”
 
 
 
They heard the door close behind them as they walked down the hallway towards their own room.  “I’m guessing that Mabel won’t be found, so we can sleep in a bed and head off in the morning,” Heyes shook his head.  “Why can’t you just keep away from women?   They’d never have been able to associate us with the Calhouns at all if you hadn’t taken Amy out to dinner.”
 
 
 
“Same goes for you and poker, Joshua.”  The Kid sighed, heavily.  “D’ya think Mabel will ever be traced?”
 
 
 
“Nope.  That’d only be incriminating.  What do they wrap beef in, Thaddeus?”
 
 
 
“Pastry?”
 
 
 
Heyes shook his head.  “Cowhide.  Amy’s pa owns a tannery.  I don’t think poor Mabel will ever be seen again.”
 
 
 
“Hell or leather ?  That’s a tough fate for poor, old Mabel.”
 
 
 
“I guess.  Maybe there’s hope.  Angus and her might make the most beautiful hairy baby anyone ever saw and it’d be a better idea to start a new herd?”
 
 
 
“We can only hope so, Joshua.  You’ve been real good at the predictions since you starting readin’ about horoscopes.”   
 
 
 
 
Historical Notes     
 
 
 
Highland cattle (Scottish Gaelic: Bò Ghàidhealach) (Scots: kyloe) are a Scottish breed of cattle with long horns and long wavy coats which are coloured black, brindled, red, yellow or dun.  Their hair gives protection during the cold winters and their skill in looking for food allows them to survive in steep mountain areas. They both graze and browse and eat plants which many other cattle avoid.  They have a sweet and gentle nature and many Scots have a fondness for this iconic, long-horned breed.  They were established in North America first in the 1870s in Canada and began to be imported into the U.S.A. in the 1880s.
 
 
 
http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/highland.html 
 
 
 
 
Artificial insemination in animal husbandry is very ancient.  First used in horses, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension states that documents from approximately 1322 A.D. found an Arab chieftain who wanted to mate his prized mare with a stallion owned by an enemy. He used cotton containing the scent of the female to excite the stallion, causing him to ejaculate. He placed the released semen in the reproductive tract of the mare, leading to conception. In the 1780s, Italian naturalist Lazzaro Spallanzani artificially inseminated a dog.  Although the procedure was not used commercially in cattle until the early 20th century it is fair to assume that it may have been used in other animals in the interim.  Victorian slang for semen was ‘blow.’    
 
 
 
 
Read more: http://www.ehow.com/about_5052929_history-artificial-insemination-cattle.html#ixzz2qOsHTjpg   
 
 
 
 
 
The driving of the cattle around a hill so they were counted multiple times seems to have been a popular ruse, having been perpetrated on Sir Edward Morjoribanks and the Earl of Aberdeen, later Governor General of Canada, John Campbell Hamilton Gordon by his Ranch Manager on the Rocking Chair Ranch in Texas; and on Moreton Frewen by the cattle baron Stephen Wallace Dorsey who instructed that two herds be run around the hill twice.  Supposedly in the herd was an old yellow, lop-horned, lame steer known as "Old Buck."  After the one herd had passed by several times, Dorsey became concerned that his naive buyer might notice that the same steer was being counted multiple times.  Thus, Dorsey instructed his foreman to cut Old Buck out and separate him from the herd. Soon, however, Old Buck made his way back into the herd.  Once again, Old Buck was separated, this time by a further distance.  Once again, Old Buck was back in the herd.  The legend arose, that a week later Old Buck was still circling the hill and that, even today, on a moonlit night the ghost of Old Buck may be seen limping along around the hill.  The legend gave rise to Frank Benton's 1903 Old Buck's Ghost:
 
http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/swan3.html

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Keays

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PostSubject: Hell Bent for Leather   Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:30 pm

Heyes rode up and dismounted in front of the Mercantile. He tied his mare to the hitching rail and with a quick pat to her neck, he came up the steps digging out his shopping list as he went. He and Kid had just picked up their horses from the livery and had briefly parted company in order to make the purchasing of supplies more economical time wise. They needed food stuffs for themselves and the horses as well as a re-supply of bullets for the rifles. Hunting cougars for a nearby rancher had paid well but had left them short of ammunition.

Kid had naturally headed for the gunsmith-hardware store while Heyes, as mentioned entered the cool dusky interior of the mercantile. He studied his list intently even though he already had a good idea of what they were short of but he wanted to be sure he didn't forget anything. They had a long ride ahead of them for their next job and being caught short of an essential while on the trail could be more than inconvenient.

Most mercantiles were laid out in a similar fashion so Heyes casually strolled around the shelvings, scanning his eyes over the products until he found the items on the list. He considered the various sizes available on flour sacks ranging from 5lbs all the way up to 60lbs. It doesn't take a genius, self-proclaimed or otherwise to know that they travelled light and Heyes picked up the 5lb sack. He casually carried on until he found the salt and again chose a small satchel rather than the larger 10lb that was leaning up against the back of the shelving.

He carried on in that manner for some minutes, tipping his hat to one or two ladies who smiled at hm a little nervously, but still smiled at him. His mind wasn't on them and he carried on basically ignoring the other few patrons who walked the isles but seemed to keep their distance. Everyone had their own business and personal space requirements dictated a certain aloofness after all. Heyes creased his brow when he couldn't see coffee grounds where he thought they should be. He looked up and down and around, but nothing. Hmm, they had to have coffee.


“Excuse me,” he called over to the clerk behind the counter. “where's your coffee?”


The clerk was watching him and appeared slightly apprehensive. “Ah, it's right over there on the other side of the potatos.”


Heyes looked where the clerk pointed and he spotted the desired item. “Oh! Thank you.”


He walked over to the next shelf, chose the size of coffee that best suited and then made his way over to the counter and the cash register. The clerk smiled at him but didn't say anything.


“I'd also like a pound of bacon, wrapped up real good,” Heyes told him as he dumped his cargo onto the counter. “The leanest ya' got.”


“Oh. Ahhh....”


The clerk's eyes shifted to Heyes' left and Heyes followed the look just in time to hear the click of a hammer pulling back and found himself staring down the barrel of a colt 45. Heyes felt the chill go through him but on the outside a dimpled smile took over as his gaze moved up to lock onto a set of hard dark eyes that meant business.


“Oh, well howdy there Marshal Dicks,” Heyes greeted the tin star. “Imagine running into you here of all places.”


“Yeah, imagine,” the marshal growled. “Small world ain't it?”


“A little too small...” came Heyes' mumbled response as he felt someone behind him slip his schofield out of its holster.


“Get yer hands up Heyes, don't you move.”


“Well I can hardly do both at the same time....”


“Shuddup!” came the harsh response. “None 'a your lip! You know damn well what I mean now do it!”


Heyes released a bored sigh and with a roll of his eyes, raised his hands and instantly felt the deputy behind him start a search of his person. He happened to glance over at the clerk who had moved back away from the counter and was staring at the ex-outlaw with some consternation. Heyes sent a disappointed smile back at him. The few ladies who had been in the store tending to their morning shopping were behaving predictably by stifling small gasps of anxiety and quickly exiting the premises.

Heyes stood quietly watching the marshal watching him as he felt the deputy's search moving down his torso. The man was going to find his lock pick pretty soon if something didn't happen to divert his attention and Heyes found himself praying for some kind of interruption. As Preacher tended to say 'God works in mysterious ways' because just as Heyes was thinking the thought, the front door bell jangled and non other than Kid Curry walked into the scene.


“Jeez Joshua, what's goin' on....?”


The blue eyes instantly widened in surprise as the marshal spun around and took quick aim. Heyes lunged forward, tackling the lawman and throwing off his aim so the gun exploded, but sent the bullet harmlessly into the ceiling. Heyes and Dicks went to the floor and the marshal's gun went skidding across the boards to thump into the far wall. The deputy made to jump over the two men in front of him, but Heyes grabbed a boot and brought that man down to his knees as well.


“Heyes!”


“Run Kid! I'll be right behind ya'!”


True to his word, Heyes was on his feet faster than a frightened buck and making a leap over the fallen lawmen he got clear and made a dash for the door. He smashed through it in time to see Kid jumping aboard his nervous gelding. Getting his animal under control Jed grabbed the reins of Heyes' mare and lined her up so that a quick leap from Heyes could get him into the saddle and they'd be away.


“Heyes!” Kid yelled again as the long arm of the law reached out and tripped Heyes up right in the middle of his flying leap.


Heyes went down hard as he felt rough hands grabbing him while a painful knee in the kidney pinned him to the boardwalk.


“Go!” Heyes choked out with what little breath he had left in his lungs. “Run Kid! Get outta here!”


Kid cursed under his breath but knew there was no helping his partner. Better to run now and come back later than be captured as well. He booted his gelding forward and with the mare following he galloped out of town and just prayed that none of the bullets coming after him found their mark.

The deputy straddled Heyes and was pulling his arms behind his back to secure them in the cuffs as the marshal, who had retrieved his gun was shooting after the fleeing outlaw in the hopes of bringing him down. Townspeople were screaming and scrambling out of the street but even at that the marshal cursed and stopped firing in case he hit an innocent bystander.

Growling, he turned back to his deputy who still had Heyes face down on the boardwalk, with his hands securely cuffed behind his back.


“I'm going after that bastard, right now!” the marshal announced. “You get him down to the sheriff's office and then tell that lazy, no-good excuse for a lawman to get a posse together and follow me!”


“Yessir Marshal,” the deputy agreed as he stood up and began to haul Heyes up with him.


“And don't forget about his lock pick,” the lawman growled as he snarled at the prisoner.


Heyes slumped. Damn. Then the marshal was gone, running to the closest horse that hadn't spooked with the gunfire, and swinging himself aboard he booted the startled animal up into a gallop and took off in the Kid's wake.


“Hey!” came an indignant yell from a bystander. “That's my horse!” He turned on the deputy with self-righteous anger. “That's my horse! He can't go takin' my horse like that!”


“Yeah, he can,” the deputy informed him. “He's in pursuit of a wanted outlaw; he can do whatever he damn-well pleases.”


The horse-less citizen looked at Heyes and Heyes smiled innocently back at him.


“But....that's my horse.”



Kid kept both the horses going, hell bent for leather. It was dangerous galloping headlong like this over unfamiliar terrain, but not as dangerous as the law catching up to him. He took the chance of a spill and continued to push the horses until he had put some distance between himself and that ill-favoured town.

He cursed Heyes for a fool for not paying attention to his surroundings—again! They both knew Marshal Dicks and if Heyes hadn't had his eyes inside his own head he would have spotted the lawman right off. Dammit! How his cousin had made it through puberty was beyond the Kid. Then he smirked and shook his head while his eyes watered with the blowing wind. He'd made it through because Kid had been there to watch his back, that's how. Dammit!

The horses were blowing hard as Jed headed for higher ground. He found a switchback and pulling the horses around, he booted his gelding up the narrow trail and into the brush and rocks hoping to get some cover. The horses powered up the hill, giving their best efforts until they crested the ridge. Then Kid pulled them down to a trot until he found a covered vantage point and stopped them altogether.

He looked back over his own trail across the open country, hoping he wasn't going to see anyone following him, but knowing what a false hope it was. His body moved up and down with the heavy breathing of his mount as the two horses worked to catch their wind but that didn't stop him from seeing the dust trail rising up in the air.


“Dammit!” he cursed out loud this time. His gelding's ear flicked back for an instant then relaxed again as he went back to catching his breath. Then Kid froze, his brow creasing as he spotted a second, much larger dust cloud bellowing up into the air a couple of miles behind the first. “DAMMIT!”


Both horses spooked then but Jed didn't care. He was in trouble for real with a full-blown posse on his tail and he had to do something to lose them—and quick.



The rest of that day was spent doubling back on his trail, crossing streams and rubbing out tracks. In other words, every trick in the book on 'How to Lose a Posse 101' was put into play until Jed finally felt satisfied that he had lost his shadows. When evening fell he doubled back for real until he found himself just outside that same egregious town. And there he waited, silent and invisible until the moon began its descent and the time for thievery and jail-breaking was at hand.


Heyes was actually laying on his cot with his hat settled over his eyes, secure in the notion that his partner would get him out of this fix. He had even gone so far as to snooze quite comfortably under his hat until his finely tuned instincts jolted him awake.


“Sheriff! Sheriff open up!” Bang, bang, bang! “Bill just seen Kid Curry sneakin' inta' town! Ya' gotta come quick!”


The sheriff snorted loudly as he was startled from his sleep and darn near fell out of his chair, knocking the paper and a jar of ink off the desk top in his scramble to get to his feet.


“What the hell...?” came the legal complaint. “Who is that?”


“It's me, 'Joe'!” came the muffled response. “Hurry up!”


The sheriff settled himself and rearranged his shooting apparel as he sent a quick glance over to the prisoner. Heyes had lifted his hat up just enough to allow one brown eye to scan the front office.

“Your partner ain't too bright is he?” the fat sheriff commented as he moved towards the front door. “If he thinks he's just gonna ride on into town and rescue you then you both got another thing comin'.”


Heyes smiled softly and set the hat back over his face.


“C'mon! Open up!” came the muffled demand from outside followed by more pounding on the door.


“Ya, ya! Hold yer horses!”


The sheriff unlocked the door and was just about to open it when he was suddenly pushed back into the office. He stumbled and cursed and caught his balance just in time to see the muzzle of Kid Curry's colt 45 aimed at his rotund belly. Kid closed the door behind him and locked it without once taking his eyes off the indignant law man.


“Hey, you ain't Joe!” the sheriff stated the obvious.


“Well I gotta admit Sheriff,” Kid smiled at him. “when you're right, you're right.”


“Who the hell are ya' then,” was the come back. “and what do ya' think yer doin'!”


“Well now Sheriff, who do ya' think I am?”

“I don't....”


“Where are the keys to the cell?” Kid decided it was time to get down to business.


“The keys to his....? Ya' mean you're....?


“Hey, we got a smart one here, Heyes.”


“Yeah, I'd noticed.”


The sheriff actually found his courage or perhaps it was just indignant stupidity but either way, he crossed his arms and put on a defensive stance.


“The keys are in the safe along with his possessions,” he informed the intruder. “and I just can't seem to remember the combination.”


Heyes was standing up now and getting ready to vacate the premises.


Kid gave a look of mock disappointment. “Aww, c'mon now Sheriff, don't be like that. You know who you got in that cell over there and you know that he can open this little ole' safe just by tapping it so why don't you save us all a lot of.....”


The sheriff started to laugh. “Who are you kiddin'?” he asked as his belly jiggled. “Heyes is locked up in that cell. He can't open the safe from in there and he can't get outa his cell until he opens the safe! You may as well just give it up now Kid cause you ain't gonna...”


Kid sighed and he and Heyes exchanged wearisome expressions.


“Fine Sheriff, if that's the way ya' wanna play this,” Kid motioned over to the desk chair and dug the strip of rope out of his pocket. “just sit down and put your hands behind your back.”


The sheriff seemed to think this was humourous and though he did move over to the chair and take a seat, he was laughing and shaking his head at the stupidity of outlaws. Kid took the sheriff's gun and put it out of reach, then slipping his own back into his holster he quickly tied the sheriff's hands behind his back. He then took the sheriff's bandana and tied it nice and snug around his mouth.

The sheriff snorted with disgust but seemed content in his own belief that these two were headed for a stalemate and this was all just a big waste of time. He changed his tune quick enough though as Kid started rummaging around in the desk drawers and within moments came up with a letter opener. The sheriff frowned as he wondered what the man intended to do with that as Kid moved over to the makeshift kitchen and found himself a small knife.


“Yeah!” Heyes chuckled with glee and actually rubbed his hands together. “Good work Kid.”


“Uh huh,” Kid grumbled as he handed Heyes the utensils. “when are you gonna learn to pay attention to your surroundings?”


“Aw c'mon Kid, it wasn't my fault,” Heyes insisted as he set about opening the cell door. “It coulda just as easily happened to you.”


“No it couldn't 'a,” Jed contradicted, “cause I always check out where I'm goin'. You just can't seem to get your head outa the clouds.”


“Yeah, yeah,” Heyes grumbled as the cell door clicked open.


They hurried over to the safe and Heyes settled down in front of it and gave it a quick looking over. The expression that settled over his face was one of grave disappointment. He sent a frustrated look over to the sheriff who smugly met his eye, believing that the great Hannibal Heyes was stumped.


“I swear Sheriff,” Heyes complained, “when are you fellas gonna start using safe's that might offer a fella just a little bit of a challenge? This one's hardly worth my time.”


“C'mon Heyes,” Jed complained, “we don't have time for your theatrics. Just get it opened and let's go!”


Heyes sent his cousin a dirty look and setting his ear to the lock, he began to work the tumblers. “No appreciation for the arts, that's your problem.”


One try on the combination and Heyes pushed down the lever and swung open the not so heavy door. The sheriff's heart sank as he realized that he was about to lose the marshal's very profitable prisoner.


Heyes gave a wicked chuckle as he stood up. He grabbed his lock pick and the money he'd had on him and returned them to their rightful places. Then he got his holster with the schofield tucked neatly into it and strapped the apparel around his waist. He swung the safe closed and they both hurried over to the front door. Jed opened it cautiously and peered out, checking in both directions and across the street. All was quiet except for their two horses waiting patiently at the hitching rail.


He nodded to Heyes and Heyes tipped his hat to the disappointed lawman.


“Sheriff,” he grinned. “thanks for dinner.”



This little story was inspired by the episode 'Last Train to Brimstone' when Heyes was about to walk in to the mercantile but Kid stopped him because he noticed the sheriff in there.  Heyes was totally oblivious.  What would happen if Heyes had been on his own and walked into that store and right into the sheriff's hands?


Last edited by Keays on Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:09 am; edited 2 times in total
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Cimarron

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PostSubject: Hell Bent For Leather   Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:35 pm

 
Hell Bent For Leather
 
 
 
The rasping, panting gasps of breath ripped from the animal’s flaring nostrils.  The world flashed by in fragments in his peripheral vision; a whirlwind of unnoticed rocks and sagebrush, too fast to be registered.  The backdrop was no more than a blur; the dark eyes fixed on the road ahead and pressed on.  There could be no rest for the pounding hooves despite the rash of sweat starting to wash the straining horseflesh.  He had to get there.
 
 
 
 
 
He was barely aware of the tightness in his neck and shoulders, the belly pulled tight above the straining thighs.  Holding back was as much part of driving on; it was the difference between a controlled animal and a runaway, and the signals came from every nuance of the rider; through touch and pressure.  The animal had to know who was in control to feel safe, especially at speed.
 
 
 
 
 
A sharp bend loomed ahead and the horse’s ears flicked back in trepidation at thundering towards a road out of its line of sight, but Heyes knew that his mount would go where he was looking and pressed the animal on.  He knew better than to pull too hard; a tip of the nose would lead the animal in the right direction, coupled with muscles tightening on the inside of his leg would show the animal where he wanted him to go.  They had to work together, like a well oiled machine.  They were a unit of muscle and iron will working in concert; the hooves pounded like the echoes of a heartbeat on the hard, cold earth and the beast trusted his human with his life.  He wouldn’t take him anywhere unsafe and he knew that.  The power to control 1800 pounds of sheer muscle took consent and faith by both parties; the gentle strength of relationship was not to be underestimated.
 
 
 
 
 
The rhythmic thumping of another animal coming from behind carried in the wind causing the stallion’s heart to skip a beat.  A whiff of air was enough to enough to tell him that it was the red dun upstart who continually pushed the boundaries and challenged his position as dominant male.  Nah, that wasn’t going to happen; no young whippersnapper was going to usurp his place in the herd!  Onwards, onwards – the human wanted that too, so the competition would suit him and the way the human held his seat told the horse that he was more than up for the extra spurt which was fuelled by sheer male pride.
 
 
 
 
 
The pace upped, perceptibly.  The beats increased in pace, the limbs and neck stretched out and the ears flattened.  Every movement counted and the usurper was gaining pace.  That was not an option.  The red dun could not be allowed to win.  The hooves beat the ground in a cacophony of competition, sounding a paradiddle of rivalry.  Losing was not an option because he would lose the ability to sire the mares of his choice and that simply could not be allowed to happen. 
 
 
 
 
 
The following hooves got louder, the iron-clad feet slamming on the cold, hard ground over and over again.  The red dun was gaining on them.  The stallion’s nerves steeled with determination as another surge of adrenaline kicked in.  There were humans ahead, shouting and screaming at the top of their voices.  They could be very excitable and unpredictable, that species, but it was best not to pay them too much notice; he had other matters in hand.
 
 
 
 
 
The chest expanded as the lungs swelled to fuel another burst of energy and the hooves battered on.  The challenger was being kept at bay; the gap was no longer narrowing.  Great; now it was time to make sure that usurper really knew his place.  It would be a very long time before the stallion was willing to relinquish his position as dominant male and this was a good time to send the message loud and clear.  He forged on ahead; thundering past the yelling humans.  Suddenly, he felt a tug on the reins.  His human was pulling back.  No, not now!  He was just showing that sneaky upstart who was boss, but the leg signals were reinforcing the messages signalled by the bit in his mouth.  The stallion slowed, dragging his dancing hooves reluctantly to a halt, blowing uncertainly and flashing the whites of his eyes as the humans surged forward gabbling and generally behaving really badly.  What was wrong with these people?
 
 
 
 
 
The mount felt his human jump down and watched him jog over to the blond human who playfully punched him on the shoulder before grasping him by the top of the arms and shaking him in delight.  “Ya did it, Joshua.  You won; one hundred dollars.  We can sleep in the hotel tonight and eat a hot dinner!”
 
 
 
 
 
The dark human grinned and put his hands on his hips.  “It was real close.  I could hear Bartson gaining on me, but old Blue pulled out all the stops.  I don’t know where he got that final burst from, but he really delivered.”  Heyes strolled over and patted his horse fondly on the neck before rubbing his cheek on the velvet face.  “You’re a good old boy, aren’t you, Blue.  You get a nice bag of oats for that and I’m going over to the store to get you some juicy apples too.  Would you like that?”
 
 
 
 
 
Blue nickered softly and turned to cast a triumphant glance at the red dun.  He would like that.  He would like that very much.                                               
 
 
 
    
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:49 pm

Hell
 
“Hell?  What kinda name is that for a town?”
 
Heyes shrugged.  “I think you’re playing fast and loose with the word ‘town.’  It’s more of a collection of shacks around a main street.”
 
“I don’t care.    We deliver the box to the mayor and then we eat.  My belly thinks my throat’s been cut.  I’m starvin’.”
 
The dark eyes rolled.  “You’re always starving.”
 
“That’s not true,” the Kid protested, “I just burn it off quicker’n you; probably because I do most of the work around here.”
 
“All we’ve done is ride.  You haven’t done any more work than I have.”
 
“I stay alert while you daydream,” the Kid’s lips firmed into a line.  “That uses energy.”

Heyes dismounted.  “Thinking takes energy too, ya know.  Come on.  Let’s eat.  That place looks like it serves food,” he stared at the skinny girl sitting in the doorway,  displaying her charms through tattered frills with as much allure as the raddled chicken scratching for food in the dirt, “in fact, it looks like it serves just about anything; as long as it’s cheap.” 
 
“Well the mercantile seems to be the saloon too,” blue eyes scanned the town.  “I guess the town isn’t big enough to have more than one business.  They seem to do it all.”
 
“Yeah,” Heyes’ eyes drifted off into a haze of memories, “farming’s a tough life.  Folks need somewhere to kick back.  I guess this is all they got.”
 
“It’s real sad if this is your reward after a week’s work.”  The Kid nudged his partner and nodded towards the shabby place of business.  “Come on, I’m hungry.”
 
**********
 
They entered the store - or the brothel – or the saloon.  Nothing was that easy to distinguish in Hell, and all these businesses seemed to merge into one.  No opportunity to earn was missed.
 
“Do you serve food?”  Heyes frowned and stepped back from the mongrel who was entertaining himself by indulging in a spot of chicken-worrying. 
 
“Yeah.”  A mountain of a woman piled dirty tin plates onto a tray.  “We got food.”  The hound scuttled passed again, chasing jittery poultry out the door.  “We got bacon and beans,” the female gestured with her head towards the kitchen, “or we could do you a special.”
 
The Kid’s brows arched appreciatively.  “A special?  What you got?”
 
“Eggs.”
 
“Eggs?”
 
“Yeah,” the waitress repeated.  “Eggs is the special.”
 
The partners shared a look.  “Can eggs be special?” Heyes asked.
 
“If they’re fresh enough.  Ya want eggs?”
 
The Kid paused before replying.  “How are they done?”  
 
“Depends,” she shrugged.  “If they ain’t already broke you can have them boiled.”
 
“Is this the only restaurant in town?” Heyes asked looking around at the empty room.  “Is that where all the rest of your customers are?” 
 
The loud cackle split the air.  “Restoorant?  Ya think you’re in New York?  This is Hell.  We don’t have no restoorants.  We serve chuck for folks passin’ through.  Take it or leave it.”  
 
“I’ll have the bacon and beans,” the Kid slumped into a chair, “and a beer.”
 
“Sure,” the waitress stared at Heyes almost in challenge.  “What about you, sweet cheeks?”
 
“The same,” Heyes joined his cousin at the table and nodded towards the terrier.  “At least the dog looks fresh.”
 
“We’ve eaten in worse.  You’re getting’ soft, Heyes.”
 
“Soft?  No, I just learned a long time ago that latrines loom large in the world unpicky eaters and I doubt there’s one of those for fifty miles.”
 
“The whole world’s a latrine, especially around here.  Have a whiskey, that’ll kill anythin’ bad in the food.  I don’t know what you’re complainin’ about everyone looks healthy enough here.”  The Kid paused in embarrassment as a gaunt man limped into the room and poured two beers from a barrel in the corner.  His twisted frame turned awkwardly, encased in the leather body brace which was fastened with buckles and straps which forced him to move like a statue to deliver one glass at a time with his only arm.
 
“Beer?” he asked.  “Ya wanted beer?”  The man glanced down at his frame.  “This?  Yeah, folks look at it all the time.  I got hurt in the war; hurt myself real bad.”  He stretched out a gnarled claw of a hand, the skin stretched and deformed like some kind of molten, mottled marble.   He flicked a look at the stricken blue eyes staring into his distorted face.  “Pretty ugly, huh?  I was in a burnin’ barn; and the roof collapsed.  If’n it weren’t for my comrade pullin’ me outta there I’d have been as dead as a tin of embalmed beef.”  Another glass of beer was placed shakily on the counter.  “Walt is the name, Walt Clifford.”
 
Walt lowered himself down onto a bench.  “Yeah, we were routin’ out a gang of traitors when some little rat shot me in the leg – must’ve been no more’n nine or ten.  The whole place was aflame and the fire was creepin’ nearer and nearer.  I screamed for help and then I hollered like a maiden-aunt when the flames caught me.  I thought I was a gonner.  All I really remember was passin’ out and then wakin’ up in a farmhouse.  Treacherous spies the lot o them.”
 
Heyes frowned.  “That’s quite a story.”
 
“I was behind enemy lines so they had to take me to a friendly family to tend me.  I don’t remember much; I was in and out of it with morphine for I don’t know how long, but a real kind lady nursed me through the worst and I eventually got outta there.”  He tapped his leather body-brace.  “There was a doc out in Charlotte who took me on as a special case cause the fire caused all my muscles to shrivel.”  The remaining arm curled up.  “They were all shortened, see; like this.”  He sat back with a sigh.  “It took three years of blood, sweat and tears and eight different braces to push me back  upright again, but I gotta wear it all the time ‘cos I ain’t got the strength to hold m’self upright.”  He tapped his leather shell.  “Shot to hell, these muscles.  Sometimes I wish they’d just left me to die.  I still live on morphine.”
 
“Yeah?” murmured the Kid. 
 
“Lord, yeah!  One arm, blind in one eye and a face that could scare bejayzus outta an angry grizzly.  It ain’t much of a life.  If I could get my hands in that little runt who shot me in the leg, I’d …”
 
The blue eyes hardened to ice.  “You’d what?”  The Kid stood and strode over to Walt.  “Shoot him?  That was a long time ago and that boy is a man now.  D’ya think a wreck like you’d stand a chance?  Well?  Answer me, do ya?”
 
Heyes frowned in concern but rose to take up a position beside his cousin.  “Kid?”
 
“I doubt you’re any more recognizable than me, you b*stard.” The hand dropped down to the gun.  “I was only ten and you’re now as ugly on the outside as you are on the inside.”
 
Walt’s jaw dropped open as he fell against the wall in shock, his arm heading under the bar.

The Kid’s gun appeared in his hand as if by magic.  “Get that hand where I can see it or lose that one too.”
 
Heyes stared at the Kid, the realization dawning on who this cripple actually was.
 
“I thought the voice was familiar,” The Kid drawled dangerously, “but then you confirmed you were in the barn and shot by a boy.  Do you recognize me?  Do you remember why I shot ya?  Tell him what you were doin’ to that woman.”  The voice dropped to a low growl.  “She was my ma.”

“I..no… you’ve made a mistake.”
 
Heyes strode behind the bar and removed the rifle kept there to deter trouble-makers.  “Don’t want you going for this, do we?”  The dark eyes flicked s concerned look over to his partner, unsure how this was going to play out.  The taut shoulders echoed the tight jaw while the long fingers twitched inches from the holstered gun.  “Kid?  What are you gonna do here?”
 
The glacial eyes remained fixed on his prey.  “I ain’t sure.”
 
Heyes sighed heavily and took up position against the wall where he could guard both the entrance to the kitchen and the main door.  “Ya gotta decide.  I’ll support you either way.  You know that don’t you?”
 
“Sure I do.”  The hard stare never faltered.  “I never doubted that for a moment.”
 
They stood for the longest time, the air thick with emotion and pregnant with fear.   The Kid sucked in a breath and stepped towards his prey and the little man shied away with a whimper.
 
“Pathetic!  You low-down, no-good, piece of dirt,” the words rolled out of the Kid’s mouth like a torrent.  “You’re a coward.  You were then and you still are; attacking unarmed women and children?  Do you think I’m gonna end your miserable existence for ya?”  He leaned in prodding the leather shell for emphasis.  “Well, do ya?”  He stood back, grabbing a few items from the shelf.  “You don’t even have the courage to end it for yourself.”  He backed off towards the door, gesturing with his head for Heyes to follow him.  “I ain’t in the mood to end your misery today, but you never know when I might just change my mind and come lookin’ for ya.   In the meantime, I’m glad to see you’re sufferin’.  I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”       
 
They strode over to their horses and mounted before kicking them into action.  “Are you gonna come back, Kid?”
 
 “Who knows?”  There was a long pause before terse words filled the void.  “He’s sufferin’ and has done for years.  I’ve always got that to hang on to.  He exists, but he doesn’t live.”
 
“Speaking of hanging onto things, you lifted some supplies from the shelves on your way out.  D’you want to stop and cook some of that bacon?”
 
“Maybe later, Heyes.  I just lost my appetite.”
 
“Sure just let me know what’ll help.”
 
“Help?  He’s in hell in more ways than one, but it sure does help to know he’s livin’ with fear now too.”  The fair eyebrows arched.  “Now all I gotta do is work out is if it’s enough.”
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Moonpie
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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:32 pm

I haven't written for at least five years, but I was tempted by this prompt! 


“Aw, hell!  Look at the state of my boot.”  The Kid bent over and dragged the gnarled footwear away from the little pinpoint teeth.  The little fluffy tail wagged back and forth.  “How long do you have to look after this rat?”

“Prince,” the cheeks dimpled.  “His name is Prince and he’s a toy King Charles Spaniel.”

“Toy?  How come he never chews anything of yours?”

“I have a way with animals.”  Heyes reached down and patted the dog’s silky head.

“You have a supply of jerky; that’s where your talent ends.”  The beast scampered over to the Kid and gazed longingly up at him with chocolate eyes and a lolling tongue as Heyes chuckled.  “See; he likes you.  Maybe he can taste you from those old boots and wants more.”

“This is the third time he’s chewed my boots and those little needles go right through.”  The Kid sat down heavily on the bed and pulled on his damaged boots.  “You never answered me; how long will you be walking that thing.”

“Him, not that.  His name is Prince and Mrs. Stephenson is here until the end of the week.  I’m getting paid to take her darling pup for walks four times a day and it’s enough to keep us fed and housed in this hotel; so stop complaining,” Heyes lifted the leash and the pup started to dance around excitedly.  “I’m not asking you to do a single thing, am I?”

“Yeah.  I’ve been wonderin’ about that.  Since when did you do all the work without gettin’ me to do anything?”

“I knew you would object to walking a dog like Prince.  Now, if it was a big, mean-looking hound that’d be different, but I can’t see the quickest gun in the West escorting a little ball of fluff around.  You’d end up in a gunfight because somebody said something you couldn’t let lie.”

The Kid scowled.  “Are you tryin’ to say I’m out of control?”

“No, that’s what I’m trying not to say,” grinned Heyes, infuriatingly.  “I’m just trying to pull my weight about here.  I have an understanding with the lady and she likes me looking after her pet, is all.  She thinks I have gentle eyes.”

The blue eyes glistened suspiciously.  “An understanding?  How old is this lady?”

“About sixty.”

“There’s a daughter, or a niece or a friend,” the Kid narrowed his eyes.  “You never do anything without a reason.”

“She’s married and her son is around.  That’s it.”

He pulled on a chewed boot and stood, testing it for any of the damages areas rubbing.  “Why can’t her son or her husband walk the dog?”

“They’re rich and they’re too busy and important to be bothered with anything so mundane.”

“Hey!”  The Kid leaped to his feet and waved his arms to shoo off the inquisitive little snout from his gun belt.  “What is with this thing and leather?  Get him something to chew will ya?  Better yet, take him for his mornin’ walk and stop bringin’ him to the room.”

~~~~~~~~~~
 
A fine, new pair of boots strode into the hotel lobby on the feet of the tall, fair-headed man whose keen eyes scanned the lobby.  His gaze was drawn by the rotund little woman in a dark-blue dress who waved a parasol in his direction before scuttling across the black and white tiled floor.

“You’re Mr. Jones, aren’t you?” the beaming woman asked him.  “I’ve seen you with Joshua.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the Kid replied, tipping his hat respectfully.

“Have you seen your friend?”  The little woman asked, worriedly.  “Prince needs his afternoon walkies.”
       
“I saw him...,” he paused, unwilling to tell his partner’s current employer that Heyes was last seen heading towards the saloon to check out the poker game, “near the church.  Do you want me to fetch him for you?”

“Oh, I don’t want to bother the sweet man in his devotions.  Can you help?  Little, Princey-Pooh needs his walkies.”

“Prince?”  He looked down at the begging brown eyes and winced.  She had put a bow in its hair; as if the beast wasn’t ridiculous enough as it was.  “I’m busy, ma’am.  I’m sorry, I can’t help.”
     
“But...”

“I have to get on.  I’m sorry.”  He touched the brim of his hat again and moved on.

“But Prince is desperate”

“Not as desperate as me,” the Kid muttered under his breath.

“Ten dollars!”

Mrs. Stephenson watched the tall man stop before he turned slowly.  “Ten dollars?  For how long?”

“Half an hour?”  She shrugged.  “He’s only got little legs.”

He pursed his lips, considering the proposition.  Ten dollars was a lot of money for half an hour but he’d have to take a fair amount of ridicule in the process. 

“Fine!  Fifteen, but that’s my final offer.”

“Done,” a smile twinkled in the blue eyes.  “I’m great with animals.  Did I tell you I was brought up on a farm?”

~~~~~~~~~~

The coldest, meanest possible glare dared any of the sniggering cowpokes to voice their ridicule at the long, lean gunman and the frou-frou, yappy dog dancing and scampering around on the end of the leash.  The bow had made it as far as the hotel door before it was ‘lost’ forever.

“Hey, mister!  What ya huntin’ fer?  Cockroaches?”

He continued on, ignoring the braying children running around the sidewalk.  He and Heyes would have done exactly the same at their age. 

“Hey, mister.  Is that a cock-eyed spaniel?”

“Fifteen dollars,” the Kid repeated under his breath like a mantra.  “Fifteen dollars.” 

“Nah,” chortled an urchin in oversized overalls.  “It’s a cockerpoodlepoo.”

“You sure?” laughed another.  “I thought it was a flea circus havin’ a parade.”

A pair of worn cowboy boots ground to halt beside Prince who sniffed and slobbered enthusiastically over the toes.  The Kid followed all the way up to a pair of glowering dark eyes.  “You’re walking the dog?”

“You were late back and he was desperate.  What else was I supposed to do?”

“Come and get me, that’s what.  This is my job.”

“Joshua, by the time I found you he’d have messed the carpet.  How do you put up with this every day?”

“I think deep thoughts and rise above the comments.”

The Kid shook his head.  “I gotta admire you.  I’d end up punchin’ somebody.”

“I told you so,” Heyes held out a hand.  “Gimme the dog.”

“Fine, I’ll go back to the hotel and collect the fee from Mrs. Stephenson.”  The Kid narrowed his eyes, “unless you’ve got a reason for me not to?  She gave me extra, you know.”

Heyes shrugged.  “Take it.  She was probably desperate and the mutt chewed your boots anyway.  It’ll help replace them.”

His cousin folded his arms.  “Give it up, Joshua.  What’s the game?  You’ve got some kind of scam goin’ here.”

“Scam?  Me?”  The dark eyes widened with faux hurt.  “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Save it.  I know you too well.  You never volunteer for any kind of job unless there’s something in it for you.”   

“What kind of scam could there be?  I’m just walking an old lady’s dog for a few extra dollars.”  Heyes shook his head.  “Honestly, Thaddeus.  You have such a twisted mind.”

“Yeah,” the Kid replied.  “It’s the high criminal element around here.  It rubs off.” 

The cheeks dimpled deeply.  “Whatever.  Go and break in your new boots in the saloon.  I’ll meet you there later,” a brow arched, “unless you want to come with me?  I’ve gotta say that two men walking Prince will look even more ridiculous than one.”

“I guess.”  The leash was handed over.  “I’ll go see Mrs. Stephenson.”

“There he is!”  The call came from a stunning brunette who grasped at her skirts and displayed an alluring degree of ankle as she bustled quickly towards them.

“Oh, yes!  Aren’t you just the most gorgeous thing a girl ever saw?”  The green-eyed blonde held onto her hat and followed.
                     
The Kid frowned.   “Joshua?”

The women crowded around petting and patting the little spaniel.  “Isn’t Prince adorable?  We just don’t have dogs like him around here.”  The blonde giggled at the little paws nestling in her hand.  “My pa just has working dogs.  Great, dirty things with course hair and bad breath.  Isn’t he just the cutest thing you ever saw?”

“I suppose that depends on what you mean by cute,” the Kid stared at Heyes who was gazing around with affected innocence.  “Which hound do you mean?”

The dark-haired girl fluttered long lashes at the gunman.  “We walk with Joshua every day and have tea with him.  A woman can tell a man is gentle and sensitive when he walks a dog like little Prince.  We’re trying to convince him to come to the Easter Dance this weekend.”  She titled her head.  “He didn’t tell us he had such a handsome friend.”

“My friend didn’t tell me he was enjoying the company of such beautiful women,” the Kid glowered at his cousin.  “Strange that.  I guess it was all about the dog for him.  That’s all he told me.”

“Would you like to join us for tea, Mr....?”

“Jones.  Thaddeus Jones,” he proffered a chivalrous arm, “and I’d love to.”  He extended the other one for the dark-eyed beauty.  “I love tea.  No Joshua, don’t you have a job to do?  Prince needs his walk.  You wouldn’t want Mrs. Stephenson to find out that Prince didn’t get his walk.  We’ll see you in about half an hour.”  The Kid cast a triumphant glance back at his cousin who stood with the fluffy pup cavorting about his feet.  “And to think I’d never have met you two ladies if that little dog hadn’t been so he...,” he paused to  review his choice of phrase, “bent on chewing up leather.”
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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:59 pm

He lay on the ground staring up at the stars knowing it was her.  He hadn’t seen her or heard her do anything suspicious, but there had been enough of a glint in those greedy eyes to make him dress and get out of there as quickly as possible.   Had it been recognition, revenge or avarice?  Maybe it was all three.  You could never really trust a prostitute.
   
It hadn’t been long before the unmistakeable sound of pursuit had echoed behind him and he had followed his instinct and kicked his mount into action and there he lay; the bile of anger rising in his gullet at being such a fool.

The moonlight glinted off the gun pointed straight at his head.  He’d been too winded by the fall and was still seeing stars when they came upon him.  How many of them were there and why were they swirling like that?  Man, he must have hit his head pretty bad. 

“Did ya see that boys?”  A tobacco-stained voice floated through the night.  “I swear he went sideways when his horse made the bend; right into those rocks!  Lucky we managed to get that colt off him before he came to.  We wouldn’t stand a chance against an armed Kid Curry.”

The blue eyes blinked and glanced over at the saddle lying close to his head.  The girth had been cut; not all the way through, but just enough to break through when put under the pressure of a chase; the stress of the movement of a horse going hell bent for leather.  The phrase drifted through his head.  Yeah, he was in for some hell because the leather had been tampered with

There was one more question; one which gave a glimmer of hope.  There was no sign of Hannibal Heyes ...not yet anyway.

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:12 pm

While I admire brevity in others, I can't seem to achieve it myself. This is just under the word limit.

---

Heyes pushed the creaking door open. In the dim moonlight from the window, he could just barely see an oil lamp. Curry waited quietly in the hall while Heyes struck a match to the wick, and a feeble light illuminated the shabby hotel room. Curry squeezed past Heyes, dropping his saddlebags onto the floor. He sat on the nearest bed, gingerly testing the mattress. Satisfied, he lay down across the bed, with his feet on the floor.

Heyes adjusted the lamp to burn brighter. In the dresser mirror, he saw Curry collapse onto the bed. Heyes put his own saddlebags on the dresser and took off his hat, carefully hanging it on a peg.

“You planning to sleep that way?” Heyes asked.

“What way?” Curry answered, eyes closed.

“With your coat and hat on. Wearing that hogleg.”

“Maybe.”

There was a pitcher and bowl on the dresser. Heyes lifted the pitcher carefully and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was full. He poured water into the bowl and splashed some on his face. Running wet fingers through his dirty hair, he looked at himself in the mirror and saw a three-day stubble of dark beard, deep circles under the eyes, and pale skin. His eyes shifted to Curry’s reflection. Curry looked worse than he did. Heyes took a towel from the rack and, wiping his face, went to stand next to his friend.

“How’re you doing, Kid?”

“Wonderful.” Heyes put the towel on the nightstand, got down on one knee, and pulled Curry’s boots off. Curry neither resisted nor helped.

“Good to hear, Kid. I was afraid that little tumble you took might’ve bruised you up some.”

“I’ve had better days.”

Heyes got up. His knees creaked.

“Why don’t you take off your coat and hat and stay for a while?” Curry slowly sat up, grunting. Giving his hat to Heyes, he unbuttoned his sheepskin jacket, and Heyes helped him shrug out of it. Heyes knew better than to help with Curry’s gunbelt; he waited, holding Curry’s coat and hat, while Curry unbuckled the gunbelt and hung it on the brass headboard, within easy reach.

Curry sat slumped on the edge of the bed, head hanging, elbows on knees and hands clasped, while Heyes hung his coat and hat in the wardrobe. The clothes put away, Heyes went back to check on his exhausted partner.

“You hungry?”

“No,” Curry said. He looked up at Heyes’ concerned face and forced a small smile. “Don’t look like that, Heyes. I reckon I’m more tired than hungry.”

“How about I go down to the dining room and bring us back a couple sandwiches? That sound good?”

Curry tried to get up, but Heyes pushed him back down with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“You need me to watch your back, Heyes. There’s no telling if any of that posse trailed us here.”

“Not a chance, Kid. They’re heading to Mexico by now. Besides, it ain’t likely I’ll see anyone who knows me, especially since the restaurant’s just about to close.”

Kid looked at Heyes’ drawn face. Heyes looked as bad as he felt. He looked at the pillow. He looked again at Heyes.

“You just rest for a bit, Kid. I’ll be back in no time.”

Kid looked at the pillow again. He felt like it was calling his name.

“Okay, Heyes. Just stay out of trouble.”

“I’ll be meek as a church mouse. Promise.” He released Curry’s shoulder, and Curry lay on his side and closed his eyes.

Heyes was almost out of the room when Curry spoke up.

“Heyes.”

“Yeah?”

“No onions.”

Despite his worry, Heyes smiled at his partner. “Got it.”

No customers were in the dining room when Heyes arrived. He glanced at a large wall clock – it was 9:02, and the restaurant closed at nine. A short balding waiter was picking up salt shakers from the tables. Heyes cleared his throat. The man turned around, frowning.

“Dining room’s closed, mister.”

Heyes pointed to the clock. “Only for two minutes. Can’t I get something to take back to my room?”

The little man straightened up, surprised. “You’re a guest here?” This skinny cowboy dressed in raggedy clothes didn’t look like he had ten cents to his name.

“Yes, sir, me and my partner just checked in. We sure could use some food.”

“Well. . . “ the waiter hesitated, torn between his desire to go home and the boss’s insistence to take good care of guests. “If the dining room supervisor says it’s alright. Kitchen’s supposed to be closed.”

“That’d be real kind of you. Anything you got would be fine, as long as it’s got no onions. ” Frowning again, the man went into the kitchen. Heyes waited, looking around at the comfortable dining room chairs, all arranged neatly around the tables. If he sat down, he might fall asleep right then and there. 

The wall clock ticked loudly. Five minutes passed. Heyes was trying to decide if he should go looking for the waiter when he heard clicking footsteps behind the kitchen door. He put on his best smile that lasted only two seconds after the door opened. He sure wasn’t expecting to see her in this place. She recognized him, too. The shock on her face was almost comical.

“Hello, Louise.” He pointed at the tray she was carrying. “Is that for me?”

Her jaw hung low. She looked quickly around the room. They were alone.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered loudly.

“I’m here for dinner.”

“That’s not what I meant! Why are you in Yuma? Did you come here looking for me?”

He ran one hand through his long hair. “No, Louise. Why we’re here is a long story, but it’s not about you. Seeing you is just a happy coincidence.”

She almost threw the tray at him. “Here’s some cold chicken with slaw and bread. Take it and go.”

“Don’t you want to know what room to bill it to?”

“No,” she hissed. “Just go.”

“Why Miss Carson,” he said. “What kind of greeting is this? Especially after all we’ve been through.”

She opened her mouth, ready to tell him off, when, all of a sudden, her anger evaporated. He was smiling, trying to charm her. The deep dimples were still there, but his big brown eyes were dull. He was thinner than she remembered, too. His clothes were threadbare and dirty. This wasn’t the man she’d known two years ago.

“Are you alright, Mr. Smith?” The concern in her quiet voice surprised him.

“I will be, once I get to eat. Thanks for this.”

“Is your friend with you?”

“He’s upstairs.”

“I see.” They looked at each other without speaking. After a long moment, Heyes turned away.

“I ought to get back. Thaddeus gets cranky when he’s hungry.”

“You’d better go then. Unless you need something else right now?”

“No, Louise. Thank you. I guess you’re the supervisor here?”

“Yes, I am. Almost since I arrived in Yuma.”

“Yeah, well. . . that’s good, Louise, real good. I guess I’ll be seeing you again, since we’re staying here.”

“Yes, you probably will. And I’m sorry I was so sharp with you earlier. When I saw you, I thought. . . well, I thought you were here about what happened before.”

“Not a problem, Miss Carson. Good night.” 

“Good night.” Louise moved to hold the door open for Heyes, who was balancing the heavy tray. He smiled his thanks. Halfway up the stairs, he paused and looked back. She was standing at the door, watching him.

Heyes kicked the door of his hotel room. “Hey Thaddeus, can you open up? My hands are full.” There was no answer. Frowning, Heyes put the tray on the floor and opened the door cautiously. Curry was laying on his side, snoring loudly. Heyes picked the tray up and put it on the dresser, closing the door behind him and locking it. Curry opened one eye and looked at his partner blearily.

“Everything okay?”

“Sure thing, Kid. You want to eat? Got some chicken, courtesy of Louise Carson.”

Something about the name woke Curry up a little. “Who?”

“Louise Carson, remember her? The waitress who was fooling around with that asshole who murdered Jenny’s boy Billy and implicated us?”

“Oh.” Ancient history wasn’t interesting to Curry just at that moment.

“She’s still real pretty.”

Curry punched his pillow and settled down again. “That’s nice.”

“You want some of this chicken?”

“Maybe later,” Curry mumbled into the pillow.

Heyes sat in the armchair. He was still hungry, but he felt too tired to take even one more step. He didn’t know he wanted to do, so he sat and watched Curry sleep. Eventually, he closed his eyes. His mind was racing, but it wasn’t the events of the last week keeping him awake. Instead, Louise Carson occupied his thoughts. Her face was the last thing in his mind’s eye when he slipped off into a light sleep.

The next few days passed quietly. Heyes spent half that first night in the chair, finally crawling into bed in the small hours. He and Curry slept past noon and gratefully ate the cold chicken Louise provided. Both men bathed, sent their dirty clothes to be laundered, and went back to bed. Neither felt well enough to go out, although each man made halfhearted attempts to get out for the other’s benefit. Room service regularly brought meals up, much to Heyes’ surprise and concern. The next afternoon Heyes went to the front desk to see what this was costing him and was stunned to find the hotel had no record of any charges beyond the cost of the room.

On the third day, clean, shaved, and wearing his last good shirt, Heyes waited on the hotel’s front porch for Louise to arrive for work. He saw her walking down the wooden sidewalk, wearing a sensible shirtdress, her long brown hair braided and worn like a crown on her head. He stood up to greet her when she reached the steps.

“Good morning, Miss Carson. Hot day, isn’t it?”

“Good morning, Mr. Smith. Yes, it’s always hot in Yuma.” Standing fully five feet apart, neither could think of another thing to say. Louise looked at him closely.

“You seem to be feeling better, Mr. Smith.”

“If I am, it’s because I’ve been able to clean up and eat well. I believe I have you to thank for that.”

She moved closer to him so she could speak quietly. “I do have some discretion as a manager to take care of preferred guests, Mr. Smith. Even so, let’s keep this between us, shall we?”

“I never look a gift horse in the mouth, Miss Carson.” She made a face, and Heyes realized what he had said maybe didn’t sound so good. “Not that I think of you as a horse, I mean.”

“It’s alright, Mr. Smith. I know what you mean. I think.” They looked at each other again. The long silence was finally broken when both laughed.

“How is your friend, Mr. Smith?”

“Feeling better. He twisted his back when he fell off his horse. It’s been real sore, but he’s up and about a little bit.”

“Fell off his horse?” she asked, amused. “How did he manage to do that?”

“It ain’t hard to do when there’s eight or ten someones riding hell bent for leather, chasing you.”

She sobered instantly. “Sorry. I did hear something about that.”

He felt the old fear stiffen his body. He looked around briefly before he leaned in closer to her.
“What did you hear?”

“They’re following the outlaws' trail, still riding hell bent for leather, heading into Mexico.”

“Huh,” he said, trying and failing to hide his relief with a joke. “Hope they speak good Spanish. The Mexicans don’t like American posses crossing the border.”

“No,” she said. “I’ve heard that, too.” She saw he was still tense. “What will you do?”

He wiped his sweating forehead with one hand. “Depends on how my friend’s feeling. He was hurt worse than he admits. I’d like to stay another day or two, if we can.”

“Let me know if I can do anything to help.”

“Louise, you’ve done a lot already. More than I could have asked for. Maybe you’d do one more thing for me?”

“If I can.”

“Let me buy you dinner tonight? Someplace nice? If you’re free, of course. I know you got a job to do.”

She hesitated. “Can you afford that?”

He gave her a bitter little smile. “I wouldn’t offer otherwise.”

She rested a soft hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“You and me got a history of saying things to each other we shouldn’t. Maybe we can start over again?”

“Yes, Mr. Smith. Let’s do that. I can meet you here at, oh, 7:00pm? Today’s actually my day off. I just came by to do a little paperwork.”

“See you then, Miss Carson.” She smiled at him one more time and went inside. Heyes felt unreasonably good. Must be the prospect of spending time with a beautiful woman who didn’t want anything from him, he thought. Especially a pretty woman who knew who he was and didn’t seem anxious to collect the reward.

00000

“You picked a nice place, Louise,” Heyes said. “A private table where we can visit without anyone overhearing us, good food, lots of good wine. And charming company. It’s the nearest thing to heaven I can imagine.”

“Your imagination is limited then,” she said. “Still, it is a nice place. The owner thinks of himself as a chef, not just a cook. He takes a lot of pride in his business.”

“Do you know him?” he asked.

She nodded. “Because of my job, I know everyone in the food service business in Yuma.  He’s a friend.”

“Oh?” Heyes’ voice rose. “How good a friend?” She stared at him.

“I thought we decided to start anew, Joshua.” It was hard to tell in the dim light, but he seemed to be blushing.

“We did, Louise. I’m sorry. Sometimes stupid things come out of my mouth. I can’t seem to stop them. You’re the last person I want to hurt, especially after all you’ve done for us.”

He looked so earnest, she wanted to hug him. Instead, she changed the subject.

“The last time I saw you, you mentioned that you and your friend were trying to change your lives. How is that going?”

He reached for the wine glass. It was empty. Louise obligingly filled it for him, and he took a long swallow. The wine was going down real easy. “We changed, alright. We changed from eating regular and sleeping in beds and getting medical care to sleeping on the ground, going hungry – “ he tipped his glass at Louise – “except when some kind woman takes pity on us, and bandaging each other up, because the local doctor’s been warned to look out for a pair of broken-down old outlaws. We take the dirty, dangerous jobs no one else will take, and only sometimes we get paid for them. Yeah, we changed.” This time, Louise did reach across to comfort him. He gripped her small hand tightly.

“Sometimes, I think, is this what we deserve for everything we did before? I mean, did we earn this, because of all the bad we did? The way things are, we got no more control over our own lives than a tumbleweed does blowing around Yuma. We’re nothing. We’re dirt. Sometimes I feel like just giving up, you know?”

Louise’s eyes were sympathetic, and she was listening closely. Maybe that’s why he was talking so much. That, and all the wine he’d had.

“You know what, Louise? Lately I been thinking, maybe we should just go back to doing what we know how to do. We’re probably going to end up dead or in prison anyway. Might as well go out on a high. At least my belly’d be full, and I’d be wearing decent clothes.”

“What does your partner say?” she asked.

“Not much. Oh, I know he’s still hurting some, but that ain’t it. He’s quiet. Doesn’t talk much. Doesn’t want to do anything but sit in the room. That’s not like him at all. And there don’t seem to be anything I can say or do to make him feel better.”

“I’m so sorry, Joshua. I wish I could help you.” He noticed tears welling up in her eyes, and he kicked himself mentally. Why was he telling her his life story? She was just a casual acquaintance. He hadn’t spent more than six hours of his life in her company. Now he was spilling his guts to her. He pulled his hand free and sat up straight.

“I’m sorry, too, Louise. I shouldn’t be dumping on you. You’ve been more generous to me and my partner than we deserve. It’s sure a lot more than I expect from anybody these days. What about you? I remember you were coming out here to live with your sister. You were hoping to find somebody nice, maybe get married. How’s that working out?”

“It’s not, Joshua.” He looked so surprised, she laughed out loud. “What, you never met an old maid before?”

“Not one as beautiful as you, Louise. There must be something wrong with the men in Yuma, if they’re passing you by.”

“Oh, they’re not passing me by, Joshua. Just the unmarried ones.” His eyes got wide again. “I’ve had more illicit offers from married men than I can count. I don’t accept any of them. I learned my lesson.”

“What about your sister? Aren’t you living with her?”

She shook her head. “No. Oh, I did, at first. It didn’t work out. Her husband was one of those married men who made an illicit offer.” Heyes shook his head.

“That’s awful, Louise. What did you do?”

“I moved out. I made up some lie to tell her, but she wasn’t fooled. She knew something was wrong. I finally told her what happened, and she got angry. She said terrible things, made all sorts of accusations. We don’t see each other anymore.”

Now Heyes reached across to hold Louise’s hand. “I’m sorry, Louise. You deserve better.”

“It’s not so bad,” she said, lightly. “I have a job, a place to live. I make my own way in the world. But sometimes, Joshua” – she took a deep breath – “I’ll tell you the truth. I want to give up, too. I want to run away and have some excitement. The thought of spending the rest of my life in this town, doing what I’m doing . . .. I’ve done nothing but work, and what do I have to show for it? A room in a boarding house, and a tiny savings account. I want to travel, do exciting things, have some adventure in my life, like you’ve had.”

“Being chased by a posse for almost a week ain’t the kind of adventure anyone wants, Louise.”

“I guess I could skip that part. Would you go back to – to what you did before with banks and trains?”

“No. The glory days of outlawing are gone. We’re talking about working the confidence game. Maybe go east to Florida, where we wouldn’t be recognized so easily.”

“I’ve heard about Florida,” she said. “Big real estate boom going on. A lot of rich easterners are buying land there.”

“Wherever rich easterners and their money goes, crooks follow,” he said. “It’s the natural order of things.”

She laughed, as he’d intended. God, she was beautiful. And sweet, and kind, and she liked him, even though she knew who he was and what he’d done.  He looked at her, and, in an instant, a plan came to mind, whole and complete, and he knew it was perfect. A look of wonder crossed his face, and Louise watched his whole demeanor change.

“Joshua? What is it? What are you thinking?”

“Louise,” he began, “I got me an idea.”

00000

The 8:10 to Tucson and points east was only halfway full. Heyes and Curry, wearing suits and carrying carpetbags, easily found seats facing each other.

“This is either the worst idea you’ve ever had, Joshua, or it’s the best. I’m not sure which.”

Heyes glanced at his partner. Curry wore his impassive poker face. “You’re still willing to go along with it, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am.” Something in Curry’s voice made Heyes look at him closer. “You’re definitely right about one thing. Giving up was the only thing we could do, if we wanted to have any sort of a life.”

“Losing everything can be a gift, Thaddeus. There’s nothing holding you back from embracing your future.”

“Now who’s the philosopher?” Curry asked. Heyes smiled. He was feeling good.

“The only thing I feel bad about is Lom,” Curry said. “Not telling him anything, just disappearing, after all he tried to do for us.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “But we got to do it. He’s an honest man, old Lom is. You know he’d feel duty-bound to come after us with a posse.”

“I know,” Curry said. “But still . . . “

“I know. Still.” The thought of leaving their old friend in the dark was his only regret. Heyes wished it could be different, but if they were leaving amnesty behind, they had to leave Lom behind, too. It was the only way.

Curry pointed out the window. “There.” Heyes looked in that direction. Louise Carson was boarding the train. Something, some instinct, made her turn towards Heyes. He was clearly visible from where she stood, but she showed no reaction; she just boarded the train calmly and went into the next car. Too many people in Yuma knew her. Being seen together now could be dangerous. Heyes grinned. She had natural talent. He knew he could teach her how to work a con in no time.

“I wasn’t really talking about you and me, Joshua,” Curry said.

“I know.”

“Is it a good idea to bring her into this? This kind of life, I mean.”

“It’s her decision, Thaddeus. She could have said no, and we’d still be doing what we’re doing.”

“Uh huh.”

Heyes heard criticism in Curry’s voice and got a little defensive. “We already discussed this. We’ll teach her the business, and we’ll all make some serious money along the way, like we used to. Only we won’t throw it away like we did before.”

Curry held up both hands. “Alright, alright. It’ll just take some adjusting, working with a new partner.”

“It’ll be great, Thaddeus. I got a real good feeling about this.”

Heyes was smiling. He looked confident and happy, Curry thought, just like he used to be, before they’d wasted the last few years chasing the dream of amnesty. They were finished with that, finally. It was good to see Heyes excited about the future. Truth be told, Curry was feeling pretty excited, too.

“So Florida’s a peninsula, is that right?” Heyes nodded.

“Yeah. That means it’s surrounded by water.”

“That’s great,” Curry said. “That means the seafood will be really good.”

Heyes laughed. His partner was acting like his old self again.

“Yeah,” Heyes said. “A chance to do the kind of work we do best, without anyone like Lom watching over our shoulders. A warm climate, rich idiots, lots of good seafood, and a prettier partner than you. Things are looking up.”

Both men grinned happily at each other. Things were definitely looking up.
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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:39 pm

One of the problems with having teenage children is the terrible music they listen to!  It did, however, lead me to know that Judas Priest has a song called 'Hell Bent For Leather.'  I have played with the lyrics because I couldn't get passed it as Jorge just kept playing it over and over again.  (Apologies to Judas Priest fans.  It's just not my thing)  

Hell Bent for Leather


Seek him here, seek him on the highway
Never knowing when he'll appear
Await outside, the horse tails flickin'
The fingers on the safe till the handle gives way

The door bursts open and they run into the night
Jump on their mounts and swiftly take flight

Hell bent, hell bent for leather
Hell bent, hell bent for leather

The hooves beat hard and carry them away
Safe to the Hole, for a while they'll stay
An exhibition, of sheer precision
Yet maybe a folly and their lives need revision

Fools self destruct and their futures look bleak
Dreams for the future and and a new way they seek 

Hell bent, hell bent for leather
Hell bent, hell bent for leather

There's many who tried to prove that they're fast
Heyes wants the Kid to live long and last

A little old lady with a leaftlet in her hand
Now it's up to the Governor to make their futures look grand

Hell bent, hell bent for leather
Hell bent, hell bent for leather
Hell bent, hell bent for leather
Hell bent, hell bent for leather
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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:07 am



Hell Bent For Leather

“I just don‘t know what you were tryin‘ to prove, Kid.” It was a statement, not a question, intended to do nothing more than show the Kid the folly of his ways. Staring straight ahead, the partners were standing up to the bar of the Black Bull Saloon, drinking their whiskies. What was usually a comfortable silence between them had become quite tense.

Kid would've just as soon kept the silence, tense or not, but he knew Heyes couldn’t keep still forever. His partner had been fuming ever since the gun fight, and Kid knew the onslaught of words was about to fly. Not knowing how to explain what he’d done, he took another swig of rotgut and hoped his partner would just drop this one.

“It was nothin’ but a stroke of luck the law wasn’t around. You’d be locked up, with no amnesty in sight, lookin‘ for me to bust ya out.” Heyes was scowling into his whiskey, clearly unhappy with the days events.

“I wouldn’t a done it if I thought there was any law around, Heyes.” Kid just kept drinking, somehow hoping the subject would change.

“You mean some thought actually went into this, Kid?” The caustic remark seemed to tighten the hard knot forming in Heyes belly.

“I knew what I was doin’.”

“Ya, that’s what scares me. You knew you were riskin’ all we ever worked for. And for what? Just to prove somethin’ to a cowboy?” Heyes shook his head in disbelief. “That kid couldn’t a been more than 17 or 18. I could’ve talked him down faster than a whip snake, if you’d give me half a chance.”

“You think this was about me needin‘ to prove somethin‘?“ It was Kid’s turn to shake his head in disbelief. “No doubt about it, Heyes, you could talk him to death faster than I could shoot him. But that's not what was needed.”

“I’ll tell you what was needed. I needed my gunslingin’ partner to keep from showin' the whole town his fast draw.” Heyes was so angry he couldn’t even look at him.

“Like I said, Heyes, I knew what I was doin'.”

“You called him out, Kid. You drew first!”

Kid just took another swig and stared straight ahead.

“What if he’d got off a lucky shot? Kid, he could’ve killed ya.” Heyes finally turned haunted brown eyes to look at his cousin and the real worrying source of his anger finally showed through.

Still staring straight ahead, Kid said his piece. “Heyes, I watched that boy all day long. He strutted all over town with his gun tied down, actin’ like he owned the place. He bullied the shopkeepers and grabbed the decent women in places where the sun don’t shine. He was pointin’ his gun at folks and twirlin’ it into his leather, braggin’ to his friends and shootin‘ at the feet of the town drunk. So when he called you a cheater in that poker game, I knew what needed done.”

Kid finally turned and looked his partner in the eyes. “He was hellbent for leather, Heyes. The way he handled that six-gun showed he was headin’ for the same life I chose at that age.  He needed a taste of a real gunfight and that’s what I give him. I scared him straight and left him alive to think on it. I’d wager we won’t ever see his face on a wanted poster next to ours after what happened today. And if you don’t like it none, well, there’s not much we can do about that, now is there.”

Kid turned back to the bar and motioned to the bartender.  Heyes had never heard the Kid say so many words in a row before. He decided he would bite his silver tongue and just ponder them for awhile. The two partners slipped back into a tolerable silence. Heyes slowly turned to face the bar, and thoughtfully sipped his drink.



http://www.word-detective.com/2009/10/hell-bent-for-leather/
Some of the comments after this explanation of the phrase "Hellbent for Leather" indicated they thought it had something to do with a reckless fast draw of a gun from a leather holster, so that's the angle I took on this prompt.

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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Hell Bent For Leather   Sat Feb 01, 2014 3:46 am

Happenstance
The old North Wind blew.  And blew.  And blew.  Relentless cold permeated every nook and cranny of man and beast.  An otherwise perfect blue sky and golden rays mocked travelers.  As Sophocles in a later iteration of the fable might not have lost his cloak, a determined Kid Curry pulled his usually warm sheepskin jacket closer, try as he might to muffle the gusts.  Still shivering, he yanked a long piece of cloth from a saddlebag, wrapped it around his hat and neck, tucking the ends into the top of his coat.  Hannibal Heyes mirrored his actions, holding his head down both to keep from squinting and duck the freezing blasts.  In a twist on the tale, the Sun would lose this day.

They picked up speed.  The extra exertion soon warmed them but they slowed to let the horses set the pace.  They had left riding hell bent for leather and bound for glory behind them, or so they thought. 

"Heyes, how much money do we have?"

"Same as last time you asked."

"How much was it again?"

Heyes smirked.  "You mean, how little?  Two bits ain't gonna get us far.  Barely enough for a penny ante game."

"Two bits?  That's just sad."

"Something'll turn up, Kid.  It always does."

Curry regarded his partner.  "Does it?  Seems we'd've been doin' better if we'd turned south a lot sooner than this."

"That's true.  But we couldn't know it would turn cold so fast."  Heyes looked up.  "You know, the day looks nice but ..."

"Looks can be deceivin' ..."

"Right.  So what we need now is a plan."

"A plan?  Heyes, we've gone straight, remember?"

Brown eyes stared dead ahead.  "Oh, I remember, all right."

"If what we need is a plan that'll get us some money, the only way we're gonna do that right now is to rob a bank.  At least it's a job."

"I know, Kid.  But as you just reminded me, we don't do that anymore."

"Well, unless you're gonna pull two jobs out of thin air, we're gonna freeze again tonight.  Now if we had four bits instead of two, we could bed the horses down in a livery somewhere and stay in the barn with them.  At least we'd have hay to keep us warm ..."  Curry's belly growled.  "... Although we'd have nothin' to eat."

Heyes struck an optimistic tone.  "We still have enough flour and beans for a few meals, and with a little luck you'd be able to scare up some game."

Something caught Kid's eye.  "There's a sign.  Must be a town up ahead."

"See, Kid, our luck's changin' already.  And I have a plan."

***

The batwing doors whinged as the partners stepped into the saloon. 

"They sound like I feel."

Heyes smiled, extending an arm around Kid's shoulder.  "A drink'll do us both good."  He plunked down a dime.  "Two whiskeys."

Curry surveyed the bar.  "Any eggs?"

The bartender set two shot glasses in front of them.  "Nope.  This is a saloon.  The cafe's across the street."

"Peanuts?"

"Nope.  Can get those at the general store."

"Anything to go with a drink?"

The bartender scowled.  "Son, if it's free food you're wantin', you came to the wrong place.  Owner's not in the habit of givin' anything away."

Curry sighed.  Holding the shot glass in front of him, he beheld the amber liquid.  "To warmth!"  He downed the whiskey in one gulp, making a face.  "Uh!  Rot gut!"

Heyes glanced at him before sipping his own drink.  "Well, I have tasted better."

"Gents, if'n you want better, it comes dearer.  You plunk down two bits each, I'll get out the good stuff."

"Two bits?  Each?"  Kid rolled his eyes.  "That's highway robbery!"

The bartender smiled.  "Not for the good stuff it ain't.  'Scuse me, gents."  He walked to the other end of the bar to another customer.

Heyes sipped again.

"The good stuff?  Like Kyle and the dynamite.  Another reminder ..."

The dark-haired partner put his glass down, speaking in a low tone.  "We've gone straight, remember?  Let's get a table.  Told ya, I got a plan."

***

Kid Curry lifted his head from the pillow.  "What was that about a plan?"

Hannibal Heyes sat on the adjoining cot.  "It's working."

"Maybe a little."

"Nope.  It's working just fine."

The blond man held his head.  "How do ya figure?  I feel lousy and my head hurts."

"You're just in a bad mood."  Heyes swept his arm around the cell.  "We've had two days with a roof over our heads, meals, horses fed and watered.  I've even won a dollar from the deputy.  I'd say that's a pretty good investment of a coupla bits.  You continue faking you're sick, we could probably stretch this another day or two.  More time for me to win."

Curry rolled to his side.  "I ain't fakin' -- I am sick!  The food's lousy and the roof leaks.  There's no heat from the stove this far back.  I just wanna get warm; haven't been for days.  So much for your plan."

"If the food was better, the roof didn't leak, and the stove was back here, you'd think it was fine."

Kid pulled his jacket tight.  "Maybe.  But that's a lot of supposin' and right now I'm still wearin' my jacket -- and I'm inside."

Heyes threw a blanket to his partner.  "Here, this should help.  Make it look more convincing to the sheriff."

Curry shivered as he pulled the cover around him.  "Nobody needs convincin' I'm cold; just am.  How come you're not?"

"It's a little chilly but not too bad.  And that was convincing them that you're sick."  Heyes stood and walked around the cell.

"I am sick!"

Heyes sighed.  "Yeah, I know, sick of being cold, sick of bad food, just plain sick of it all."  He lowered his voice.  "Kid, you really gotta snap out of it.  We've had it worse."

"Yeah, when?"

The dark-haired man continued to pace.  "Well, that time we hid in that cave for two weeks in the middle of winter and the food ran out before the posse gave up.  Talk about being cold and hungry!"

Kid coughed. 

"So right now it's pretty good compared to that, I'd say.  We get arrested to sleep off a drunk and we're still here a couple days later."

Kid deadpanned, "So we faked being drunk. I'm still cold."

Heyes wore a hurt expression.  "Who was faking?  We were drunk -- well, maybe we took it a bit far."

"Neither of us gets drunk on a whiskey and beer."

"But we played it just right.  Sleepin' off a drunk, just as I planned."

Kid rolled onto his back, pulling his hat down over his face.  "Where was my gettin' sick in your plan?"

Heyes chuckled.  "It wasn't.  Just a nice coincidence."

Curry lifted the hat.  He glared at his partner.  "Nice coincidence?  You're cold, Heyes, real cold."

"Nah, it's cold outside.  I'm pretty comfortable in here.  You know what I mean."

Kid sat up.  "Okay, so I got sick.  That's the only reason I'm still here -- bad food.  But you're fine, so why're you here?"

Dimples appeared.  "Well, somebody has to look after ya with the doc away, and the sheriff and deputy got better things to do."

Curry lay down again.  "If I don't feel better soon, I'll just give up and have them ship me to Wyomin'.  The roof and food have to be better at the territorial prison."

Heyes spoke in a low tone.  "You don't really mean that, do ya?"

"I don't know."

"You sound serious.  Let's not even think about that."  Heyes sounded concerned. 

"Maybe I am serious.  We were locked up first for being drunk and get a free place to stay with meals.  Now, what're we still doin' here behind a locked door?  The sheriff probably knows who we are and ain't sayin' so we don't get suspicious."

Heyes raised a brow.  "Nah.  He hasn't let on to anything like that."

Curry raised himself up on one elbow.  "Then why's the door locked?"

The dark-haired man strode to the front of the cell.  Grabbing the bars on the door, he shook them gently.  Heyes pulled his arms tight around him and shivered.  He walked to the barred window which looked out over a back alley.  Bleak shadows snuffed out any rays that dared to penetrate.  He leaned his forearms on the sill and stared.  A period of time passed, seeming an eternity.

His partner's snores snapped him back to his senses.

"Wait!"  Heyes extended an arm to the cot.  "Kid, wake up."

"Huh?"

"We're getting outta here."  Heyes reached for his boot.  He grinned impishly as he held something up.

Weary blue eyes lit up.  "Oh, Heyes, I plum forgot."

Heyes sighed.  "So did I.  Let's go.  They're not here right now."

With renewed energy, Heyes had the lock picked just as Kid cleared the bed.  They grabbed their gear and made their way to their horses.

As two ex-outlaws stole away, the North Wind calmed.  Bellies still in need of nourishment and bodies of warmth, they pulled their coats around them still as snug but hopeful a new day's Sun would brighten their resolve.

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Hell Bent For Leather
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