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PostSubject: Horses   Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:56 am

So, pens at the ready and fingers on the keys ready to pump out another challenge story?  Of course they are.  We have a good one for you again this month.  The prompt is chosen by Keays, so is predictably equine-related, but that's all good as the ex-outlaws we write about are also equine-related.  Get ready to give us your best twist, tale, or tragedy on the word:
looking cow  (how did that get in there?)
Horses


stage cowboy 11 cowboy 12  


Don't forget to finish up your commenting on January's stories.  Comments are the only thnaks the writers get and late babies need as much love as early ones.
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PostSubject: February Challenge: Horses    Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:52 am

Can't Live With 'em, Can't Live Without 'em: part one
by Wichita Red

“Heyes, watch out?”

Staying two jumps ahead of a posse tended to strain Hannibal Heyes’ nerves. So, when his partner's voice echoed back to him; his first thought was, 'they've found us.' However, when he looked up, what he saw instead made his eyes bulge like a tromped on frog. 

Rumbling toward him was an avalanche of dirt and rock, which made his thoughts of the posse pleasurable in comparison. 

“Hell-fire” Heyes gulped, jerking his calico mare across the face of the slope. As he did so, a part of him wondered, if praying might genuinely help a man in a situation such as this. 

Through the years, Heyes had heard plenty of camp talk of men being buried by rockslides. Sometimes so deep, all that could be done was to place a cross and say a few kind words. Seeing how the boulders plowing by him were getting larger and in their wake, almost humorously, followed by a good-sized collection rocks; Heyes found himself thinking, 'this is not how, I planned on cashing in my chips.' 

Truth be told, it rubbed his pride to think this might be the ending written in history books for the great Hannibal Heyes; the most notorious bank and train robber west of the Mississippi. Not that he had put a lot of time into picturing his demise. Yet, he felt positive, it should involve a pretty and sympathetic lady or at least something heroic. Definitely, not being buried beneath a ton of granite and chalk. 

Unable to escape, he forced his mare against the tree line. The little calico danced, whickering on the edge of panic. Still, Heyes kept after her, pushing her in as tight as he could. He hoped in doing so, they would be clear of the crashing, crushing river of debris that had caught up to them. As it roared past, he ducked his head, in what he would later have to admit to himself was fear. 

A bone-chilling scream over-rode all the noise and Heyes' head popped up. Gravel peppered his face, dust clouding his vision. He could hear his blood pumping in his ears, his pulse rising up in his throat, and a vinegary taste filled his mouth; wringing from him a stream of curse words that could sizzle bacon. 

Then the scream repeated itself, the sound of it, enough to make a strong man cringe. Heyes twisted in his saddle trying to see, more curses flowing from him. The moment the flood ebbed, he loosened his grip the mare. She danced, her front hooves rising off the ground and he spun her in tight, mincing circles forcing her to release the nervous energy she had built up. Anxious himself and unable to wait for her to settle, her turned out onto the slope. 

Out in the field of rubble, it was plain Kid had never regained control of his mount. The Bay's deep-rutted trail easier to read than a greenhorn trying to hide a sleeve gun. Not wanting to believe his tracking skills, Heyes' dark eyes flitted back and forth; till he knew what he was seeing was true and then beads of sweat began rolling down his pale face. 'If Kid's horse went down wrong side up, where was he during all the action? Hell, Kid could be anywhere under these rocks.' 

Heyes scrubbed at his face and knocked his hat from his head; so it hung down his back by the stampede strings. Standing in his stirrups to scan the area, he thought, 'Kid's tougher than a sow’s snout, ain't no way he’d lose out to a pile of rocks.' Then, leaning forward, he shouted, "Kid?"

Nothing.

Heyes felt cold even as sweat dripped from his jaw line, “KID!”  

Nothing. 

No man understands fear, until he has someone else to look after. And, right now, the deafening silence was laying out a cold, hard lesson in fear for Hannibal Heyes. His control crumbling, he screamed, "JEDEDIAH!!" His partner's Christian name rang down the slope and out across the valley, even louder than the previous calls. 

“Quit your hollering,” came a sharp reply, from somewhere below, "I hear you, as does anyone in a mile radius." 

At that moment the wind chose to shift, carrying the cloud of dust with it and leaving behind Jedediah "Kid" Curry, the fastest gunslinger in the West, most likely in the world and Heyes' only living relative.  

Seeing him, Heyes released a jubilant whoop and a smile that crinkled up his face, lighting up his eyes until they appeared to sparkle. For not more than thirty feet from him stood his cousin, looking very much the part of a defeated warrior. His hat was missing, sheepskin coat torn at the shoulder, holster skid barren, and there was none of him that was not coated with white dust. But, he was standing. Standing and grinning, with the grin of a man who knew he was right, and would be able to live off the justice of being right, for some time. 

“Told you that incline was too steep and soft for the horses.” Kid said playfully, feeling of the goose-egg rising up on the back of his head; full well knowing, how lucky he was his horse had only nicked him when the animal had flipped end-for-end.  

“If you were so sure..." Heyes tipped his head toward the embankment, "...why did you choose to go first?”

Kid licked his lips, placing his hands on his hips, his smile growing larger. “If I'd let you reach that top first and you found need of your pistol...we both know you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handful of banjos.”

“Come on, Kid, I ain’t that bad.” Heyes whined, as he only allowed himself to do when alone with his cousin. 

And, as usual in these situations, Kid just laughed and shook his head.

“You hurt bad?” 

“Nope, but we get to ride double for a while.” Kid said, gesturing toward his horse limping about the grassy edge of the incline. 

The same incline, Heyes knew he would be forced to admit, repeatedly, was too steep. Pulling his bandana from around his neck, Heyes set to wiping off his face. As he did so, he smiled knowing this whole wreck would give Kid loads of ammo to complain about. There was no way he would ever let Kid know. But, he enjoyed listening to his partner's belly-aching. Perhaps because, he had heard it for so long, that it was comforting and he would not know how to get by, without hearing a bit of Kid's cantankerousness each day. 

Knowing it was, as the saying went, 'time to face the music', Heyes tied his bandana background his neck and nudged his mare. The calico snorted and lowering her head, she placed  her hooves among the jagged rocks deftly choosing a route down. They were almost to the bottom, when Heyes spotted a glint of metal that he knew, would prove to be Kid’s pistol.    

“Whoa girl, easy," he cooed, and dallying his long-split reins about the saddle horn, he slid off, patting the mare’s rump, sending her rest of the way without him; as he went to retrieve his partner’s gun.  

“Dang it, Bay's going to need weeks of rest before he can be ridden."

Hopping from one boulder to the next, Heyes made his way on down, handing the Peacemaker over with his attention actually focused on Kid's horse. “Easy...easy big boy." Heyes said, jerking off his gloves to run an expert hands down the horse’s near hock, only to find what he feared. The animal's cannon bone was hot and swollen. Closing his eyes for a moment, Heyes bit the inside of his lower lip in frustration and then began working the cinch strap knot. 'Damn, this Bay has been a good match for Kid. Yeah, he's kind of ugly and raw-boned but he'll travel miles on just a bait of range grass and a hat full of water.' 

Pulling the saddle, Heyes noticed it was missing a stirrup and wondered again, how Kid managed to come out of the wreck unscathed. Dropping the saddle, Heyes used the blanket to rub the gelding down. 'We’ve been free of that posse less than a day and we've strayed too damn far from the Hole trying to lose 'em. Now, here were are with one horse between us. And, the horse to carry both of us...is my calico. The same horse, Kid's been ridin' me to trade in for a bigger, stronger mount.' Putting his hands on his hips, Heyes eyed his mare. 'He's right. But, I like that little mustang. She’s got heart and speed, but she sure as hell ain't built to carry us riding double. Looks to be we’ll be taking turns walking.'   

Running a hand up the gelding's neck, Heyes pulled off the bridle. 'Bay's been with us for almost two years, long time for one of our mounts.' Lost in thought, he scratched the gelding between its jaw bones, trying to figure out where Kid’s next mount might come from. Some part of his mind, registered hearing the click of the Colt's chamber, followed by the familiar sound of it spinning; so when the crack of the .45 firing, echoed across the canyon, Heyes was not taken aback none. He looked over at his cousin who appeared reborn in his warrior image, as he spun the Colt back into its holster. “Did it fare out all right?”

“Nothing a bit of oil wouldn’t help.”

“Hey Kid, how’d you come down that incline anyways?” 

“Right behind him,” Kid gestured over at his horse.

One dark eyebrow arched sharply, 'wouldn't behind him, be where his hooves were at?'

“You ever tried to run slow down a hill?”  

“Not that I can recollect.”

“Well, a set of shod hooves flashing at you, like the backside of a paddle wheel, can sure teach you the knack of it real quick.” Kid answered. 

"This ain't a skill you plan on perfecting, is it?" Heyes asked, through a laughing smile. 

Kid's blue eyes sparkled, but he refused to be teased into smiling. Sure, he felt like smiling. Felt as happy as a man holding a royal flush that he had made it down that hill alive. Hell, made it down alive and without being beaten to a pulp. Still, he was determined to hold onto his anger at Heyes. Because it was Heyes' fault that he had to come down that hill the hard way. Heyes and all his ‘Trust me, Kid’. Thinking this over, the blue eyes narrowed, "the next time I say, it's too steep...we go around” 

Heyes' smile grew bigger. He knew that would annoy Kid more than anything else he could do. Somewhere back when they were still boys, Heyes had learned to choose his battles against his quick-tempered cousin and this one here, was not worth butting heads over. 

ASJ--------------------ASJ------------------ASJ

Leaning across the back of his mare, Heyes peered through the spyglass, weighing the risks of purchasing a horse from the cattle drive spread out below them. “What do you think, Kid?” 

“I think, I’m tired of hauling my own saddlebags and even more, tired of walking.”

Heyes knew grumbling was part of Kid's nature. But, after two days of sharing one saddle, Heyes found his patience was dwindling. Chewing on his lower lip, he wondered again, if the men below might have been warned that a pair of outlaws might come looking for a horse. 

"Well, Heyes?!"

Heyes' eyes slanted to Kid, 'course, we don't find him a horse, his chances of walking rest of the way back to the Hole by himself are pretty damn good. 'Specially, if I have to hear about that incline or how small my mare is one more time.'

“Heyes we going down there to get me a horse or ain’t we?”   Kid snarled. Hearing himself, he realized how aggressive he sounded and with a snort, thought, 'Why shouldn't I be? It's his fault I'm tired, hungry, and foot-sore. And, besides that, I don't give a donkey's ass how highly he thinks of that damn small mare of his. He needs to listen to me...for once...and trade that pony in for a real horse.' Pulling off his hat, Kid trailed his fingers along the back of his head, the goose egg was beginning to disappear. "I can't figure out why, he fancies her so much, anyhow?" Gingerly adjusting his hat back on, Kid threw back his shoulders, "Come on Heyes, how hard of a decision is it, to go down and buy me a horse?"

Heyes spun his nostrils flaring, his shoulders raising, but it was the cold, sharp, bark of his voice that hit Kid. “Fine! You want to go down there. You want to risk our chances that the posse hasn’t talked to the drive boss? Then let's go!” And, grabbing his mare's reins, Heyes tromped down the hill. But, then he stopped to glare and holler while jabbing a thumb toward his horse. “And, just so you know, she’s a light horse, not a runt. Not a pony and not worthless, so let up on her”  

Kid stayed put, watching his partner kick dirt clods out of his way while muttering to himself; with his mare nudging him in the back as if she agreed with all he was saying. Finding he was staring open-mouthed, Kid snapped it shut. Then with a shake of his head, ambled on down the hill, thinking, 'wouldn't have thought poking at that runt, would rile 'em up so.'

The walk gave Heyes the time he needed to release some of the steam coming to a boil inside of him and by the time he was within hailing distance of the herd, he was on his second go around of singing 'Simple Gifts'. He also found he felt prepared to take on any surprises that wanted to present themselves. Particularly since, he could hear his cousin’s steady, strong strides following right behind him. 

Halting and leaning against his mare, Heyes watched the rider angling toward them on the bandy-legged dun. His dark eyes strayed from the man to the herd of longhorns plodding along, 'looks to be at least 1500 of 'em,' he thought. But, more than the herd, he was counting the men, 'pair on point, two riding swing, two working flank, three unlucky souls on drag, most likely a horse wrangler, cook, drive boss and with this outrider...that makes thirteen.' A nervous flutter ran through Heyes' making his voice quaver as he finished the last bar of his song.

“Yeah, I know, thirteen." Kid said, patting Heyes on the shoulder, just as the outrider pulled dun up next to them. "Quit being superstitious.” 


-----I seem to come up with ideas too long for challenges. I apologize. I posted rest of the story on Archive of Our Own or Fanficition.net.  Wichita Red

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Wichita Red..."I'm not really a rebel, but I take chances. I have a good time and I live life the way I want to live it."
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PostSubject: Re: Horses   Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:03 am

   


 
 
  “Excuse me, the mare's not for sale!” Heyes announced with a little more heat than necessary.
 
 
  The old man straightened up and scowled at him.  “That's fine ‘cause I ain't lookin' to buy her!” he snapped back.  “I just come over ta’ get reacquainted.”
 
 
  Heyes frowned.  “What do you mean?”
 
 
  “Just that sonny,” he said.  “I saw her parked here and thought I knew her.  I just come over to confirm that.”
 
 
  All three men perked up at this statement.  This was promising.
 
 
  “You know her?”  Jed asked him.
 
 
  “Sure do,” he answered.  “This here is Karma-Lou, and she was one of the nicest fillies I had go through my place.  Not easy to forget this one.”
 
 
  Heyes' jaw dropped even more.  “You're the livery man!”
 
 
 “Yeah, well, I was,” the man agreed.  “I'm retired now; my son's took it over.”  He walked up to Heyes, his eyes squinting in order to scrutinize him.  “Yeah, and I knows you too.  Mister 'I have no idea'--ha!”
 
 
  “What?” Heyes was confused.  What was this old codger going on about?
 
 
  “That's what you said to me!”  the old guy accused Heyes as he started poking him in the chest with his finger.  “You didn't even have a name for 'em, did ya?  Fine gelding that one—you oughta be ashamed of yourself!  I tell ya I almost took that filly back right then and there.  You didn't deserve her! 'I have no idea'!  Goddammit!”
 
 
  “You're the livery man Heyes got her from?”  Jed asked incredulously.
 
 
  “Yeah, ain't that what I've been sayin'?”
 
 
  Jed laughed and stepped forward to shake the man's hand.  “You have no idea how happy we are to see you!”
 
 
  “Really...”
 
 
  “Yeah,” Jed assured him.  “I'm Jed Curry, this is Joe Morin and that abuser of horses over there is Hannibal Heyes.”
 
 
  “Yeah, I know who ya are,” he admitted, “made me regret even more givin’ ya that mare.  We all know how outlaws treat their horses.”
 
 
  “Sir, ah...Mister...?  Heyes was fishing.
 
 
  “Logan, no 'mister', just Logan.”
 
 
  Heyes smiled, understanding that sentiment.  “Logan, I can assure you that Karma has been well looked after.  Even while I was serving time, she was with friends who treated her like a princess.  No reason at all for you to be concerned.”
 
 
  “Yeah, well,” Logan’s stance softened a bit.  “I gotta admit she do look good—and ya still got her, so that says somethin'.”
 
 
  “It does!”  Heyes agreed.  “I have to tell you Karma is the best horse I've ever had and I'm real attached to her if you must know.”
 
 
  “I'll say.” Jed commented.  “I think he'd sleep out in the barn with her if he was able to.”
 
 
“Uh huh.”
 
 
  Heyes cut in before Jed could open his mouth again.  “Say, Mr.  Logan...ah, Logan.  Sorry.  You are actually the very person we've been looking for.  We'd like to talk with you for a few minutes if we can.  How about we buy you a beer?”
 
 
  The three men made to turn back to the saloon, but Logan simply stood there glaring at them.
 
 
  “You mean to tell me you're just gonna go right back into that saloon without tending to these horses?” he demanded with incredulity in his tone.  “These animals are tired and all you can think about is getting a beer for yourselves?”
 
 
  “Well, we don't usually...”
 
 
  “A man looks after his horse first, before his own needs or he don't deserve a horse!” Logan carried on.  “All three of these horses are fine animals and you're just gonna leave 'em standing out here in the sun while you go back into the saloon to drink your beer?”
 
 
  “Oh no, no!” Heyes insisted as he motioned the other two men forward.  “No, we're taking 'em to the livery.  I mean that's exactly where we were headed when we ran into you here.”
 
 
  “Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “We were just about to get 'em settled.”
 
 
  Logan looked from one man to another, and then settled on Joe.  “What about you?” the old man asked.  “I see you're wearin' a badge—lawmen are no better than outlaws when it comes to lookin' after their horses!  I tell ya, you should all be taken out and shot.”
 
 
  “Hey!” Joe was incensed.  “I was raised on a ranch, been looking after horses all my life.  I don't go neglecting....”
 
 
  “All your life!” Logan snorted.  “Damn, I got corns on my feet older than you.”
 
 
  Heyes and Jed exchanged humorous looks but quickly dropped them when Joe gave both of them the eye.
 
 
  “Oh, come on now, Joe.  Don't take it so seriously,” Heyes told him with a placating hand on his shoulder.  “Logan's right; we need to tend to the horses before we do anything else.”
 
 
  “Fine,” Joe snarked as he untied his mare and started leading her away.
 
 
  “Hey, young fella!” Logan stopped him.  “Livery stable's that 'a way.”
 
 
  Joe grumbled but, turning Betty around, he carried on in the new direction.
 
 
  “We still want to talk with you, Logan,” Heyes reminded him, as he and Jed got their horses organized.  “is there someplace we can meet up with you later on?”
 
 
  “Yeah, I suppose,” Logan agreed.  “Come on out to my place after supper.  I ain't invitin' ya for supper—my daughter-in-law has enough to contend with without me bringin' home three more mouths ta feed without warnin'!”
 
  “Oh no, that's fine,”  Heyes assured him.  “we don't want to intrude.  We just want a word with ya about Karma, that's all.”
 
 
  “About the horse?”
 
 
  “Yeah.”
 
 
  “Okay, I suppose that'll be alright,” Logan decided.  He was always willing to talk horses.  “Just ask my son over at the livery, he can give ya directions.”
 
 
  “That'll be fine,” Heyes agreed.  “we'll see you after supper.”
 


 XXX

 

 It didn't take long for them to find the correct address.  Old man Logan was sitting comfortably on the front porch of a quaint little home that smacked of a lady's touch so the boys couldn't have missed it if they'd been trying.  Kid opened the small picket gate and they walked along the neat flower lined path to the steps and up onto the porch.
 
 
  “Evenin',” Jed greeted the old man.  “Nice place here.”
 
 
  “Yup,” Logan agreed as he puffed on his pipe.  “Set yourselves down.  I told Shirley not ta’ bother herself with ya’, but she insisted on makin' coffee and and havin' some sweets for ya’.”  he snorted. “Ya’ knows what women are like.”
 
 
  “Oh,” Heyes smiled, “well, that's very kind of her, but there wasn't any need...”
 
 
  “That's what I told her!”  Logan insisted and shrugged.  “Shirley!  They's here!”
 
 
  Both men cringed slightly at Logan's booming announcement, and then they quickly took off their hats and smiled a greeting to a young, rather plump woman who suddenly put in an appearance.  She was already laden down with a tray of coffee cups and a plate of sliced cakes and cookies.  Heyes quickly opened the screen door for her and offered to take the tray.
 
 
  “Oh, no need,” she assured him and smiled brightly.  “You just sit yourselves down there and relax.  There's lots more where this came from, so don't be shy.”
 
 
  Jed smiled.  “Yes, ma'am.”
 
 
  “Papa tells me you're here to talk about Karma-Lou,” Shirley commented as she set the tray down on the little table and handed out the coffee cups.  “I sure do remember that filly!  What a handful.  Of course, Clyde and I weren't married at that time—heavens I was still in school, not even thinking about wifely things.  But Clyde used to take me to the livery to show off the new horses and...well, other things.  Anyway, I just about dropped my drawers when I saw that filly—what a pretty thing!  I so wanted my Pa to buy her, but after Clyde let me ride her a few times, I realized she was too much horse for me.  I sure was heartbroken though, when I heard that Papa Logan had traded her off to some no-good saddle tramp.  So how did you come to acquire her, Mr...?”
 
 
  Heyes smiled sweetly as he sipped his coffee.  “Name's Heyes, Mrs. Logan, and this is my partner, Mr. Curry.  I'm the no-good saddle tramp your father-in-law traded her to.”
 
 
  “OH!”
 
 
  Logan was snickering under his breath and shaking he head.  That little ditz always was putting her foot in her mouth.
 
 
  “Oh, dear me, I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean...”
 
 
  “That's alright, ma'am,” Heyes assured her.  “I suppose at the time I did resemble a no-good saddle tramp but, rest assured, once we got to know one another, we got along just fine.  She's a real good horse.”
 
 
Shirley smiled with pleasure.  “That’s nice to know.  Of course the fact that you still have her, would suggest that it all went well.  Well, I have cleaning up to do, before Clyde gets home, so I'll leave you gentlemen to your chat.”
 
 
  “Yes, ma'am.”
 
 
  “Thank you, ma'am.”
 
 
  Both partners were quick to their feet as the lady left the porch.  Then they sat themselves back down again and took advantage of the cake.
 
 
  “You get them horses settled in alright?”  Logan asked.  “And don't lie to me, cause I'll be askin' Clyde about them when he gets home.”
 
 
  The two men almost chuckled at the tone of voice being directed their way but they were too busy munching on cake.
 
 
  “Oh yessir,” Heyes swallowed and gave him the reassurance.  “they're all settled in.  Your son did a fine job of tending to them.”
 
 
  “He better had!”  was the snark back at them.  “I'll tan his hide if'n he don't, and he knows it!”
 
 
  “I can believe that,” Jed mumbled behind his coffee cup.
 
 
  “What's that!?”
 
 
  “Nothin',” Kid assured him.  “Just agreein' that's he's a fine hand.”
 
 
  “Hmm.  So what's so all fired important that you come all the way back to this town lookin' fer me?”
 
 
  “Well,” Heyes settled in, “a rancher friend of ours looked after Karma while I was, well—incarcerated, and he bred her a couple of times.  Got a real nice colt and filly out of her.  In fact, they're so nice that he's going to use the colt as his new foundation sire.  Now the colt is papered on his sire's side, but we have nothing to show for Karma.  It's obvious she has quality, but you know how it is; people buying a papered horse, they want to know both sides of the lineage.  So, he hired us to track down where she came from, in the hopes that we can discover her breeding and maybe even find papers for her, if any ever existed.”
 
 
  “Well,” Logan sat for a moment, puffing on his pipe.  “That's quite an undertaking, considerin' how much time as gone by.”
 
 
  Heyes' heart sank.  “So you don't remember who you got her from?”
 
 
  “Course I remember!”  Logan was insulted.  “I remember every horse that came through my place and most of the people too.  I remembered you, didn't I?  Mister 'I have no idea'!  Dang!  Albert turned out to be a real fine horse for me too.  He was real popular, and I hired him out plenty of times, never a complaint—not like that damn filly of yours.  Pretty as she is, I got the better end of that trade for sure.”
 
 
  Heyes was feeling impatient, but he played along; they'd get to it in time. 
 
 
  “I agree he was a fine horse,” Heyes stated, “but I'm happy with the way things worked out.”
 
 
  Logan took a moment to spit in the spittoon.  “Good.  Satisfactory trade all around then.”
 
 
  “So,” Heyes tried to move things along, “who was it you got her from?”
 
 
  “Oh, a horse dealer I often bought off’a back then.  He come through with a string of about five horses to see if I was interested in any of 'em,”  Logan explained and then shook his head ruefully. “Damn I got sucked into that filly right away.  I shoulda known better too, bein' in the business and all.  Just cause they's pretty don't mean they make good rentals.  And she didn't, that's for damn sure!  I can't remember how many times she came trotting back to the barn sportin' an empty saddle or haulin' a surrey with no driver. 
  “She ended up costin' me more than I was makin' offa her and that don't even take in all of the complainin' from customers!  Damn!  Then you showed up, a stranger in town, just passin' through and I saw a prime opportunity to unload her.  Your trade-in was sound and I figured he couldn't possibly have had a worse attitude than that filly.
 “Even at that, though, I'd had my doubts about you.  If I hadn't a been so desperate to unload her, I don't think I would have gone through with that trade.  I don't like handin' over a horse—any horse—to someone who's gonna abuse 'em, even a prima donna like her.  Yessir, I kicked myself over that trade.  I shoulda just offered ta buy that gelding off ya, and let ya find yerself another horse elsewhere.”



  “Well I'm sure glad you didn't,” Heyes piped in.  “Not only was I in a hurry at the time, but like I said, Karma has turned out to be the best horse I ever had.  She just needed time to settle down and learn to trust again, that's all.”
 
 
  “Hmm.”
 
 
  “So, this fella you got her off of, he still around?”
 
 
  “Oh, I haven't seen him in years.  Mighta been hung for horse stealin' for all I know.  Some of them animals he brought in were kinda dubious.”
 
 
  “How do you mean?”
 
 
  “Well, he couldn't always show a bill a' sale and though he could produce papers when pushed, I suspected they were forgeries.” Logan explained.  “I never asked no questions, though.  Weren't my problem if he were sellin' stolen property, as long as I covered my own backside.  That's why I never included any papers he mighta given me fer some a them horses.  I sell horses with forged papers then that's when it could come back onto me.  Doin' a trade and havin’ no paperwork is always the best way when dealin' with those kinda' characters.”
 
 
  “Why deal with them at all?”  asked Kid.  “If ya knew the horses were probably stolen, isn't that kinda supportin' their trade?”
 
 
  Logan sent Kid a look that would have shred bark.  “Most of my stock came from horse dealers comin' through town.  I'd a' gone outta business buyin' horses at auction or countin' on trade.  What do I care about their ethics?  If they're stealin' horses, they're the ones gonna hang, not me.”
 
 
  “You said Karma came with papers,” Heyes struggled to get the conversation back on track.  “You wouldn't happen to still have those papers, would ya?”
 
 
  Logan sat and puffed on his pipe.
 
 
  “Probably,” he finally admitted.  “I should a' destroyed all them papers as soon as I got 'em. I always meant to, but they just kept pilin' up in the old trunk and I never did get around to burnin' them.”
 
 
  “So, those papers might have this fella's name on them,” Heyes surmised hopefully.
 
 
  “They'll have ‘a’ name,” Logan agreed.  “can't say as it'd be his real name though.”
 
 
  “No, no I understand that,” Heyes assured him, “but it's still another lead.”  He sat back, taking another sip of coffee.  “I'm just surprised she doesn't have a brand.  A horse of her quality I would have thought...”
 
 
  “What are ya talkin' about?”  Logan snapped at him incredulously.  “I thought you said you were fond a' that mare, 'I take real good care a' her'!  You said!  Geesh—don't ya never brush her!?”
 
 
  Heyes was taken aback by the onslaught.  “Of course I brush her, and I do take good care of her!”  He was feeling rather defensive.  “I've looked for a brand on her—I can't find any.”
 
 
  “Jesus!  You numbskulls!  You sure you got yourself a mare there?  Ya might have a gelding and ya just didn't notice!”
 
 
  “Now that's hardly...”
 
 
  “It's right there for anyone with a lick a' sense,” Logan continued.  “Course it's been tampered with so it don't really look like a brand no more.  That's another reason I think she was stolen.  No reason to tamper with a brand if it's all legit.”
 
 
  “Well, where is it then?”  Heyes was still stinging from the onslaught.
 
 
  “On her, it's on the inside of her right thigh, about half way up between the hock and crop.”
 
 
  Heyes considered that and frowned.  “Yeah, there is something there I'll grant you.  But I've taken a good look at that and it's just an old scar.”
 
 
  “Sure, that's what it looks like to anyone who doesn't know what they're lookin' at,” Logan informed him with a touch of sarcasm.  “That's the whole idea of tamperin' with a brand, ya know—so's people can't read 'em!”
 
 
  “Then how is that supposed to help us?”
 
 
  “Oh, for Christ's sakes!”
 
 
  “Papa, please!” said the voice from inside the house, “Don’t curse the Lord's name!”
 
 
  Logan snarled and rolled his eyes but he did quiet his tone.  “Have ya ever shaved off the hair and taken a real close look at it, or did ya just assume?”
 
 
  “Oh, no I guess I never...”
 
 
  “That's what I thought.  Bloody greenhorn.”
 
 
  “Well, not being a horse thief myself, I don't know the finer tricks of the trade!”  Heyes was getting mad.
 
 
  “You tryin' to tell me that you two never stole horses?”  Logan was incredulous.
 
 
  Heyes and Jed exchanged slightly guilty looks.
 
 
  “Well, I suppose when we were desperate,” Kid confirmed with Heyes.
 
 
   Heyes kind of shrugged and nodded.  “And we did buy some a few times that we knew were stolen.”
 
 
  It was Kid's turn to shrug and nod agreement.
 
 
  Logan snorted.  “Just what I thought!  You just never got caught at it is all.  Lucky too, you don't have the knack fer it.”
 
 
  “Well, we were better at other things!”  Heyes felt the need to defend their chosen profession.
 
 
  “Yeah, whatever.” Logan dismissed his defence.  “I tell ya what; I'll meet you fellas at the livery tomorrow morning and we can shave off the hair and take a good look at that brand.  I can also look around in that old trunk and see if I can find her papers.  Will that suit ya?”
 
 
  Heyes smiled.  “Yes, it would.”
 
 
  “Fine.  Now be off with ya!  I wanna enjoy what's left of my evening in my own company.”
 
Xxx


 “Mornin' Clyde,” Jed greeted the young livery man, “how'd they spend the night?”
 
 
“Fine,” Clyde assured them.  “They're obviously used to being away from home, don't seem to bother 'em at all.”
 
 
  “Betty's not used to it,” Joe commented, “but she does seem to be settling in alright.”
 
 
  “Yeah, it's good for them to get out and about,” Heyes mumbled as he carried on into the barn to check up on his girl.  “Betty'll be real seasoned by the time we get home.”
 
 
  Curry and Joe followed Heyes into the barn and walked over to an indoor pen that had all three horses settled in together.  Karma nickered at her man as he approached and began tossing her head in anticipation of some attention.
 
 
  “What a ham,” Jed commented as Heyes scratched his mare's ears. 
 
 
  “Why don't 'ya bring that mare out into the sunlight?” Clyde called from the door.  “I brought an old razor with me this morning so we can shave off that hair and see what we got.”
 
 
  Heyes nodded, and grabbing a halter that was conveniently hanging by the pen gate, he slipped it onto Karma's head and led her out towards the exit.  Jed quickly closed the gate so the other two wouldn't follow and then everyone headed outdoors.
 
 
  Clyde had a bucket of water set aside and was getting his hands soaped up in preparation of the shaving job at hand.  Heyes tied Karma to the fence post and then everyone was huddled around her hind quarters all in anticipation of what they were going to find.
 
 
  “Move her tail outa the way,” Clyde instructed. 
 
 
  Heyes did so and Clyde rubbed his wet, soapy hands over the area of the scar and then took out his straight razor.
 
 
  “Maybe you better let me do that,” suggested a nervous Heyes.  “I don't want you to cut her.”
 
 
  “I won't cut her,” Clyde assured him with a bit of an edge.  “If I can shave my own face without nickin' it, I'm sure I can shave a horse's ass.”
 
 
  Clyde began to scrape away what little hair was in that area and though he did have to be a bit careful with the scar having caused the skin to wrinkle and ridge up a bit, it didn't take him long to produce a nice clean, bald spot.  He took a piece of burlap the wiped the area dry, and then all four men huddled in around her hind quarters and were bent over and peering at the scar.  Karma herself tolerated this indignity with grace, though she did keep her ears flicked back, wondering what in the world those humans were up to back there.
 
 
  “Now ain't that a sight fer sore eyes?!”  came Logan's snipe from the direction of the road.  “Ain't none of ya ever seen a horse's arse before?”
 
 
  “Oh, hey Pa,” Clyde greeted his father, obviously used to the old man's temperament.  “You were right, that for sure is an old brand.”
 
 
  Logan snorted.  “Course I was right; ya can't be in this business as long as I was and not recognize a tampered brand when ya see one.”
 
 
  The other three men straightened up and passed bewildered looks between them.
 
 
  “I don't see no brand there,” Jed finally owned up for them all, “it just looks like scarring...”
 
 
  “Ohh for...”  Logan grumbled, “How the hell did you two get to be so 'notorious'?  Ya can't see nothin' fer lookin'!”
 
 
  “Well, we....”  Heyes felt the need to defend their reputations but he never got the chance to finish.
 
 
  Logan grabbed him by the shirt sleeve and yanked him down to hock level.  The old man used his finger to trace out the older scar, totally ignoring the newer scar that had been slashed across it.
 
 
  “There!  See!”  he demanded.  “What does that look like to you?”
 
 
  Heyes looked and being a tactile person by nature, he ran his fingers over the scars but still was having a hard time seeing what the old man saw.
 
 
  “Oh, I can't believe this,” Logan complained, but he did release Heyes from his grip and they both straightened up.  Heyes met the Kid's gaze and shrugged.  “Get me a piece of paper from the ledger and that pencil,” Logan ordered his son.
 
 
  Clyde went and got the items and Logan squatted down again.  “Get her tail outa the way,” he demanded, and he set about drawing out the lines of the scar as he saw them.
 
 
  Karma glanced back at these proceedings as far as her tether would let her.  This was very strange indeed.  Why couldn't these humans just go away and let her finish her breakfast?  Besides, she had to poop, but with everyone clustered around her hind end like that, she didn't think it would be appreciated at the moment.
 
 
  Fortunately, it didn't take long for Logan to draw out the pattern of the scarring.  He straightened up and Heyes released the mare's tail.  Finally!  Karma swished it a couple of times to get the kinks out of it, then lifted it and tended to her business.
 
 
  “Oh, crap!”  Logan complained as he quickly stepped out of the way.  “Clyde!  Get the pitchfork and clean that up!”
 
 
  Clyde went to attend to his duty while the other three men clustered around Logan to take a look at what he had drawn.  Logan flattened the piece of paper out against Karma's flank and then taking the pencil, darkened the lines that he felt constituted a brand.
 
 
  “There, see?”  He pointed out, “now don't that look like a horse shoe to you?”
 
 
  Everyone scrutinized the drawing.
 
 
  “Well....”  Heyes shrugged again and putting a finger on the page tried to follow the outline of a horse shoe.
 
 
  Logan impatiently slapped his hand away.  “Not that way!”  he snarked.  “Here, it's upside down with the open end at the top.  See it?”
 
 
  Three creased brows leaned in closer.
 
 
  “Oh yeah, I can see it,” said Joe.
 
 
  “Ya can?”  Jed questioned the validity of that statement, “all I see are a bunch a' lines.”
 
 
  “No, it's pretty plain now that he's pointed it out,” Joe insisted.  “It's an upside down horse shoe.”
 
 
  Logan grinned with pleasure.  “It's a good thing them two brung you along, young fella.  At least you got eyes in yer head ta see with.”
 
 
  Heyes and the Kid exchanged irritated looks.  Logan seemed to have latched onto Joe as the intelligent one of the group and brought him in even closer.
 
 
  “And ya see here,” Logan continued to explain the drawing, “inside the horse shoe?  Lookit that, don't that look like a backward ‘S’, or maybe a ‘Z’”.  Might even be a ‘2’.”
 
 
  “Yeah!”  Joe agreed, getting excited.  “Yeah, I can see that!”
 
 
  He went back to view the actual brand again now that Karma's morning toiletry had been cleared away.
 
 
  “Yeah,” he confirmed, “now that it's been pointed out, I can see that right here.”
 
 
  “Yeah, but still,” Heyes was feeling left out of the loop, “there's a lot of 'maybe's' in there.  If we don't know exactly what the brand is, how are we going to track it down?”
 
 
  “Well, Calhoun; that's the fella that brung them horses to me, he usually come up through Wyoming way.  If she were stolen, no self-respecting horse thief would try and sell her in the state that she was stolen in.  It might take some time, but you could narrow it down.”
 
 
  “We could send the drawing to Beth,” Jed spoke up.  “If anybody would know how to track down a brand, she would.  Being a rancher's daughter an' all.  Maybe she or Jesse might even recognize it.”
 
 
  Heyes nodded.  “That's a good idea.  She could track the brand from her end while we carry on following the trail—as cold as it is.  But, it’s going to take weeks for her to get it and then track it down.”
 
 
“So, we’ll still be workin’ on it from this end, too,” said Jed.
 
 
  “Well there ya go,” Logan crumpled the piece of paper into Joe's hands and started walking into the barn.  “I'll see if I can find them registration papers; I'm sure they're in that trunk somewheres.”  Then he yelled out from the interior of the barn, “Why don't you fellas go get yourselves some breakfast or something?!  Come back in an hour.”
 
 
  Clyde untied Karma and led her back to the pen where she hoped her friends had at least left her some hay for breakfast.  The three men suddenly found themselves abandoned.
 
 
  “Well,” Jed finally commented, “let's go eat.”
 
 
  “Oh, yeah.”
 
 
  “Okay.”
 

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MoulinP

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Posts : 160
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 56
Location : Norfolk, England

PostSubject: Re: Horses   Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:31 pm

Horses (sort of)




Heyes was behind the counter in The Hardware Store reading the newspaper. It was late in the day; there were no customers and all the chores done.


On the other side of the store, Seth was pouring over paperwork. He was muttering angrily to himself. There was a lot of furious scratching out, peering at items in the catalogue and writing things down. The muttering was getting louder, more exasperated and expletive ridden as time went on.


Heyes folded the newspaper and put it away with a frown.


“What y’doing Seth?” There was no answer except another growl of exasperation. Heyes grinned at his elderly boss. “Seth?” he said louder.


The time Seth heard and looked over. He grunted. “This damm new ordering system! Used to jus’ list what I needed. Now they want me to fill in all these little numbers.”


Heyes nodded, understanding. “Stock numbers.”


“Yeah if’n you say so. Whatever they’re called they’re darn small.”


“Can I help?”


“Nope.” Seth tore off the carbon copies from the pad and shuffled them into a pile. “Reckon I’s done.” He turned and spiked them onto a nail outside the back door. Then he took the top copies and stuffed them into an envelope, which he addressed. “You’d best get this down to the post office young Joshua. My ole legs won’t catch the post but I reckon yours will.”


He gave Heyes a toothless grin.


Heyes nodded resigned. He had been expecting that as soon as he knew what Seth was doing. “Sure.” He reached for his hat and picked up the envelope. With a quick glance at the address, he nodded. It was the address of the wholesaler.


“Might as well call it a day when you’ve done that. See you in the morning.”


Heyes tapped his hat in thanks.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________



A week later, Heyes was taking delivery of the order. Mmmm but it wasn’t quite what Seth had ordered. Heyes watched in astonishment as items he had never seen in a hardware store arrive. Bolts of cloth, tins of beans, and a large bag of animal feed for sheep were among the highlights.


“Er hold up boys. I don’t think …,” he started. “I don’t think that’s for us.”


The supervisor leant on the counter and looked at his clipboard. “If it’s on this here docket you ordered it and we’re delivering it.” He tapped his finger on the board. “You order, you get it. Right?” He scowled at Heyes hard, thrusting his chin out.


“Right,” Heyes agreed, doubtfully. The supervisor was twice his size and looking at him menacingly. The three-man crew stopped and listened to the conversation. Heyes swallowed nervously. “Right,” he said more firmly and smiled weakly.


Where was Seth? Trust that ole man to pull a disappearing act when there was work doing. These men delivered the goods. There was no splitting of boxes and putting away. They just delivered. More precisely, dumped. In the middle of the store and in the small warehouse out back. Piled up any which way. It was up to the customer to check it, sort it and put it away. In other words – him!


Heyes licked his lips nervously as more strange items arrived. This was definitely not the usual order.
Somethings he recognized. Some even needed restocking. Skillets, coffee pots, enamel plates – yes. But that many? What was Seth planning on doing? Outfitting the army?


Heyes spied a small pile of what looked like folded cloths. He picked up the top one and unfolded it. Holding it up he realized what they were. Four pairs of ladies unmentionables - large! Heyes quickly bundled them away under the counter and blushed slightly. He cleared his throat and leant on the counter nonchalantly, hoping nobody had seen.


It was no good starting to unpack things until the delivery was finished. However, he should be checking that everything on the order was arriving and he moved to unspike the copy. He looked at it with pursed lips and went out back to find the catalogue. It took him a while to find it, buried under a stack of bills. Seth’s bookkeeping left a lot to be desired and Heyes was itching to get his hands on it. The obvious mess offended his sense of order. Unfortunately, Seth was reluctant to let him tackle the paperwork. Ah but Heyes could understand that. A man’s business accounts were personal.


When Heyes returned to the store, he stood and stared, open-mouthed. He had only been gone a few minutes. Now everywhere he looked, there was a wooden clotheshorse. Neatly stacked against the walls, the counter, boxes delivered earlier. Everywhere. He scratched his head.


“Er excuse me …”


The supervisor appeared on the other side of the counter. “We’re nearly finished. Just bringing the last in.”


As he spoke, two of the crew struggled in with yet more clotheshorses.


“Are you sure we ordered …” Heyes swallowed under the intense stare. “So many?”


The supervisor sighed deeply and looked at his clipboard. He studied it for a moment. “Yep. Right here. Two hundred clotheshorses.” He spun the board round and tapped the item.


“Two … ? Two hundred?” Heyes was wide eyed.


“That’s what it says. That’s what you got.” The supervisor put the clipboard down on the counter and made a great show of cracking his knuckles.


“No! No! There’s summat wrong here!” Heyes cried, grabbing up the clipboard and looking for himself.


The supervisor shrugged and leant casually on the counter.


“That’s all Jake,” one of the men called.


“Right o,” Jake acknowledged with a mock salute and turned to Heyes. “All done then. Sign there.”


“Sign?” Heyes knew he sounded dim.


“Yeah. Then we can get outta your hair and you can …” He grinned now. It wasn’t a pretty sight. “Round up all these horses.” He tapped the board more urgently. “Just there.”


Heyes felt sick. If he didn’t sign, Jake looked handy with his fists. If he did sign what was he committing Seth to?


“I ain’t authorized,” Heyes spluttered.


“I don’t care whether you’re authorized or not. I just need a signature. You can sign it George Washington, Davy Crocket or Hannibal Heyes for all I care. I just need a signature!” He thrust the board and the stubby pencil forcefully at Heyes.


Heyes looked at him sharply at the mention of his name. He rolled his eyes. Now there was a thought.


Heyes took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He scribbled something he hoped would be unreadable and quickly handed the board back.


Jake left leaving Heyes to look round the store in despair. Had he really heard right? They had delivered two hundred clotheshorses. He doubted that there were two hundred clotheshorses in the entire town. He stood hands on hips and surveyed the mess. Where to start? What was he going to do with two hundred clotheshorses? Give ‘em away free with a shovel or hammer or summat?


He was still deciding where to start when Seth came in.


“Delivery all done, Joshua? Hee Hee. Got talking to Cole Garcia. That man can talk the … What the … blue blazes!” Seth was speechless, as he looked round. “Joshua?”


“I’ll make some coffee Seth. Think we’re gonna need it.”


Heyes scooted out back as Seth sat down heavily on a crate by the door.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Heyes painstakingly matched the order to the catalogue stock numbers. Some numbers Seth had right, most he had not. The stock numbers were nine characters long, a mixture of letters and numbers. Seth had transposed some numbers, misread 5s for Ss and vice versa, left out a number or a letter or added some. Of the fifty lines on the order, Heyes calculated that about thirty were wrong. The two hundred clotheshorses should have been two hundred metal brackets for fencing.


“Jeez,” Heyes said, using the Kid’s favorite expression.


“What are these?” Seth asked, holding up a pair of ladies unmentionables – large. “I didn’t order these!” he cried.


“Er yeah Seth ‘fraid you did,” Heyes winced. They should have been four drain covers.


“I sure didn’t!” Seth was indignant.


Heyes nodded. “You sure did. Let me show you.”


Seth came to look over his shoulder as Heyes explained.


“I’m ruined!” Seth exclaimed, pulling out an unsavory looking handkerchief to mop his brow. He sat down heavily. “Broke! Laughing stock!” He shook his head in dismay.


Heyes felt some sympathy for the old man. “Oh now Seth don’t take on. We’ll get this sorted out. Some of it we can keep ‘cos you did order it an’ we do need it.”


Seth shook his head sadly. “I’m washed up, Joshua. Beaten! Ruined!”


Heyes rolled his eyes at the dramatic tone.


“Seth we can straighten this.”


“How?” Seth demanded. He looked like he needed a drink. So did Heyes. Badly.


“Well … first off … we’ve gotta see what exactly we’ve got. Then … we’ll tell the wholesale company …”


“You sign for this?”


Heyes puffed and looked guilty. “Well … not exactly,” he said, slowly.


“What d’you mean? Either you did or you didn’t?” Seth looked suspicious.


“Well I … scratched a signature!” Heyes forced out and shuffled the order copies into a neat pile. “But I doubt if they could prove it was me.”


Seth looked doubtful. “If you signed, Joshua, they won’t take it back. Signing accepts it. I tried that once before so I knows.”


That had been what Heyes was afraid of. He grunted and then he gave Seth his best smile.


“Seth … think of this as an opportunity to diversify.” He looked at Seth in wide-eyed eagerness.


“Diversify!” Seth stomped round the counter. “With these?” He held up the ladies unmentionables – large.


“Yeah. Well …” Heyes puffed. “Those er …” He puffed again. “Let’s jus’ put ‘em down to experience so to speak. And put ‘em away! The shades are up.”


Seth bundled them away quickly.


“Let’s just see what we’ve got. Alright?” Heyes made a calming down motion with his hand. “Take it from there. Alright?”


Seth wasn’t entirely convinced but he did know that his new assistant was turning out to be a handy fella to have around. Joshua may know little about hardware but he had proved one thing in the short time he had worked for Seth. He could think on his feet.


Heyes was thinking something similar. Right now, what he really needed was a plan. A Hannibal Heyes plan, he thought ruefully. For that, he needed time to think. First, though he needed to know exactly how big the problem was.


“Seth. Let’s tidy up and see what we’ve got. Anything that’s not strictly in our line of business we put in the middle of the warehouse out back. Anything that is, we put it where it belongs. How’s that?”


Seth nodded and picked up a small box from the top of an unstable pile. Heyes took a deep breath and nodded, smacking his lips. By the look of it, he was in for a lot of heavy lifting.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________



It was a good while later before the store was tidy. All the spare space out back now contained clotheshorses but even so, a considerable number still leaned against the store walls. Heyes had made a list of things that the hardware store didn’t usually carry.


“Okay Seth, it’s not so bad. These are things that I reckon other store owners in town will take off our hands.”


“Hee Hee. Who’d you think we can get to take these off our hands, Joshua? Hee Hee.”


Heyes frowned over to where Seth was holding up the ladies unmentionables – large. Heyes spluttered. “Quit waving ‘em around. Anyone coming in will think we’re running a disreputable establishment here!” He returned to look at his list, with an irritated shudder. He muttered under his breath about the childishness of old men.


“Can ask the wida Hennessey if she’ll take ‘em off our hands,” Seth mused. “Hee hee.”


Heyes looked up slowly. “If’n you want your face slapped,” he told Seth firmly.


“Hee Hee.” Then Seth sobered and deciding Heyes was right, put them away. He came to stand by his assistant as he explained where all the extraneous stock might go.


“Hinds, I reckon would take the beans. Ain’t never seen a general store that don’t need beans to sell. Maybe even take the bolts of cloth as well. Frazer’s, the feed merchant may take the animal feed.”


“This is cow country boy. What we’ve got there is for sheep.” Seth almost spat the last word in contempt. There was no love lost between cattle ranchers and sheep farmers here even if there was no hostility.


“I know. I know.” Suddenly Heyes grinned as a thought struck him. “Sheep ain’t so different from goats, Seth. Least not anatomically.”


“Ana what?”


“’Tomically. It means they only look different on the outside. Underneath they’re the same. A few folks round here keep goats. They need feeding right?”


Seth looked doubtful. “If you say so,” he mumbled.


“’Sides its only one sack.”


“It cost me twenny dollars!”


“Let’s just see what Frazer says alright? We’re trying to salvage something here. Anything is worth a shot.”
 

He continued to run down the list, suggesting possibilities for all the extra items, including all those clotheshorses. “Wong must be able to take ‘em. It’s his business,” Heyes muttered meaning the Chinese laundry.


Seth smiled and slapped him on the shoulder.


“Sounds good boy. You’d best set about it.”


“What?” Heyes was incredulous.


Seth nodded. “I’ll be here minding the store.”


“Oh now just a minute …” Heyes protested but knowing it would be useless.


“You smile that smile of your’n Joshua. The one that has Mary Fletcher all of a quiver and most other young ladies in this town. ‘Sides I’ve heard you boy. You’ve got a right ole silver tongue there.” Seth patted him on the shoulder again. “Reckon you could charm the birds outta the sky if’n you put your back into it.”


Heyes sucked in a deep breath through his teeth and snatched up the list. He plonked his hat on his head and gave Seth a disgusted look as he went out.


“Hee hee,” Seth chuckled, as the door shut none too gently.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________



It took Heyes several hours to get round the town. Considering the range of things on offer, he thought he had done rather well in getting rid of as much as he had.


He had managed to strike bargains in the general store and the feed merchants. Hind, the general store owner had sent him to see Mrs. Pickering, who ran the haberdashers, about the bolts of cloth. She had proved more difficult.


She had hummed and haa’d over the bolts of cloth. They weren’t her usual merchandise, nor was the quality up to her standards. However, sighing deeply and letting Heyes know directly that she was doing him a favor by agreeing to take it.


“I’m asking six dollars, ma’am.”


“Six dollars!” She sniffed. “I’ll give you two.”


The conman in Heyes didn’t miss the steely glint in her eyes. She smelt a bargain.


“Each?” There were three bolts.


“Five the lot.”


“Done.” They shook hands. The price was better than nothing and less clutter in the store.


Heyes had managed to dispose of most of the extraneous stock but at a loss. There had been nothing for it. From now on Seth might let him handle the paperwork. It would do them both a favor.


Heyes walked back to the hardware store puzzling over what to do with a hundred and fifty clotheshorses. Wong at the Chinese laundry had agreed to take fifty but wouldn’t take any more no matter how hard Heyes had tried.


As he passed the school, the children were running out at the end of their day. With a grin, he turned towards it and sought out the schoolteacher.


Ten minutes later he was back out, the dimpled smile had worked its magic and he had lost another thirty of his wild horses. He had been able to persuade the schoolteacher of their use for teaching. He had several ideas how to do that, mainly to do with mathematics and geometry. Failing that the schoolyard had just acquired equipment for jumping games. He would deliver them himself later. Only a hundred and twenty to go. 


More thoughts came to him as he trudged back. The store might have a special promotion. Painting them in bright colors would appeal to the fairer sex. And thinking of the fairer sex … With a grin he crossed the street to The Hat Shop and Mary.


“Josh,” Mary smiled in surprise to see him.


“Hi Mary,” he smiled back, crossing to her. There were no customers and he took the opportunity to kiss her quickly. Then he stood hands on hips and looked at her window display thoughtfully. Turning, he glanced around the rest of the shop looking at how Mary had her hats displayed.


She was looking at him questioningly. “Josh?”


“How to display your hats to their full attractiveness Mary. That’s why I’m here.” He smiled his best smile at her. The one that had won over the schoolteacher.


Mary raised an eyebrow doubtfully, folding her arms.


“You don’t think I do?” she asked, witheringly.


“Yeah … Yeah ‘course,” he spluttered. This wasn’t going to be quite so easy. “I … er jus’ might have … something that … might do it a bit easier that’s all.” He tried a grin.


Mary worked her tongue round her teeth in a way that demanded further explanation.


“I can do you a special deal,” the grin continued.


“A special deal?”


“Yep. And I’ll even throw in dinner at that new French restaurant in Cheyenne,” the grin now nodded, with its eyes wide, eagerly.


Mary looked amused. “Oh? And what do I have to do for dinner at the new French restaurant in Cheyenne? Nothing inappropriate Joshua I hope?”


“No ma’am,” Heyes squeaked in shock at the suggestion she would think that of him. “Just take a few clotheshorses off my hands.” There was silence. “Please,” he added, swallowing hard.


“Clotheshorses?”


“Yes ma’am.” He sighed and explained. However, he was fast beginning to realize he wouldn’t have a sale. He had only known Mary a short time but his famous silver tongue had little effect on her. She saw right through him. Perhaps that was why he was falling in love with her. Mary nodded and started to move towards the door.


“Awh! Mary!” Heyes protested, when she opened it and silently motioned for him to leave.


Head down he trooped away.


“You can still owe me dinner Joshua Smith,” she called after him, an amused smile on her face.


He looked back and grinned. “Real soon Mary. You can bet on it.” He gave her a wave and set off across the street to The Hardware Store. 


He was just stepping up onto the sidewalk when another idea popped into his head. He turned right and headed for the Town Hall.


Fifteen minutes later, he was walking down the steps of the Town Hall, another smile of satisfaction on his face. Another sixty off his hands. The Chief Clerk’s office had agreed to use them for temporary fencing at the upcoming August Fair. Sixty to go.


On the way back to The Hardware Store, he passed a small garden where planting was in progress. It commemorated the town’s thirty-year anniversary. He stopped and stood hands on hips watching the planting of saplings and small shrubs. Rubbing his chin, he walked in and up to the man who looked like he was in charge.


“Afternoon.”


The man looked up from where he was bending.


“The er trees you’re planting, guess they need time to get established, huh?”


“Yeah, they’re vulnerable for a few months. Why?”


“Well I was just wondering if you could use something to put round ‘em. Just to stop kids and animals from getting too close.”


The man straightened up now and nodded, pursing his lips.


“Yeah. Act as a deterrent y’mean?”


“There you go! I think I’ve got the very thing. How many would you need?”


Together they looked round the garden.


“’Bout twenty I guess.”


Heyes grinned. He could use two clotheshorses per tree. Another twenty off his hands.


Now there was just forty to go. Well thirty-five really. Painted up he reckoned they could keep and sell five.
He was pondering on the remaining thirty-five when he happened to glance at the railroad depot platform. He stopped and looked at it, head on one side. There was no barrier on the town side. Surely, that was an accident waiting to happen? There was quite a big drop to the ground. Mentally he was measuring the length of the platform.


“Hmmm.” Thirty-five clotheshorse widths perhaps? Would at least cover the exposed parts of the platform away from the buildings.


Heyes quickened his step in that direction and sought out the manager’s office.

_________________________________________________________________________________________


"I talked Wong into taking fifty of the clotheshorses,” Heyes said, later. It was near closing time and he was informing Seth how he had got on.


“Only fifty?” Seth sounded disappointed.


“Yeah. Talked him up from thirty though,” Heyes sounded pleased. “He’s sending a boy to collect.”


“How much?”


“Seven dollars.” Heyes cleared his throat.


“Seven dollars! They cost me ten!”


Seth stomped off muttering about sending a boy to do a man’s job. Heyes smiled after him.


“Seth. I got rid of the rest of ‘em.”


Seth turned on the spot. “You did?” He was astonished.


“Well most of ‘em. All but five but I’ve got plans for those.”


Seth did a little jig. “Joshua, it was a right good day the day you came to work for me. You did a fair day’s work today Joshua. I’m mighty pleased.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________


“Heyes, you in?” The Kid called as he came through the door of the little house he shared with Heyes. He frowned behind him at the paint-splattered porch. Several bright paint pots stood to one side. He shrugged.
There was no answer but he knew Heyes was in as his hat was on the back of a chair.


“Heyes?”


This time there was a grunt. It came from the bunkroom.


Taking off his own hat, the Kid spun it onto the chair and went to the bunkroom. He found Heyes lying on his bunk, a wet towel over his forehead, eyes closed and a hand shielding them. The Kid recognized what was up.


“Head?” He smacked his lips in sympathy.


“Yeah.” Heyes sounded irritated that the Kid couldn’t resist asking even though it was obvious that was what was wrong. He sighed, disinclined to take it further.


“Do anything?” The Kid was already turning away. He knew he should leave Heyes alone.


“Naw.”


The Kid went back into the main room and frowned. Something was wrong. No, not wrong. Different. Something new had appeared. The Kid blinked and pursed his lips, thoughtfully.


“Ooh Kay.” It would come in handy he supposed. But, why did they need two? He grinned briefly. His and his perhaps? Then he lost his grin. Three? No four!


“Heyes!”


He stomped back into the bunkroom. “Why do we have four clothes horses all of a sudden?”


“Five,” Heyes sighed.


A quick check back and the Kid located the fifth.


“Okay. Five. Why’d we got five?”


“Makes a change from books don’t it?” Heyes chuckled, and then wished he hadn’t. That hurt his head and he winced. With a sigh, he brought his hand down and removed the towel from his forehead. His eyes, when they opened, were dull and full of pain.


“I’ve had a helluva day, Kid. I’ll tell you about it later but be grateful you only have to deal with real horses!”

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Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: A Horse Of A Different Color   Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:35 pm

“Lead the horse parade?”  The Kid cast questioning eyes towards his partner.  “As jobs go it sounds pretty good.”


“Why do you have to pay someone?”  Heyes scratched his chin.  “I’d have thought folks taking part in the parade would have been keen to do it.”


“We’ve got the chance of a decent job for a change,” the Kid hissed, “don’t give him ideas.”


The Mayor shrugged.  “There’s been lots of trouble in the past with some families thinkin’ their rivals are getting preferential treatment.  For years now the town has led out the parade; then the races and judgin’ can start without anyone gettin’ uppity.  Besides, the fellas who usually do it are under the weather.”


“We saw them, sir.”   Heyes smiled.  “I think it’d be more accurate to describe them as under the table.”


“Sure enough,” snorted the Mayor.  “They’ve been celebratin’ and left us short-handed.  I was nearly forced into makin’ some of my staff do it.”
 

“Well, we know a fair bit about good horseflesh,” the Kid grinned.  “Do we lead the animals or ride them?”


“Strictly speakin’, you walk.”  The Mayor grinned.  “Ridin’ would be cruel but real entertainin’.  It’s a thought though.  Maybe next year, when we’ve had time to practice.  I thought you said you knew about this job.”


“Yeah, yeah, so the horse is old,” the Kid cut in.  “We spoke to the man in the bar and he told us all about it.  I just wanted to get in there quick before anyone else snapped the job up.  Twenty dollars for half a day’s work is pretty good.”  He gestured towards Heyes with his head.  “He wanted to take more time, to find out about it, but it’s just walkin’ and leadin’ a parade, ain’t it?”


“Well there ain’t been no others rushin’ in to take the job,” the Mayor stretched out a hand to shake on the deal.  “Yeah, it’s just walkin’, it ain’t dangerous unless you hate horses.  It’s a horse parade.  The place is full of ‘em.”


“Why is everyone else so reluctant to do it?” Heyes asked.


“Just shy I guess.  They can’t handle the attention,” grinned the Mayor.  “Some folks can’t take them all lookin’ and pointin’.”


“Pointin’?  Ain’t they seen a horse before?  Why would they point?”


The Mayor’s knowing smile deepened Heyes’ worry lines.   “Well, old Bucephalus, that’ll be your job.  He ain’t exactly run of the mill.  The circus left him behind, but folks loved him so much they kept him and made him part of the parade.  It just wouldn’t be the same without him.  He leads out the parade every year.”                 


“The circus?”  Heyes eyes glittered suspiciously.  “Is he some kind of freak?”


“Yeah,” the Kid cut in.  “Is he one of them stripy ones?  I heard they’re kinda wild, and real bitey.”


“No, he ain’t stripy, he’s brown; and whether he bites is completely up to you.  He’s your job.”  The Mayor shrugged.  “He ain’t any more weird than you’d expect.  He’s Bucephalus.  He’s all over the posters, so people want to see him.  They’d be real disappointed if he ain’t there.”     


The Mayor opened the door to his office.  “Go and change.  The parade starts in twenty minutes.  You get paid when the job’s done.”


They strode into the room, the Kid frowning at the pile of dun-colored fabric draped over the chair. “I guess he wants us to wear this.”


Heyes froze at the sight of the wide-eyed, open-mouthed, vacuous face staring at him from the corner.  “Thaddeus, how bad do we need this job?”


“Pretty bad.  We can’t even afford a room for the night.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to earn some easy money.  Why?”


Heyes picked up the poster sitting conveniently on the desk.  “This is why....”



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

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PostSubject: Re: Horses   Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:03 am

I'm just trying something different.  I'll be interested in what people think?


Live Like Horses

He sat back in the rocking chair and let the words wash over him.  It was just a song; nothing special, but today the words resonated with him like never before.  He enjoyed the feel of his bare feet against the floorboards in the warmth of the summer evening and the tinkle of the breeze through the wind chimes by the window.  It was a good night to be alive.  He propped his right ankle on his left knee at a right angle in that way men seem to do, and allowed the scent of night jasmine to fill his nostrils.  It had been quite a day.  He had been offered quite a part.         


It was only an old television series.  It had been popular in its day, and retained a cult following, but some noise had been made about remaking it prompting a wave of mixed feelings among fans.  It would never be the same.  Wasn’t that the point?  To make something different?  To make something of its own?  Isn’t that what every actor strives to do?   


Some people would never want it, but it didn’t detract from the original.  It would always be there, marking out the standard to be reached; the original, the archetype, the gold standard.  It could be watched as long as there were receptive viewers and digital formats able to be viewed; and maybe he could find something new to bring to the part.  He wasn’t the first to reinvent the character, and that had only made the original performance stand out as superlative.  That was a tough call and replicating the wonderful chemistry would be hard; but at least he recognized that it was pivotal to the part.  The last actor who played the part didn’t seem to see that as important to the characterization, or if he did, it never came across.  That would be vital.  That would take work – and the right partner.  


He had spent hours on the internet studying.  Details mattered to him as an actor and it was clear that the original actor had been a complex and multilayered man.  No matter what they say, actors always bring parts of themselves to a part, and it was interesting to compare the two portrayals.  He much preferred the charming, mercurial, shiftiness of the original to the gruff, self-satisfied individualist be became.  Both were good, but there was a special spark in the first.  There was credibility to the relationship which evaporated the minute another actor played the role.  

     
He had walked up to the mirror, practicing poses, looks, and mannerisms; then he watched the DVDs some more and tried to catch that elusive quality which reflected the darkness of the panther hiding behind the playful a front.  There had to be depth and danger.  He was a criminal and had been the leader of a gang; people like that were no pushovers. 


He picked up the remote control again and selected the track once more.  There was a reason this song had settled in his perceptions.  If he was to take this part, he had to play one of a couple of men who lived like horses.  The lyrics caught their relationship so perfectly.   

         
If he was to play the part; he was an unkown and a risk.  They could still go another way.  His cheeks pitted with dimples.  That was a big if.

Live Like Horses: Music: Elton John. Lyrics: Bernie Taupin  
I can't control this flesh and blood
 That's wrapped around my bones
 It moves beneath me like a river
 Into the great unknown

 I stepped onto the moving stairs
 Before I could tie my shoes
 Pried a harp out the fingers of a renegade
 Who lived and died the blues

 And his promise made was never clear
 It just carved itself in me
 All I saw was frost inside my head
 On the night he said to me

 Someday we'll live like horses
 Free rein from your old iron fences
 There's more ways than one to regain your senses
 Break out the stalls and we'll live like horses

 We're the victims of the heartbreak
 That kept us short of breath
 Trapped above these bloodless streets
 Without a safety net

 I stood in line to join the trial
 One more customer of fate
 Claimed a spoke in the wheel of the wagon train
 On the road to the golden gate

 On the flat cracked desert I jumped ship
 It just made sense to me
 I've spent too long in the belly of the beast
 And now I shall be free

I stepped onto the moving stairs
 Before I could tie my shoes
 Pried a harp out the fingers of a renegade
 Who lived and died the blues

 
 We're the victims of the heartbreak
 That kept us short of breath
 Trapped above these bloodless streets
 Without a safety net

Someday we'll live like horses
 Free reign from your old iron fences
 There's more ways than one to regain your senses
 Break out the stalls and we'll live like horses
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Horses   Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:34 am

Time has really gotten away from me this month, but I'm still hoping to come up with an original story for this prompt.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this older story:

The sun shone brightly on her, turning her copper tresses golden.  She was beautiful and Heyes was captivated.  Her brown eyes watched him come towards him.  Her expression was guarded but inviting and he didn’t hesitate.  He was in love.  It was that fast and he fell hard.  


Kid watched it all happen with an amused grin.  Trust his partner to pick a hussy.  To him she was a nasty tempered cow.  He’d had her pegged from the moment they met, but he kept quiet.  He saw that Heyes was beyond reasoning with so he sat back to observe the fireworks.


Heyes reach for her, but she skipped lightly away.  Teasingly, she was keeping herself beyond his caress.  He spoke softly to her and Kid could see that she was responding to his partner’s silver tongue.  Her eyes closed slightly and she tilted her head at a charming angle.  She allowed him to approach.


Heyes reached out slowly and gently ran his hand along her face and neck.  She positively glowed with the attention and tucked her head into his shoulder.  Heyes was lost.  He had to have her.  Sure, she was mettlesome and it would take all his patience to live with her, but she would be worth it.  She was wonderful.  


With pride, he slid the lead rope around her neck and led her from the corral.  “I’ll take this sorrel,” he said with a huge smile.


Leading her through the gate, Heyes stopped in front of the Kid.  “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” Heyes asked his partner.


“Yep, but pretty is as pretty does, Heyes.  She looks like a handful to me.  What are you gonna do with an unbroken filly?  It’s going to be a long time before she’s useful.” said Kid.


“I know, but when she is, she’ll be great,” said Heyes confidently.


“Sure, if she don’t kill you on the way,” said Kid hopping off the fence and walking towards the saloon.


Heyes, irritated, stared after his partner and then shrugged.  Some people don’t appreciate fine horseflesh he thought.  He knew it would take a lot of work, but he had time.  His bay gelding was still going strong even though he was getting a bit long in the tooth.  Heyes hadn’t come into town with the idea of purchasing a new horse, but he and Kid had passed the stockyard on the way in and had seen the herd of horses corralled there.  The sorrel stood out amongst the other horses like a diamond in a coalfield.  He had to have her.


Kid had been annoyed when Heyes insisted on finding the wrangler instead of heading to the saloon as planned.  He was tired, hungry and, most of all, parched.  He entered the saloon and sat at a corner table waiting for Heyes.  Heyes came in sporting a smile so large it looked painful.   Sitting down as the barkeep brought two beers, he said, “I got a great deal on her, Kid.  That guy obviously was no judge of horseflesh; he let her go for twenty dollars!  Can you believe that?  Only twenty dollars for a filly like that.  Why, I bet she’s mostly thoroughbred.  She sure has a fine head on her, doesn’t she?  And did you see her hind end?  Four year’s old and she already has a butt on her like that!  She sure is something.”


“Yeah, she’s green, Heyes,” said Kid.


“So?  They’re all green to start, Kid.  It won’t take much to train her.  I can tell she’s real smart.  Why…”said Heyes as he continued to regale Kid with the fine qualities of his new purchase.  Kid let Heyes ramble on until he finally ran out of superlatives and the words dribbled away.  Looking at the silent Kid, Heyes finished his beer in a couple of gulps and headed out to the livery to check on his new filly.  Kid watched him go and had to smile at his friend’s obsession.


Once back at the Hole, Heyes had watched his filly carefully when she was first turned out with the other horses.  There had been bites and nips while she learned her place in the pecking order.  The filly submitted only to the alpha mare; a wise old draft horse the gang used to pull wagons; the filly was not big enough or strong enough to dominate this one and had, therefore, willingly accepted her place in the herd.  This told Heyes a lot about who she was and he was pleased at her intellect.


Early one fine sunny morning a week or so later, Heyes emerged from the barn carrying his lariat in his hand and a halter tossed over his shoulder.  


Hank was sitting on a stump in front of the bunkhouse repairing a bridle.  He looked up for a moment and saw Heyes opening the corral gate.  Knowing what this signaled, Hank ducked into the bunkhouse to let the rest of the gang know the time had come.  The outlaws were sprawled about the bunkhouse relaxing.


“Heyes is gettin’ on that filly.  Five’ll get you ten he won’t last the first minute,” cried Hank holding up some cash.


Everyone sprang up eager to place their bets and get outside to see the show.


Heyes had spent the past week just talking to his filly.  He wanted her to learn the sound of his voice and took pains to keep up an idle, reassuring patter for her.  He always brought a carrot or apple to entice her over and made sure to whistle as she approached so that she soon learned that his presence was a benefit to her.  He had sent the other horses out to pasture so that she would become lonesome and bond faster with him.  The plan had worked well.  At his whistle, the filly lifted her head, pricked her ears and walked daintily to him.  She was just reaching out to take the apple he held when the gang noisily approached.  Snorting, she shied away and trotted to the other side of her enclosure.


“Damn it, you spooked her,” snapped Heyes.


“So rope her, Heyes.  You’ve got to snub her out anyways, don’t you?” asked Wheat.


“I ain’t snubbing her out, Wheat.  Now will you all get out of here?” said Heyes.


“If you don’t snub her, Heyes, how ya gonna git on her?” asked Kyle.


“I’m not getting on her today, boys.  I’m still gentling her,” said Heyes.


Now it was Wheat’s turn to snort, “Gentling her?  What for?  Just climb up there and hang on.  Unless, of course, you’re chicken.”


Heyes glared back at Wheat.


Kid had heard the commotion outside and had just arrived unseen from the leader’s cabin.  “Wheat…” he said warningly.


“Aw, Kid, I didn’t mean anything by it.  Heyes says he ain’t snubbing her,” explained Wheat.


“So then there’s nothing for you boys to see.  Why don’t you go on back to minding your own business and let Heyes get on with his,” suggested Kid.


With a few grumbles and curses the outlaws left reluctantly.


“Thanks, Kid.  Those idiots could spook a corpse when they get to chattering like that,” said Heyes returning his attention to the filly and trying to coax her back.


“If you aren’t going to snub her, Heyes, how do you plan to break her?” asked Kid.


“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan,” Heyes said as he crossed the corral.


“Of course you do, Heyes.  Why’d I even ask?” said Kid shaking his head.  He watched Heyes cross the corral before he turned to go back to the breakfast he’d left when he had heard the commotion.


The filly had backed herself into the corner protectively.  Kind of like the Kid and me, Heyes thought; she wants her back to the wall.  He started speaking softly to her again and her ears flicked back and forth, listening.  There was no way he would snub this filly.  He loved her spirit and had no desire to break it.  


Over the years, Heyes had watched lots of old hands break young horses.  This typically involved roping the horse and blindfolding it.  The horse would then be tied down tight to the snubbing post, an old post centered in the corral, unable to move its head.  Heyes had seen the results many times.  Horses would be immobilized; often they would sweat up something awful and snort wildly with fear.  The hands would saddle up the frightened animal and then climb on up and give the other hands the signal to release the rope.  The horse would react to the strangeness of a rider by bucking and leaping in hopes of getting free.  If the hand was any good, he would ride the horse until it was exhausted and submissive.  As a result, you’d get a horse that had lost its will.  If the hand wasn’t any good, he be thrown and you’d  get a rogue in the making.  Heyes had no desire to do either to his horse.  


Reaching her, he held out the treat tightly as she bit into the apple.  With his other hand, he rubbed the rope along her neck and shoulder allowing it to snake to the ground.  Heyes then slipped the rope around her neck.  He put it on and off several times while she munched contentedly.  That was enough for today.  


After a few days with the rope, Heyes began rubbing an empty grain sack against her to get her used to being touched all over.  He flapped the sack at her and swatted her gently so that she learned to stand quietly and accept movement around her.  It wasn’t long before she allowed herself to be haltered and, once she was, Heyes left a lead rope dangling from her head.  She moved about the corral during the next few days occasionally stepping on the rope and bringing herself up short.  She soon learned the jerk of the rope was a signal to stand quietly.   


When the day finally arrived and Heyes mounted his mare, it was almost anticlimactic.  The boys and Kid had gotten so used to him ‘pussyfooting’ around his horse, as Wheat called it, that they no longer paid any attention to what Heyes was doing with her. 


Kid was on his way to the bunkhouse late one afternoon when he happened to look over towards the corral and saw Heyes quietly sitting on his filly and walking her about the corral. Surprised, he wandered over to the fence and leaned his elbows on the top rail.  He watched silently as Heyes kept her moving in large, loopy circles and turns never quite letting her straighten out; just constantly moving her between the light pressure of his legs.  Kid had to admit he’d never seen a horse take so calmly to a rider.  She looked perfectly relaxed and completely comfortable with Heyes.  Leave it Heyes to figure out a new way of doing things.  Of course, breaking a horse this way took time and that was not something most outlaws or cowboys had lots of.  Kid admired the filly.  She really was pretty; her coat shone brightly in the afternoon sun and the copper highlights to her color made her look like flickering firelight.  As Heyes rode towards him, Kid smiled and said, “She looks good, Heyes.  You’ve done real good with her. ” Heyes smiled broadly at Kid but continued to speak only to the mare.  Better he talk her ears off than mine, thought Kid.   He watched the pair a few moments more before he headed off to the bunkhouse for a cup of coffee from the pot the boys always had brewing.  


“What’s up with Heyes and that horse, Kid?” asked Wheat.  “Why don’t he just break her like any other horse?”  The boys were seated around the old table in the bunkhouse playing cards.  There were two open whiskey bottles half empty and the boys looked to be half in the bag.  


“C’mon, Wheat.  You know Heyes.  He don’t like to do things like everyone else,” said Lobo.  “He always thinks he knows a better way.”  


Kid narrowed his eyes at Lobo and looked him over real careful like.  “You boys might want to lay off the drinking a bit.  It ain’t healthy.”  Lobo took one look at Kid’s expression and decided he had nothing further to add.  Kid shook his head and left the bunkhouse with coffee in hand; he was tired and he needed it.  He and Heyes were riding into Belton in an hour or so to have a little fun and to pick up a few supplies.


Wheat laughed out loud after the Kid had left.  “Well I think he’s wasting time.  Someone just needs to climb aboard that nag and hang on.”


It wasn’t long after the two outlaw leaders had left the Hole that Lobo started needling Wheat.  The gang had spent a long afternoon sipping whiskey and playing cards and Lobo was not only drunk, he was bored. “I think you ought to help Heyes out, Wheat.  He don’t seem to be able to lay down the law to that filly.  Seems to me, you’re a good hand with the horses.  Why don’t you get on that filly and finish her off for Heyes?”


“Lobo, Heyes’ll….”began Kyle.


“Shut up, Kyle,” said Lobo with a menacing glare.  Returning his attention to Wheat, he said “Takes a strong hand to break a fine filly like that.  Don’t seem like Heyes is strong enough, but I’d bet you are, Wheat.”


“Wheat, you don’t want to…,” said Kyle.


“Shut up, Kyle,” said Wheat.  


Shrugging, Kyle shut up.  He knew Heyes was gonna be pissed, but he knew this was gonna be fun, too.  


Wheat lassoed the filly easily enough.  She was reluctant to follow this man and pulled uneasily at the lead.  Yanking her roughly, Wheat led her to the snubbing post.  Lobo was next to the post and had a saddle in his arms.  He tossed it onto the filly’s back and she tensed up as the cinch slapped down her other side.  The rest of the gang were pulling out their cash and chattering excitedly.  Pulling the cinch up tight, Lobo nodded to Wheat who swung up onto the now frightened horse.  “Let her go,” Wheat said.  Lobo released the lead as Wheat braced himself for the first leap.


Nothing happened.  The filly was comfortable enough with being ridden that, while nervous, she stood quietly waiting for a command from Wheat.  She turned her head expectantly and looked at her rider.  Wheat clucked to her and she started to walk quietly.  “Don’t that beat all,” said Wheat to himself.


The outlaws were so shocked by the well behaved filly, that they didn’t hear Heyes and Kid galloping towards the corral and, when they finally did, they saw the look on Heyes’s face and ran for cover.


Reining up at the corral, Heyes sprang out of the saddle and was halfway over the fence before Kid caught hold of his shirt.  Pulling his cousin backwards and down, Kid threw himself on top of his partner.  Riding a human bronco, Kid hung on tight as Heyes struggled to free himself.  “Let go, I’m gonna kill him,” said Heyes.  


“I know, Heyes, that’s why I ain’t letting go,” said Kid.  Heyes continued to struggle for a few more moments and then quieted.  “If he’s ruined her, I swear I’ll…” began Heyes.  “C’mon, Heyes, she looks fine.   You ain’t killing Wheat,” said Kid firmly.  “’Sides, killing’s too quick; you can think of something better than that.”


Kid eased up on Heyes as he felt him relax.  Heyes sat up, sighed, and wiped his hair out of eyes and said, “You’re right, she’s fine, thanks.”  Heyes stood and took a moment to compose himself.  Wheat had scrambled off the filly and he and Lobo were frozen in place waiting.


 “Heyes, I was just trying to help.   I guess I was a little drunk.  I wasn’t thinking…,” babbled Wheat.  


Heyes walked up and snatched the reins from Wheat glaring at him.  He led the filly over to the fence and handed the reins to Kid who was leaning over the top rail watching his cousin closely.  Heyes walked back to Lobo and Wheat.  They cringed a bit and lowered their eyes.


"Come up to the cabin first thing in the morning,” growled Heyes.  He was furious.  He and Kid had turned back when they'd discovered an ambitious posse waiting at the entrance to the canyon.  If they hadn't, Wheat might've ruined his filly.  Not trusting himself to say more, he turned and left his two men staring after him.


“Huh.  That weren’t so bad,” said Wheat, “If I were leader….”


“Shut up, Wheat,” said Lobo walking away.


The next day, the gang clustered around the outhouse.  Heyes and Kid sat in a pair of comfortable chairs nearby, guns drawn, and cool drinks at hand.  The building had been moved out of place, and down in the hole it had covered, were two unhappy outlaws mucking it out by hand.

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: Horses   Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:16 pm

Marty Forbes sat in his favourite armchair, the crackling fire warming his feet while he read the newspaper.  A balloon of brandy sat at his right hand and the marmalade cat sat on his lap.  A sharp rap at the door caused the animal to raise its head and blink in question.  Forbes frowned and allowed the little beast to jump down before he stood and made his way to the door.  He turned the brass knob and stared up at the tall impressive man filling the frame.  A pair of harsh blue eyes glittered above a square jaw.  “I want to speak to Melvin.  I’ve got a message for him”

“Melvin?”  Forbes shook his head.  “There’s no Melvin here.  Just me and my wife.  You appear to have come to the wrong house.”

The voice dropped to a growl.  “Don’t mess with me.  I know who lives here.  I want to see him.”

“There’s no Melvin here,” reiterated the banker.  “I live here.  My name is Forbes.”

The hand dropped down to the tied down gun the mysterious stranger wore on his hip.  “Don’t mess with me.  If Melvin is too chicken to face me, give him a message.  It’ll all be clear at seven.  Got that?”

Forbes shook his head once more.  “I tell you, I don’t know any Melvin.  You’ve got the wrong place.”

A snort of derision rang through the twilight.  “I ain’t playin’ games.  You tell him.”  He turned on his heel and strode off down the path.

“Who was that dear?” Mrs. Forbes appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. 

“Nobody,” Forbes’ brows knotted with concern.  “Just a mistake.  He got the wrong place.  What time is it?”

She pointed at the grandmother clock in the hallway.  “Five forty five, dear.  Why?”

“He said something about seven o’clock, is all,” he glanced at the armoire where he kept his handgun.  “Nothing for you to worry about.”

oooOOOooo

There was a loud clatter at the door.  Forbes glanced at the clock.  It was one minute to seven.  What was going on?  He edged to the hallway and removed his gun from its cupboard; flinching as the rattling continued at the front door.  He raised his gun.  “Who’s there?”

“Me,” called a child. 

He relaxed, smiling inwardly at his own stupidity.  “Wait, I’ll get the door.”  He yanked it open and looked down at the little boy in unevenly hung shorts and a jacket he was likely to grow into by the time he reached thirty.  “Billy Watson?”

He wiped his nose on an already crusty sleeve and held out an envelope.  “It’s for Melvin.”

Forbes scowled.  “You know there ain’t no Melvin here.  You’ve lived in this town all your life.  Who gave you this?  The fair-haired gunslinger?”

“Gunslinger?  No.”  The child backhanded away another silvered delivery of snot.  “It were a lady.  A real fancy one, covered in frills and feathers.  I ain’t never seen anyone so fine.  She said Melvin would be here.”

“There ain’t no Melvin.”  The banker thrust the envelope back at the boy.

“She said you’d say that, but to take it anyway.”  He threw it into the hall.  “If’n I don’t leave it, I don’t get paid.  I gotta leave it with ya.  Byeee”

Billy turned and ran down the path to the gate, vaulting it in one leap.  Clearly the ill-fitting boots were no barrier to athleticism.  He turned and stared at the clock.  It was five past seven.  

He couldn’t resist opening the door to stare out into the autumnal shadows.  Confusion reigned.  Who was Melvin and why did people think he lived here?  He slammed the door shut and resolved to see the sheriff about the matter first thing in the morning.

oooOOOooo

“Marty,” Forbes wife nudged him in the back.  “There’s someone at the door.”   

He shook the cloying sleep from his eyes and pushed himself upright.  “What time is it?”

“I heard the clock strike midnight a while ago.”  She sat up and blinked through the darkness.  “Who could it be at this time of night?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve got no intention of going down there.  He pulled back the sheets and thrust his feet into his carpet slippers and waddled over to the window.  He pushed it open and thrust his head out.  “Who is it?  What do you want?” 

A deep, rasping voice delivered a Southern drawl from the ragtag figure standing outside.  “I want to speak to Melvin.  I’ve got a message for him.”           

“What the f*%$£&*!?  Do you know what time it is?”

“I don’t care what time it is.  I’ve gotta message for him.”

“What is this darned message?”

The stranger shook his head.  “Nuh, uh.  That’s only for Melvin to know.  Why’re you coverin’ for him?”   

“Coverin’?  I’ve never heard of Melvin in my life before all you folks came here lookin’ for him.  Who told you to come here?”

“There’s been others?”  The ragtag figure stiffened.  “Who?  How can you say you’ve never heard of Melvin when there’s been others?”

“Look!  I never heard of this Melvin fella.  A couple of folks came here earlier.  I told them the same as I told you.  He ain’t here.  Now you take that message and stick it where the sun don’t shine.  Leave me alone.”

“Marty,” his wife admonished him.  “Don’t be uncouth.”

“Uncouth?  These idiots are driving me mad with their demands to see this ‘Melvin’.”  He strode over to the door, muttering under his breath all the way.  “They come here, knocking me out of bed, trying to deliver messages to some stranger.  It’s ridiculous.”

Mrs. Forbes punched her pillow.  “Where are you going now?”

“To fetch that message the boy left.  I was going to take it to the sheriff, but when I get wakened up like this I want to know what this is all about.”  

The wrinkled paper was flattened out across the patchwork quilt where man and wife tried to decipher the strange little etchings and hieroglyphs.  The frill shook on the matron’s cap as she shook her head.  “Is it Chinese or something?  It’s all shapes and figures.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I don’t think it’s Chinese.   Is it a code?”

“Why would someone be writing to you in code, Marty?”

“I don’t think it’s for me, Maggie.”  Forbes frowned.  “It seems to be for this Melvin fella, but I don’t know why they’re lookin; for him here.”

“I don’t like this.  What if they’re criminals?”

Forbes tried to smile reassuringly.  “Why would they be criminals?  I’m sure it’s just a simple mistake.”

“But he’s the third one to come.”

Forbes folded up the letter and thrust it into his dressing gown pocket.  “Let’s get back to sleep.  We’ll get to the bottom of this in the morning.”

oooOOOooo

The thump at the door echoed through the house, up the stairs, and invaded the uneasy slumber of Marty Forbes once more.  He grunted and sat bolt upright.

“Who is it?” Mary asked, timidly.

“I don’t know, but this time I’m getting my gun.”

He rolled back the sheets once more and lifted the handgun he had already placed on the bedside table. 

“Tell them we don’t want any trouble,” called the now alarmed matron.  “It’s times like there I wish we’d built in the middle of town.  We could do with some neighbours right now.”

“Hush up, Mary.”  Forbes dragged up the sash window once more.  “Who’s out there?  What do you want at this ungodly hour?”

“Where’s Melvin,” growled a deep bass voice. 

Another higher male voice joined in.  “And don’t give us no soft-soap about him not bein’ here.  We know he’s in there.  We got somethin’ for him.”

“Take it to the sheriff.  I’ve had enough of all these folks lookin’ for Melvin.  He ain’t here, I tell you.  I don’t know him and never have.”

“It ain’t somethin’ you can leave.  It’s verbal.  Tell that dang coward to git down here or I’ll have to tell the boss.”

“Yeah, and you don’t want the boss here.  You don’t want that...,” the squeaky voice added.

“Look, you’ve come to the wrong address.  This ain’t Melvin’s house.  There’s just me and my wife here.”

“A wife?”  The sound of tutting drifted up through the night air.  “You don’t want the boss comin’ here if there’s a woman here.”

“No, ya don’t want the boss near a woman.  That ain’t good,” added the high-pitched voice.

Forbes felt his alarm start to spiral.  “Look!  I don’t know who you are or what you want.  Get off my property or I’ll shoot,” he yelled.  

“Alright, alright!  But the boss’ll hear about this.  He told us to give Melvin a message.”

Forbes raised his gun.  “Tell your boss he’s got the wrong house.  I’ll be seeing the sheriff in the mornin’.  Now, git!”

He fired a shot into the air, shattering the quietude of the blackness and causing a distant dog to start barking.  He listened out, hearing the sound of running footsteps punctuating the cold air.  He closed the window with a bang.

“Where’re you going,” asked Mary, watching him pull on his dressing gown.

“I’m goin’ to sit downstairs for the rest of the night with my gun.  There’s somethin’ odd goin’ on and I’m gonna shoot the next one who comes here lookin’ for that darned Melvin.”

oooOOOooo

It was a tired, irritated, and stressed Marty Forbes who set off for town the next morning.  He observed the chirruping birds through bloodshot eyes and grumbled at the sunbeams as he walked towards town.  He had sat up since the last visitors at around two in the morning and stared at the front door through the darkness and the sound of the thick dull ticking of the grandmother clock.  Nobody else had come to the door and he had set off early to speak to the sheriff about the bizarre and unsettling night of visitations.
 
He stepped onto the wooden sidewalk, still muttering under his breath and observed a tall slim man pushing himself off the wall he was leaning against further down the street in front of him.  The stranger walked towards him and delivered a dazzling smile which crinkled the skin around his dark eyes and dimpled his cheeks.  “Hi, do you have the correct time?”

Forbes pulled out his pocket watch.  “Five minutes to seven.”

The man made no attempt to move.  “Do you remember me?”
 
The banker shook his head.  “No.  Should I?”

“The stables.”  Heyes tilted his head in question.   “You had me fired.”

Forbes’ mouth dropped open at the flashback to a week before...

“Why ain’t my horse ready?”  The man’s eyes bulged as he glared at Heyes.  “I asked for it half an hour ago.”  He turned back to the stable’s owner.  “I demand that you sack him.  I spend a lot of money in here and he moved me to last.”

“I got the Doc’s horse ready for him first,” Heyes shrugged.  “He needed it to go out to a farm on an emergency.  Some little kid was sick.”

“I was here first and I demand to be seen first.”  The stranger puffed out his chest.   “My time is important too.”

“You run the bank, Marty,” the stable owner scratched his head.  “There ain’t nuthin’ you do that’s life and death if it waits a few minutes more.”

“My time is valuable, Hoggs.  I have some important messages to collect for the mayor.  Time is money.  Need I remind you that you have a mortgage on this place?  Sack him.  Do it now. ”

“I’m real sorry, son.  I can’t favour you over the bank.  I’m gonna have to let you go.”  Hoggs turned a regretful smile on his hired hand.  “I’ll pay you for the half a day you worked.”

Heyes glared at the stocky man with the mutton chops.  “That’s okay, Mr. Hoggs.  I’m sorry to cause you any trouble.  I guess I’ll just be movin’ on.  I’ve got enough for the stake for the poker game in any case.”

“See, lowlifes and lollygaggers; the lot of them.  You’d do better to employ someone local,” snorted the banker.”

“I can’t get nobody local,” muttered Hoggs.  “Especially not when folks like you come callin’, Marty Forbes...”    

“And let that be a lesson to you.  Never let anyone get in my way when I’m busy,” crowed Forbes. 

“What’s so all fired important that it won’t wait ten goshdarned minutes, Marty?  There; I fired him, but now you gotta wait longer because he don’t work for me no more and now I gotta do your horse myself.  I hope you’re happy.”

“Happy?  No, I ain’t happy, but you sure as hell better get my horse ready for me fast.  I gotta get over to the Mayors’ house.  He doesn’t trust just anyone with his messages.”

Heyes turned at the stable door.  “Thanks for the job, Mr. Hoggs.   I appreciate it your trust.”  He tipped his hat and narrowed his eyes.  “And it was illuminating meeting you, Mr. Forbes.  I won’t forget you.  You can be sure of that.”  He turned, his shoulders as stiff as his smile, and walked off into the clattering buzz of the busy street.  “Messages are important to you.  I’ve got the message.”   

oooOOOOooo

Forbes blinked away the memories.  “You?  Yes.  I remember you now.”

“Is it seven o’clock yet?”

“Huh?  Why?”

The grin widened.  “I hear you’re the one all the important messages go to.”  The devil himself could have warmed his hands at the mirth in the dancing eyes.  “My name’s Melvin.  Have you got any messages for me?”


Last edited by Hunkeydorey on Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Location : Colorado

PostSubject: Re: Horses   Sat Feb 27, 2016 1:17 pm

The husky bartender stood behind a roughly constructed bar top.  The oak planking stretched along a short wall of the open room and rested atop three barrels.  Although crude, it served its purpose as was evident by the number of numbed bodies leaning precariously along its length.  Mismatched tables and chairs were strewn about the rest of the small space.  Some occupied, some not.


Wiping glasses with a grayish rag, he eyed the two men who’d just entered through the swinging doors.  Covered in trail dust with lines of fatigue etched in their faces, they made a beeline to where he stood.  He gave them no words of greeting watching the dark-haired one warily.  He’d already pegged this one as the talker; the other was standing slightly behind his companion and was scanning the room.   Good-for-nothing saddle tramps from the look of them.  He would've pegged them for outlaws if they weren’t so darn smiley-faced.


“Two beers,” said the dark one with a huge, dimpled grin.  He didn’t wait for a reply instead turning his back to the bar and joining his friend in his survey of the other customers.  He jumped slightly when he felt a tap on his shoulder and frowned at the bartender who was gesturing with his thumb at a sign above the back bar.  A sharp elbow in his partner’s side got the attention of the blond who also read the sign and also frowned.  It said:  Money Before Drink, NO Exceptions.  Resting under it on a pair of rusted railroad spikes nailed into the wall was a customized scattergun.


The two men looked at each and then patted down their pockets, turning them inside out and retrieving a small store of coins.  Slamming them down on the counter, the dark-haired man quickly counted them out loud.  “Five, six, eight, twelve, sixteen cents.”  He smiled beseechingly.


“Beers are ten cents apiece,” were the first words to escape the taciturn tavern owner’s lips since they’d met him.


“We’ve only got sixteen cents,” said the blond.


“Then you only get one beer.”  The surly man grabbed two nickels, went to his tap, and pulled a draft of warm beer.  He set it down in front of his new customers.  Both men reached for the beer, but the blond was faster and picked up the dirty mug.  He winced slightly as he sipped the bitter brew.


The dark one stared hard at the barkeep’s retreating back.  “Friendly sort, ain’t he?”


“Let it go, Heyes,” said the Kid so softly only his partner could hear him.  He crossed over to one of the tables and sat down in a rickety chair still holding the beer.  


With a weary sigh, Heyes joined him.  “Hand over that beer before you drink it all.”  


The Kid reluctantly passed the mug.  “We’ve been in the saddle for weeks and all we have to show for it is six cents and a warm beer.  Goin’ for amnesty’s beginnin’ to feel like a mistake to me.”


Heyes put down the mug and leaned back studying his best friend.  The Kid looked as tired as he felt and both of them smelt as bad as they looked.  He’d give anything for a hot bath and a roof over their heads, but they’d be sleeping on the hard ground again come nightfall.  Life certainly hadn’t gotten easier since they’d gone straight.  If anything, it was a whole lot harder.  They’d always had money in their pockets back in the day, now the only thing they had in them were holes and a few pennies. 


Curry snatched up the beer and continued.  “I mean, what’s changed for the better?  It’s not like we don’t have to still worry about bein’ recognized and havin’ some posse on our tails.  And, we’ve still got twenty years hangin’ over our heads if we do get caught.”  


“Shh, someone might hear you,” cautioned Heyes.


“That’s just it.  I’m sick of lookin’ over our shoulders all the time.  What has it gotten us?  We never have any money, no place to live, and the meals are fewer and further apart than they’ve ever been.”


“What are you saying, Kid?  You want to go back to thieving?”  Heyes kept his face neutral but his heart gave a little leap at the thought of returning to his larcenous ways.  He missed being somebody.


“I might.  Do you?” countered the Kid.  His eyes shifted away from the brown ones boring into him and he smiled at the man who stopped behind Heyes’ back.  “Howdy, Mister.  Can I help you?”


The tall, gaunt black-haired man smiled warmly at the faces turned up to him.  “You just might.  I couldn’t help noticing you’re sharing that beer.  Can I buy you each your own?”  

“Well, that’d be real nice of you.  Care to join us?”  Heyes used his foot to push back the chair on the opposite side of the table and the tall man folded his length into it.


“I was hoping you’d ask.  There’s something I’d like to talk to you about.”  He held up three fingers until he caught the barkeep’s eye.  When he was satisfied that the beers were on their way, he looked back at the two men seated with him.


“What’s that?” asked the Kid.


“I’m Stuart Larson and I’ve got a spread south of here near Tucson on the edge of the Sonoran; you familiar with that country?”


“A little.  We were in Tucson once but it was a long time ago and we were just passing through,” said Heyes.  He didn’t add that there’d been a necktie party on their tails.  “So you’re a rancher?”


“I run cattle and that’s what I want to talk to you about.  Mr., ah?”


“Smith, Joshua Smith, and this here’s my partner, Thaddeus.”


The Kid couldn’t stifle a groan, he hated ranching.  “Sorry, back’s sore.  Too much time in the saddle.”


Stuart nodded.  “I saw those animals you rode in on.  You boys know your horseflesh.”


Heyes nodded at the compliment as the bartender arrived with the fresh beers. 


“Here’s the deal.  I’ve got a herd of broomtails that’ve taken up residence on my best pastureland and best ain’t much where I’m from.  It takes almost two hundred acres out there to support one cow and I can’t afford to be sharing with a bunch of hayburners who breed like rabbits.”


“Why haven’t you rounded them up?” asked Heyes.


“I’ve tried, but there’s just me and three other hands.  We’re a small operation and I can’t waste time going after this herd.  Sure, I could shoot ‘em, but I’m not the kind of man that mows down an animal for what doing what it’s supposed to do.  That’s where you come in.  I reckon there’re some pretty decent horses in that herd.  If you were to round ‘em up and drive ‘em into Fort Lowell, the army might give as much as fifteen dollars a head, unbroke, for the best of the bunch.”


“How many horses are we talkin’ about?” asked Curry.


“Eight adults and some yearlings and weanlings; maybe fourteen or so altogether.  You should clear a hundred easy.”


“And you’re willing to just let us take ‘em?  Why?” asked a suspicious Heyes.


“’Cause I don’t have the money to pay you.  It’s more than a fair day’s work. The lead stallion’s a cagey one and his boss mare has a trick or two up her sleeve.  It ain’t gonna be fast or easy and, if I were to pay you a wage to do it, I could lose money on the deal.  This way, you do the work, you get the profit, and I get my problem solved.  What d’you say?”


The two partners shared a quick glance.  


“Throw in room and board while we’re working and you’ve got a deal,” Heyes grinned.


“Done!”  Stuart smiled, stood up, and shook both their hands.  “I’ll expect you to start day after tomorrow.  Just follow the south road out of Tucson ten miles or so, it’ll take you straight past the gate to the Lazy L.  There’s a big sign on it, you can’t miss it.”


“Mind if we start tomorrow?” asked the Kid hopefully.  His stomach was growling and room and board sounded mighty good to him.


Stuart slapped him on the back and grinned.  “I like a man who takes initiative.  See you tomorrow, boys.”  He tossed two bits on the table and left without waiting for his change.  


Heyes pulled his six cents from his pocket and laid it down before picking up the second quarter and tucking it away.  He saw the smirk the Kid gave him.  “What!?  At least we can afford dinner now.”


“A dinner.”


“Drink up and quit bellyaching.  We’ve got us a job,” laughed Heyes.
   


oooOOOooo




Lying on their bellies at the top of a slickrock overhang, the two ex-outlaws crept forward until they could see into the box canyon below them.  A cloudless blue sky overhead was starkly contrasted with the scrubby, sage-covered desert floor.  Here, as promised, the herd frequently sheltered in the safety of the rock walls.  On the western end, the canyon narrowed down to a long neck providing access and an easily defensible hideout.  The horses were scattered throughout the canyon, nibbling at the sparse grasses and plants.


“It’s like a horse’s version of the Hole,” whispered Heyes as he pulled out a pair of field glasses.  He quickly studied the animals before handing the glasses to the Kid.  “Good looking bunch.” 


The stallion was a handsome, broad-backed bay.  His coat shone brightly in the early morning light as he circled the herd, marking his territory.  Curry whistled appreciatively and, a second later, the faint, shrill sound carried to the sensitive ears of the boss mare.  She lifted her head and froze trying to determine the direction of the threat.  With a loud bellow of alarm, she sprang into action and the rest of the herd fell into line, following her at a gallop towards the exit.  The stallion brought up the rear, nipping the hind ends of the stragglers, urging them to stay together.


“What’d you go and do that for?!” growled Heyes, standing up and dusting himself off.  


“Sorry, I didn’t think she’d hear me.  The wind was blowin’ away from her.  Don’t matter anyways, they’d have spooked when we started buildin’ the fence.  This way, maybe we can get it done before they decide it’s safe to return.”  Getting to his feet, Curry watched the trail of dust settle onto the ground.  The horses were long gone.  “Stuart said she was smart.  Guess he wasn’t kiddin’.”


“Yeah, good thing they favor this spot.  We can let them come to us. It’ll be easy pickings.”


“And you know how much I like easy,” grinned the Kid.


“Me too, Kid, me too.”  




oooOOOooo




Wiping his sleeve across his sweaty brow, Heyes squinted at the setting sun before turning back to watch Curry stack the last of the sagebrush against the makeshift fence stretched across the neck of the canyon.  “Looks good, Kid, what say we quit and finish up in the morning?  I’m bushed, pun intended.” 


“Works for me, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”  He stretched and rubbed his back.  “At least we’ve got the hard part over and done with.”


“It shouldn’t take more than an hour to build a gate.”  Heyes picked up his canteen and held it out to the Kid.  “By this time tomorrow, we could have the whole herd penned up.”


“You really think so?”


“Sure.  I’ll spread out some feed inside the fence to make it harder to resist.  When they’ve got themselves all boxed up, we just shut the gate and let them settle down for a while.  Then we’ll divvy ‘em up.  Shouldn’t be hard to rope up the mamas and papas; the youngsters ought to follow along all the way to Fort Lowell.”


oooOOOooo




“*#$%&!!” Heyes watched his lariat slither off the back of the sorrel mare as she ducked her head and pivoted away.  “That’s the third time she’s shook my rope!  I swear that old cow has eyes in the back of her head.” 


The Kid laughed as the mare stopped just out of reach and turned to stare at her tormentor.  “She’s got your number, Heyes.  Look at her; she’s just darin’ you to try again.”  The first part of their plan had gone well.  It had taken a few hours of nosing around the fence for the horses to finally decide it was safe for them to re-enter their refuge.  He and Heyes had been ready and the minute the last horse passed through the gate, they’d snapped it shut.  The second part of their plan wasn’t going nearly as well.  They’d managed to rope most of the horses and get them used to the leads.  Those animals stood tied to the fence, but the stallion and mare still eluded them.  Without them, it was unlikely they’d get the rest to cooperate for the ride to Fort Lowell.  He was beginning to wonder if old Stuart had hoodwinked them after all.  Heyes looked as if he might be wondering the same thing.  His partner was staring at the mare intently.  “You ain’t trying any of that mindreadin’ stuff, are you, Heyes?”


“Naw, just thinking.”


“Good, ‘cause I seem to remember it didn’t go so well with that one-horned steer down in Mexico.”


Heyes walked towards him.  “I’ve got an idea.  We’ve been going about this the wrong way.  I’ve been concentrating on the mare and she knows it.  She’s been keeping me busy while the stallion keeps pestering the others.  That’s kept you busy trying to catch him and making sure he doesn’t rile them up.  She’s split us up sweet as pie.  She’s a genius, Kid, but it takes one to know one.”


Curry rolled his eyes, but kept his mouth shut despite wanting to point out that Heyes wasn’t proving to be as smart as an average horse, not even that horse’s hind end.


“We have to partner up same as them and, instead of splitting them up, we drive ‘em together.”


“How’re we gonna do that?  It’s a big canyon.”


“It is, but what do they want?  They want what we have, their herd.”


“Yeah, so?”


“So we rope the others together and you take them around the corner out of sight.  That’ll make these two panicky and they’ll try to follow them but the fence’ll stop them.”


Curry saw where this was going.  “I ain’t buildin’ another fence.”


“I’m not asking you to.  We’ve still got a bunch of rope left.  I’ll tear up your spare shirt and hang some rags from it so it’ll look more substantial then I’ll tie one end of it to that Hackberry tree,” he pointed to the largest tree on the left side of the neck.  “When they come up against the fence, I’ll pull it across behind them and trap them.”


“My shirt?!”


“Hey, I’m providing the plan!”


Shaking his head and grumbling the whole way, Curry opened the gate and walked to where his horse was tied on the other side of the fence.  He led it into the corral and retrieved his shirt from his saddlebag handing it to his partner without a word.  He tied the other herd animals together and mounted up.  Heyes swung the gate open and the long string of horses soon disappeared around the mouth of the canyon.  


He started tearing the faded pinkish shirt into long strips.  He’d always hated this shirt.
As planned, the mare and stallion anxiously rushed to the fence as their companions left.  Heyes let them wear themselves out pacing back and forth along the fence line, whinnying constantly to their herd while he constructed his ‘fence’.  With the rope tied off securely, he walked slowly and quietly to the other side of the canyon until he reached the rock wall, then he walked towards the fence as the mare and stallion shied away from him and the rope, snorting loudly at the unfamiliar fluttering rags tied to it.  Trapping them in a small triangular enclosure, Heyes tied the other end of the rope to the fence and picked up his lariat.  It only took the two animals a moment to realize they were trapped and they both broke out in a nervous sweat.  


Heyes whistled loudly and the Kid soon appeared leading the string of horses up the neck of the canyon.  The mare and stallion calmed down when they saw their friends and eagerly watched them arrive.  It didn’t take long before they, too, were tied in the string.




oooOOOooo




“A hundred and six, a hundred and seven, one hundred and eight dollars,” said the uniformed sergeant as he handed over a wad of bills.  “Thank you, gentlemen.”  He turned to untie the sorrel mare, stroking her neck gently.  “The captain’s sure gonna love this one.”  


Heyes and the Kid watched as the soldier led the animal away.


“Who’d have thought she’d settle down so fast?” asked Curry watching the coppery mare walking placidly alongside the sergeant.


Heyes snorted, “Didn’t you see the look in her eye, Kid?  She’s just biding her time.  C’mon, I want to get out of here with the cash before the sergeant figures out what he’s bought.”


“I hear that; where to, partner?”  He untied his horse and mounted.


“Somewhere with warm weather and cold beers and a long way from wild horses,” answered Heyes as he swung up into his saddle.


A loud curse reached them as they broke into a slow jog and they turned in their saddles to see the mare pulling away from the sergeant, a large swath of dark blue army wool clenched in her big teeth.  They put their heels to their horses and, laughing, galloped away.

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“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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Keays

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Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Horses   Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:07 am

I started this story a couple of weeks ago, but then put it aside because it wasn't coming together, and I had homework to get done.  Then InsideOutlaw poster her story, which was a little bit similar, and that gave me some incentive to go back and get this one up and running.  So, thank you InOut, for a kick in the butt to post something a little bit more original.


 Horses
 
The two men sat their tired and dusty horses outside the fence of the solidly built corral.  Everyone was covered in sweat and dust and the situation was not helped by the herd of wild mustangs who were trotting anxiously around their enclosure.  Billows of dust rose from every hoof fall as the animals careened back and forth and in circles, fruitlessly seeking a way out.  Snorting and high pitched whinnying accompanied the thumping hoof beats as the animals refused to settle and accept their fate.  The air was poignant with the smell of horses and sweat.


An older man on foot walked up to the two horsemen and smiled a greeting to them.
“Smith, Jones.  Good job,” he congratulated them.  “You sure did earn your pay with this job.”


“Thank you, Mr. Carmichael,” Heyes responded, as he removed his hat and wiped dust and sweat from his forehead.  “Sometimes I think that rounding up broomtails is harder than working cattle.  And this band sure had us a run for the money.”


“Well, it looks like ya’ got ‘em all,” the rancher continued.  “I’m sick and tired of these mustangs destroying all the grazing that should be for my livestock.  It’s getting to where it’s impossible to make a living.  Payin’ you boys to gather these animals up for me, is going to be well worth it.  Yes, sir.”


“Well, we’re glad you think so,” Heyes responded as he flashed a tired dimple.  “Worth it enough to pay us that bonus you mentioned earlier?”


“Yes, Mr. Smith,” Carmichael agreed.  “Why don’t you get you and your horses tended to, and come up to the house for supper, and we’ll settle our business.”


Heyes smiled over at his partner, and both horsemen smiled.


“Thank you, kindly,” Curry accepted.  “We’ll be along shortly.”


Xxx


Once having washed up and beaten about as much of the trail dust out of their clothing as they could, Heyes and the Kid sat down to a fine supper of beef steaks and mashed potatoes that could rival the finest restaurants in San Francisco.   Both men showed their appreciation by having seconds.


“That was truly a fine meal, ma’am,” the Kid complimented Mrs. Carmichael.  “Can’t says I remember havin’ better.”


“Why thank you,” Mrs. Carmichael accepted the compliment with a smile.  “But I’m sure you exaggerate.  You were both just hungry after doing a difficult job.  My husband tells me that you got all of those horses cleared off our range, and that could not have been an easy feat.”


“No ma’am,” the Kid agreed, easily turning on his charm.  “Some of ‘em gave us a wild run, but we’re glad to be of service.”


“What are you planning on doing with them, Mr. Carmichael?” Heyes asked.  “There’s some fine young animals in that group.  If you need any help getting them broke out, we could…”


The Kid sent his partner a quick look, wishing that his cousin would stop volunteering him for back-breaking work.  They were both getting too old for bronc riding.  He need not have worried though, as apparently Mr. Carmichael had other ideas.


“No, no,” the rancher stated, cutting Heyes off.  “I’m not wasting any more time and energy on those scavengers.  The knackers, over in the next town has already offered me a fair price on every one ‘a those cayuses.   Sight unseen.  Young, old.  Fit or injured.  He don’t care.  He’ll take ‘em all.  We’ll let ‘em settle for a few days without food and water, then we’ll drive the whole kit and caboodle over to his slaughter house.  And good riddance to them.”


“Oh.” Heyes frowned as he and his cousin exchanged a quick look.  “That seems a shame.  As I said, there’s some nice horses out there.  Put a little bit of time into them and you could get a much better price than what the knackers is offering, I’m sure.”


“Not interested, Mr. Smith,” Carmichael reiterated.  “It’s hard, dangerous work, breaking out mustangs.  I’ve got a cattle ranch to run and that’s all that matters.”


“Well, we could…”


“No, Mr. Smith.  And let that be the end of it.”


Mrs. Carmichael smiled at the assembly.  “Coffee anyone?”


Xxx


Walking back to the bunk house after dinner, both Heyes and Curry could not stop their eyes from being drawn to the corral full of wild horses.  The herd had settled down to some degree, and though many were still milling around and stirring up dust, most were simply standing in groups and trying to give comfort to one another.


“It don’t seem right,” the Kid grumbled.  “Roundin’ ‘em up to be broke out and put to use is one thing, but…”


“It’s not our problem, Kid,” Heyes reminded him.  “Mr. Carmichael as paid us very well for our services.  They were destroying his grazing land, and I suppose they’re his to do with as he wants.”


“Yeah, I know, Heyes.  But…”


Whatever the Kid was going to add, was cut off in mid complaint by a loud, high pitched whinny.  Both men were stopped in their tracks by the note of longing and desperation that had assaulted their ears.  As one, they changed direction and sauntered over to the corral to take a closer look at who was so upset, and why.


At first they couldn’t see anything amiss but the corral was so jammed backed with horses, that trying to narrow down one animal out of the whole herd was going to take some doing.  They continued to walk around the fence line, their eyes peeled for signs of the distressed individual.  Another loud, frantic whinny met their ears, and then they saw her.  A little chestnut mare was rearing and pawing at the fence in a frenzied attempt to either break through or climb over the obstacle.  She whinnied again and charged the fence, causing the heavy poles and posts to quiver, but not break.  She pivoted and began kicking at the offending wood but to no avail.  The corral had been built too solidly to succumb to harsh treatment from one set of hooves.


Squealing with frustration, the mare reared and again began pawing at the poles, her angry bellowing causing the other horses around her to become distressed and threatening to start a minny stampede inside the enclosure.


 Two other ranch hands ran over to the fence, yelling and waving their hats in order to get the mare to back off.  She snorted, shaking her head in irritation, but did turn tail and trot off in order to get away from those dreaded two-legged predators.


“Dang!” the younger of the two commented.  “What’s gotten inta’ that one?”


“Maybe she just wants out,” Heyes stated the obvious.  “Hardly blame her for that.”


“Naw,” the older, more experienced hand countered.  “She probably had a foal.  Likely they got separated when ya’ rounded ‘em up.”


“A foal?” Heyes asked.  “Most of the mares have foals with them.  Why wouldn’t this one have stayed close to its ma?”


“Who knows?” the cowhand shrugged.  “Anything could ‘a separated ‘em.  Don’t matter none.”


“What do ya’ mean; it don’t matter?” the Kid demanded.  “A young’un out there by itself ain’t gonna survive.  It’ll starve to death, or a predator will get it.”


“Yep,” the cowhand agreed.  “A foal alone ain’t likely to survive the night.  So what?  The whole herd is gonna get slaughtered anyways.  So, like I said; it don’t matter none.”


The two cowhands nodded their good evenings, and made their way towards the main bunk house to partake of their own suppers.  Heyes and the Kid stood quietly and watched them go, then as one, they turned to look at the stricken little chestnut.  She stood with eyes bright and ears pricked, looking back towards her home, her freedom and her foal.


“Heyes, we gotta…”


“Nope,” Heyes was steadfast.  “It’s gonna be dark in an hour, and like he said; a foal alone ain’t likely to survive through the night.”


“Yeah, but Heyes, we can’t just leave it out there,” Jed persisted.  “Maybe if we let that one mare go.”


“We open that gate to let one out, and there’ll be a stampede for sure,” Heyes pointed out, logically. 
“Nope.  It ain’t our problem, Kid.  We did a job for the man, and we got paid well for doing it.  We need this money, Kid.  C’mon.  Let’s get a good night’s sleep and then ride out first thing in the morning, just like we planned.”


“Well,” Curry continued, as they headed towards the smaller bunkhouse.  “Supposing we head out ‘a here first thing in the morning—like we planned, and then just kinda, sorta head back to where we gathered up them mustangs.  Maybe we can find somethin’.”


Heyes sighed deeply.  “That’s what I like about you, Kid,” he commented quietly.  “You never disappoint me.  Always gotta help the under dog, don’t ya’?”


“Seems ta’ me that they’re the ones that need helpin’.”
“Uh huh.”


Xxx


The following morning, our two protagonists got an early start.  They said their farewells to the Carmichaels and then casually trotted their horses passed the corral on their way off the property.  The chestnut mare was still at her position by the fence, and though she continued to pace back and forth in her anxiety, she had given up trying to escape.  It was obvious now, that her bag was full of milk, and her maternal need to nurture and nurse her foal was eating away at her.  Though she was exhausted by her futile attempts to break through her prison, she continued to pace back and forth and to call out pathetically, in the vane hope of getting an answer.


Heyes and Curry exchanged a quick look and then pushed their horses up into a lope.  As soon as they could discreetly manage it, however, they changed direction and leaving the road, headed back towards the high country.


Four hours later, found them still scouring the rocky terrain up near the mesa where the herd had last been grazing.   It was another hot day and both men were beginning to doubt the credibility of their endeavour.  They had backtracked the route they had taken to bring the mustangs down to the ranch, and had found nothing to give them any hope.  Now, up on the mesa, it all seemed pointless.


“When are you gonna learn ta’ talk me outa these crazy ideas?” the Kid asked as he wetted his bandana and wrapped it around his neck.  “What are we gonna do with an orphan foal, anyways?”


Heyes snorted.  “Fine time to come to your senses,” he commented, dryly.


“Yeah,” Curry grumbled.  “Well, c’mon Heyes.  We ain’t gonna find anything up here.”


They turned their horses to leave the area, when both animals stopped in their tracks and stared off in the same direction.  Their nostrils flared with a new scent, and Curry’s black gelding nickered loudly.  Both horses raised their heads even higher, as though they had heard something and then Heyes’ dun also contributed his two cents worth. 


The men strained to pick up on what their horses were responding to, but neither man could hear anything.  Then, without any encouragement from their riders, the two horses lowered their heads and broke out into a fast trot, heading towards a rocky incline that appeared to harbor nothing but more dirt and dust.


The two horses would not be deterred, and upon reaching the rocky ground, they both found footholds somewhere, and scrambled up the hill towards the top.  The two men were content to simply go along for the ride and hope that nobody ended up breaking a leg on the uneven track.  Both their horses were sure-footed and determined, so neither man needed to have worried about it, and before long, the horses reached level ground and stopped.


Again, the Kid’s gelding nickered, and this time, even the men heard the response.  A frightened, weak sounding baby whinny came from what appeared to be nowhere, over to their right.  The horses were on the move again, heads lowered and ears forward, they hurried over to where the sound had come from, and then they stopped.


The men dismounted and began whacking their way through the shrubbery.  They kept pushing their way through the thick scrubby brush, until the Kid gave one more shove and stepped out into nothingness.


“Whoa!” he exclaimed, as hand frantically grabbed at foliage.


Heyes jumped forward and grabbed the gloved hand of his partner, and didn’t let go.


“Hang on, Kid!” he yelled as he pulled backwards.


“Damn!” Kid exclaimed, as his feet scrambled for a foothold.  His other hand came around and clutched onto Heyes like the lifeline that he was.  “Don’t let me go!”


“I won’t,” Heyes assured him.  “C’mon.  Come up.”


“I’m tryin’!”  And true to his words, Kid’s feet were scrambling, as pebbles and dirt were kicked out from under him and cascaded down to clatter loudly to the bottom of the drop-off.


Down below, and weak but frantic foal tried to scramble away from the falling debris.  Those pebbles that did hit him, caused him even more distress.  He whinnied shrilly, his long spindly legs working overtime to get him out of harms way.  Try as he might, his weakened condition wouldn’t allow him much leverage, and one awkward jump was the best he could do, before he collapsed down into the dirt again.  Concerned nickering from the horses up above was the only thing that kept him from total despair.


One final heave from Heyes, and he had the Kid up on solid ground again.  Both men turned to look back down, into the hole.  The young foal stared back up at them.


“Geesh!” Kid exclaimed.  “That would’a been a nasty fall.”


“Yeah,” Heyes agreed.  “I’m surprised that one is still intact.  He looks kind of hungry though.”


“Yeah,” Kid agreed.  “I didn’t think of that.  What are we gonna feed ‘im?”


Heyes shrugged.  “One thing at a time.”


Heyes went back to his tall dun and untied his lariat. He shook out the loop as he made his way back to the edge.


“Here,” he said.  “Get this loop around you, and I’ll lower you down.”


“Me?  Why me?”


“This was your idea, Kid.”


“Well, yeah.  But…”


“Quite your belly-achin’,” Heyes teased him.  “You of all people, should be able to appreciate the agony of starving to death.”


“Yeah, yeah,” Jed groused, but he still took the rope and secured the loop around his waist.  “I’ll get him out.”


Kid stepped to the edge of the drop, and turning to face his partner, he took the rope in his hands and nodded.  “Okay.  Ya’ ready?”


“Yep.”


Kid stepped over the edge and slowly began to make his way down the steep decline.  It couldn’t have been more than ten feet but it seemed to take forever for him to ease his way down and finally have his feet touch solid ground. 


He looked up and almost laughed.  Not only was Heyes’ anxious face peering down into the crevasse, but two long, worried, equine faces had also joined the audience and were staring down at the scene below them.


Kid shook his head and set about getting loose from the embrace of the rope.  He turned and surveyed the confining space and his sympathy went out to the little guy who was sharing the enclosure with him.
The foal was up against the far wall of the trap.  He was tense and scared, his eyes rolling white as he perceived what he thought was a predator finally coming to end his suffering.  His little body shook with terrified spasms as he tried to claw his way through the solid dirt wall that surrounded him.  A high shrill whinny of distress escaped his lungs, and the two horses up top answered with reassuring nickers.
The foal stopped trying to dig his way out and stood, legs trembling, to face this demon who confronted him.


“How does he look?”  Heyes called down from up top.


Jed shook his head.  The foal was covered in cuts from the fall, and his ribs were showing.  His little waist was tucked up so tightly from lack of water and nutrition that Jed was certain his hat band would have fit around it.


“He needs milk!” Jed called back up.


“Well, we didn’t bring any of that.”


“Yeah, I know,” Jed mumbled to himself.  “Hey, throw me down your canteen, will ya’?”


Heyes disappeared for a moment, but soon returned with the canteen from his saddle.


“Heads up!” he called down, and then let the item drop.


Jed let it hit ground.  He pulled off his bandana, and picking up the canteen, he opened it.  He then turned to face the foal again, and making sure that he had the youngster’s attention, he enticingly poured water over the bandana, soaking the material until it dripped moisture onto the parched dirt at his feet.
Little ears pricked up and a tiny tongue darted out to lick at parched lips.


“Yeah,” Kid said softly. “You’re thirsty, ain’t ya’?”




A soft nicker answered him.


Jed stepped forward, but the foal tensed and with head up and nostrils flared, he stepped back as though he was trying to become one with the wall.


Jed stopped and poured more water onto the bandana.


The foal’s head came down, and his nostrils flared again, only this time he was picking up the scent of delicious water and his senses drew it in.  He nickered softly.


Kid stood still, but he cooed quietly at the skittish colt, and then, squatting down so that he was on eye level with the youngster, he held out the saturated bandana as a peace offering. 


The foal’s nostrils flared even more, and his eyes rolled white.  Every instinct within him was telling him that this two legged creature in front of him was a predator, and not to be trusted. But he was so thirsty.  He bobbed his head and looked around him to see if there was another way out of this predicament, but none presented itself.  He snorted.  He lowered his head and began to lick, his throat already anticipating the wet coolness of the water that he could see, dripping into the dirt.


Another deep sigh and he took a tentative step towards the creature.  Maybe his mom was wrong.  Maybe his pa was wrong.  Maybe the boss mare was wrong.  Maybe this strange animal could be trusted?  He was so thirsty.  He made his decision and took another step and then another.  Suddenly he could no longer contain himself, and he snatched at the soaked bandana, and drawing the material into his mouth, he began to suckle.


A soft voice encouraged him, and gentle hands rubbed his body in ways that brought pleasure to him that he didn’t even recognize.  More water was poured onto the material, and the little fellow soaked it up and was content.  His fear dissipated.


Long before he’d had enough, the material was taken away, and the rope sling that had been maneuvered onto him while he was pre-occupied, now tightened.  He had a moment of panic, but before he could do anything, he felt himself being lifted off his feet, and pulled up the dirt wall of his cage.  He kicked out and squealed in his new-found fear and indignation, but it did no good.  He was securely tied, and he had no control over the situation.


Gentle hands grabbed him and pulled him onto the higher level.  Heyes spoke softly to him, rubbing his neck, and offering his own saturated bandana as a source of delicious water.  As the foal suckled once again, Heyes untied the rope and sent the end back down into the crevasse, so his partner could, once again, climb back out of it.


Xxx


Evening found the small party settled in for the time being.  A fire was going, and Heyes and the Kid were discussing their next move.  The colt, having suckled the contents of both their canteens, was sleeping peacefully close to the warmth of the fire.


“He needs milk, Heyes,” Kid whispered, as though loud voices were going to wake the baby.  “He needs his ma.”


“I know,” Heyes grumbled.  “We never did figure out that part of the plan.”


“Yeah,” Kid acknowledged that fact.  “What are we gonna do, Heyes?  We take him back to his mama, then he’s just gonna get butchered like the rest of ‘em.”


“I know,” Heyes griped again.


“He ain’t old enough to eat solids,” Kid pointed out.  “We keep him; he’ll starve to death.”


“I know,” Heyes griped again.


“Well, what are we gonna do!?”


“I’m thinkin’, alright!?


“Oh yeah.  Alright” The Kid reached for another cup of coffee, but then stopped when he remembered that the foal had drank all their water.


Xxx


Stars sparkled brightly in the clear, early morning hours of that night.  Heyes had tethered Clay up in the copse of trees, where he would be safe, and then had slowly worked his way down, on foot, towards the corral holding the mustangs.


Years of being an outlaw had taught him well, how to blend into the shadows and to move without making a sound.  Still, he wasn’t stealthy enough to fool those wily mustangs.  The boss mare raised her head and snorted. 


She stared off into the direction from whence the creature was coming, but she did not raise the alarm just yet. She did not know if it was friend or foe, and her nostrils worked overtime in their effort to pick up any clues.


Heyes paused.  He waited in the shadows, listening and scanning the area.  The dogs weren’t barking yet, so they hadn’t picked up on his presence.  Even if they did, they might not raise the alarm.  Heyes liked dogs, and he’d spent a lot of time scratching ears and rubbing bellies, mainly because it gave him just as much pleasure as it gave the dog.  They liked him.


He crept forward, confident now that no one was there to raise the alarm.  No one was expecting a pair of down-on-their-luck saddle tramps to come back to even the score.  Heyes smiled.  He loved this; doing the unexpected.  Putting himself into danger—just a bit, and pulling off a scam right under their noses.  He thrived on this.  And this time, he was doing it for a good cause.  If all went well, it was a three-way positive.  Heyes and Jed kept their money for rounding up the mustangs, the distressed foal would re-connect with his mama, and the herd would not go for slaughter.  Hey, outlaws had to stick together, didn’t they?


Approaching the corral gate, Heyes took one more look around to ensure that no one was out and about on this starry night, and then, reaching up, he pulled the latch and quietly swung the gate open.
At first, nothing happened.  The gate had opened silently and the horses hadn’t noticed that the door to their jail cell had been removed.  It was the stallion who had noticed it first.  His head went up, and he snorted with surprise.  This caught the attention of the boss mare, and she instantly came over to investigate.  She sniffed at the open gate, then, with a wild look in her eye, she nickered and then trotted through.


The stallion, picking up on her cue, whinnied loudly and began to circle his harem, nipping at the mare’s rumps to get them moving.  It didn’t take much before everyone had noticed the open gate, and the captives were on the move.


Once the escape was in full swing, Heyes took off at a run towards the copse of trees where his horse was tethered.  He knew he had to get back to the mesa, back to where the Kid was waiting for them, with the foal.  The raucous of the herd leaving at full gallop couldn’t help but raise the alarm, and Heyes had no intentions of being within rifle shot when they did get organized.


Xxx


Clay was up on his toes and blowing, when Heyes reached him.  He’d seen and heard the band of horses high-tailing it for the hills, and instinct pressured him to join them.  But then his boss was there, and Heyes quickly loosened the tether, and leapt aboard.  Clay was ready to run; he wanted to run!  Heyes did not disappoint.  Turning the gelding in the same direction that the herd had gone in, he gave his horse his head, and they were into a full gallop within five strides, bringing up the rear.


Xxx


Up in the mesa, Kid stayed with the foal, giving him water and wishing that he had something with more nutrients to add to it.  But if things went as planned, junior with be back with his ma before the night was done, and he could fill up to his heart’s content.


Finally, at three in the morning, the Kid heard them.  A soft thumping of hooves upon the ground woke him up from his doze, and suddenly he was sitting up and fully alert.  The foal awoke as well.  The little fellow jerked awake, then scrambled to his weak legs and sent out a loud, hopeful whiny.


“So, is that it?” the Kid asked him.  “After all we did for you, you’re just gonna run out on us?”


The colt sent him a look that harboured no misunderstandings.  You helped me though a tough time, but my herd, and my mama approaches, and you don’t matter anymore.


In the dim light cast by the almost full moon, Jed saw the herd gallop into their familiar mesa, and begin to spread out, like they intended to stay awhile.  The foal gave one more little whinny and then was gone.  His legs were weak, but he still managed to propel himself down the gentle hillside, and connect up with his herd.


A number of horses in the band raised their heads from grazing, and stared at the newcomer.  Then one, loud, joyous whinny came from somewhere within the group and the baby answered back.  Mama pushed her way through the crowd, and just as her baby reached the outskirts of the group, she was there to meet him.  They both nickered softly, and after a moment of mutual caresses, the youngster settle in to nurse.


The Kid was so enthralled with watching the re-union, that he jumped guiltily when he heard Heyes’ horse coming through the thicket.  He rolled onto his back and then smiled at the sight of his partner.


“Everything went well; I take it?” he asked.


“Yeah, like clock work,” Heyes admitted, as he eased himself down from the saddle.  “” Course, now we got ourselves another problem.”


“Yeah, I know,” Kid agreed.  “Last I looked, horse thievin’ was a hangin’ offence.”


“Yep, you got that right.”


“Well, we can’t let ‘em stay here,” Jed commented.  “That rancher will be after ‘am again, sure as shootin’.  We gotta move ‘em on outa here.”


“Yeah, you’re right about that too,” Heyes agreed.  “Maybe we could move them further north.  Out into the Indian territories, where they won’t be a bother to ranchers and their cattle.”


“Yeah, we could do that,” Jed agreed.  “But now we’re wanted for horse stealin’.  There goes our amnesty.”


“Smith and Jones are wanted for horse stealing,” Heyes pointed out.  “Heyes and Curry ain’t never stole a horse in their lives—at least not unless it was absolutely necessary.”


“Uh huh,” Jed commented.  “And that helps us how?”


Heyes grinned until his dimples sparkled.  “Lots of people named Smith and Jones, Kid.  Now, why would we risk our amnesty for a bunch of worthless, wild mustangs?  I don’t think Lom or the governor would think that too likely.”


Jed grinned.  “I do believe you’re right, Heyes.”
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PostSubject: Re: Horses   Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:41 pm

I was struggling for something for this month's prompt when a song came on the radio.  Apologies to Paul Simon.

They're no one-trick pony
One trick isn't all those boys can do
And they won't trick only
For the principle source of their revenue
And when they steps into the bank
You can feel the beat of your heart
Come rising through

See the fingers dance
See how they turn from side to side
See the tumblers prance
The opening doors just seem to glide
He’s not a one-trick pony, there's more to him than that
But he turns over banks with pride
He makes it look so easy


He draws a gun so fast
He moves can never be outclassed
He makes his opponent think about
All the extra moves he makes
And all this herky-jerky motion
And the bag of tricks it takes
To get him through his working day


No one-trick pony
He’s no one-trick pony
He keeps going 'till he succeeds
He gives his testimony
Then he relaxes in his misdeeds 
He’s got one trick to last a lifetime
But that’s all a pony needs, that’s all he needs

They look so easy
They looks so clean
They move in sync
like a well-oiled machine
The Governor thinks about
All of these honest moves they make
And all the banks and trains
Not robbed and the money they don't take
To get him through his working day,


One-trick pony
One-trick pony
One-trick pony, one-trick pony
One-trick pony, take me for a ride
One-trick pony
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PostSubject: Re: Horses   

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