Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat – Part Twenty Six (Blackie) Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:20 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Twenty Six (Blackie)Heyes followed the Kid down the path to the stable block. He nervously pulled at his cuffs as he walked. He was now entirely cast-free since yesterday. Under his arm, he carried his walking stick. He was trying to do without it but Mary had persuaded him to take it with him. His limp was more noticeable when he was tired and that’s when he did lean on it. For now, he was content to carry it unused. However, the walking stick was the last of his worries. This would be the first time since the accident that he had ridden, let alone his own horse, Blackie.
As the stables came in sight, he could see that John his liveryman-cum-gardener had saddled that horse and it was waiting by the paddock for him. By the side of Blackie, stood the horse that the Kid had rented for this first and only ride out this trip. They were only riding into town, a distance of three miles. They would spend the morning catching up with Lom and other friends. The Kid and Cowdry would be leaving for home this afternoon. Heyes was particularly keen to see if The Hardware Store was still in business. He hadn’t had a chance before this. On previous trips out, the Kid had taken him straight to the train depot. Both Mary and the Kid assured him that everything was fine. Ted and Russ, the two boys he employed there, had run it effectively and efficiently while he was away. However, there was no substitute for seeing things himself.
First, he had to get there. As Heyes neared the stables, he lagged further and further behind the Kid. He was fixing the black horse with a stare and swallowing nervously. He wasn’t looking forward to this. That horse had very near killed him. He was all too aware that there hadn’t been any reason that he could determine for the animal’s behaviour. To add insult to injury, the Kid had reported that Blackie had been fine when he rode him.
The Kid walked on ahead, chatting away, unaware of the disquiet that his partner was facing.
“Sure will be nice to catch up with Lom and the other fellas in town without all this Pine Lake business hanging over m’head.”
He swung into the saddle of the borrowed horse and gathered the reins, ready for the off. Heyes had stopped and was standing on the path. It didn’t take a genius to work out something was wrong, but what?
“Josh?” he frowned, conscious that John was nearby, waiting for them to depart.
Heyes took a deep breath and let it out slowly with a judder.
“Heyes, you alright?” the Kid asked, in a lower voice.
A tongue appeared and licked lips. Then more sucking in air through his teeth. Another deep breath.
The Kid dismounted and went to Heyes, touching his arm in concern.
“Heyes?” he frowned.
When Heyes looked at him, he looked panicked and frightened. And embarrassed. “John, would you saddle Nellie for me, please?” Heyes asked in a shaking voice. With a rub of his forehead, and a frown he walked quickly away.
John and the Kid swopped glances. Nellie was Mary’s docile mare. The Kid nodded to John. As John went inside to do that, the Kid walked over to where Heyes was leaning on the paddock fence.
“What’s going on, Heyes?”
Heyes turned his head away, biting his thumbnail, as the Kid joined him.
The Kid put a hand on Heyes’ shoulder.
“Come on Heyes, talk to me,” he said, gently.
Heyes shook his head, furiously and turned his head further away.
“Are you …?”
“No!” Heyes gasped but a sniff gave him away. He put a hand over his eyes, and shook hishead. “I can’t do it, Kid.”
“Can’t what?” The Kid was beginning to suspect what was wrong but you don’t assume anything with Heyes. He needed him to tell him.
Heyes shook his head, furiously. “It’s ridiculous,” he sniffed. A hand scrubbed at his face.“You know me Kid, I can ride any horse.”
“Yep,” the Kid agreed. “Ya have what they say back East as a good seat.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed. A hand over his mouth, he shook his head. “But not anymore.” As he looked round, the Kid could see that his eyes were wet. “I can’t get on that horse, Kid. I just can’t do it,” he gasped. He looked away again. “It’s so stupid.”
The Kid shook his shoulder. “No it isn’t. After what had happened to you, I don’t mind admitting that I gave it a thought or two afore I got on him.”
Heyes licked his lips and nodded. “You’re a braver man than I am then,” he conceded, quietly.
Heyes looked back at the black horse and ran a hand through his hair. “This is so stupid.” He shook his head, in despair at himself. “I’ve ridden all my life and I’m an experienced rider. I shouldn’t be … .” He broke off, shaking his head as he looked down, hands on hips.
“Give it time Heyes. This is ya first ride since your accident. You’re bound to be apprehensive. It’s too soon perhaps an’ you’re still healing.”
Heyes nodded, pressed his lips together and took a deep breath. “It’s not that. I wanna ride. I know I can. Just not … him.”
The Kid smiled. “Will ya be alright on Nellie? We could take the buggy instead?”
Heyes shook his head. “Mary’s not an experienced rider and she can handle her just fine.” He swallowed and tried a small smile. “No I’ll be fine on Nellie. At least she hasn’t tried to kill me.” He took a deep breath. “No you worry about staying on your horse, Kid. I’ll worry about staying on mine.” (I had to have him say that, didn’t I?)
ASJASJASJASJ“You gave my son handcuffs for his birthday! Whatever possessed you, Papa?” Mary furiously cut up the meat on her younger son’s plate.
Luke had ridden back with Heyes and the Kid. This was a farewell lunch as well as being Harry’s birthday. The former sheriff was having a hard time over his choice of present for his elder grandson.
“He wanted to play at being a sheriff, I thought … .”
“No that’s just it! You didn’t think! He’s five. What did you think he’d do with them?” Luke opened his mouth to answer then shut it again as Mary went on. “Handcuff his little brother to a tree that’s what he did. And then left him there!”
“I gave him the key,” Luke protested.
“Yes!” More furious cutting and then the plate passed in the direction of her younger son.“And he lost it! This is HARRY, Papa. You should know better.”
Harry was missing from the table. Harry seemed astonished that you couldn’t handcuff your brother to a tree without being punished. But it was his birthday, he’d grumbled, hoping for a reprieve. Mary had sent him to his room, unswayed by his argument. She would take Harry’s dinner up later when she hoped he was suitably chasten. Some hope, Heyes had thought. Harry was just naturally the sort of boy who got himself into scrapes.
Mary absently pulled another plate forward, her main attention focussed on berating her father. Across the table, Heyes grunted and licked his lips nervously. That was his plate.
“You couldn’t have given the key to me? Or his father?” Mary began cutting the meat up onHeyes’ plate. Although with his arm plastered, he had been able to move his fingers, gripping a knife or a pen had been impossible, so Mary had cut his meat up for him. The plaster was off now since yesterday but today’s dinner was his first meal where he could tend to his own plate. He was looking forward to it. Mary cut the meat into too smaller pieces, more geared to small boys than a grown man. Not that he’d dared to complain.
Luke looked a little sick and flashed a weak grin.
“His father don’t need a key,” he muttered, in Heyes’ direction.
Heyes nodded in acceptance of the compliment to his skill.
“And just as well!” More furious cutting. “Otherwise we’d have had to chop the tree down to get Billy free!”
Heyes cleared his throat. “Um, Mary … .”
“And another thing,” Mary said, waving the knife in her father’s direction. “In future, tell me what you’re giving to my children.” More cutting, then more knife waving. “All of them.”
Luke glanced at Heyes, who wrinkled his nose in sympathy and nodded. Probably for the best.
Heyes turned back to watch Mary. He frowned. She was now mashing his roast potatoes with a fork. He pulled a look of annoyance.
Along the table, the Kid watched, amused. Wheat was shovelling food in absently, fascinated by the tableau in front of him. Watching someone getting one over on Hannibal Heyes was always worth a look. The remaining children were keeping a low profile. Both knew that was the best thing when Mama was having one of her tirades. They were only grateful it wasn’t at one of them. Only Cowdry was maintaining an inscrutable face, albeit with difficulty.
“Mary,” Heyes tried again, waving his now plaster free arm at her.
Unfortunately, Mary wasn’t finished with her father. “You may have retired Papa but did your BRAIN retire as well?”
“I’m sorry, Mary. In future, I’ll have ya vet ANYTHING I give to the children. How’s that?” Luke said, with a mixture of apology and irritation.
“BEFORE you give it to them.”
Mary was mixing the meat, potatoes and vegetables together. Across the table, Heyes was taking a deep breath at the ruin of his dinner, which only sent Wheat off into a stifled chortle.
“Yes, alright. BEFORE. Now can we leave it?”
Wide eyed in horror, Heyes watched as Mary made a hole in the middle of the mound she had made.
“Good, I’m glad that’s settled.” Mary picked up the gravy boat and that was too much for Heyes.
She looked across at him. “What?” She saw the look of horror on his face. He took a deep breath and eyed the plate in front of her. At the same time, he waved a hand. A hand attached to a plaster free right arm. Her eyes flicked to the hand and then down at the plate in front of her. Realisation dawned. Her lips formed an O. She sighed and started to get up.“I’ll get another plate.”
“I’ll eat it.” Heyes frowned in annoyance and reached over for the plate, dragging it in front of him. He looked in despair at his dinner, wondering where to start.
“I’m sorry, Josh. Really I’ll get you another plate.”
Heyes waved her down. “It’s fine. I’ll eat it,” he snapped. “Safer,” he added, to himself.
Mary sat down and reddened. Everyone including the children were looking at her. She sighed and pushed the gravy boat over. “Gravy?” she winced.
She received the look. “If I knew where to PUT … ,” Heyes started and then shuddered.“Forget it,” he said, swopping his fork from his left hand to the right. Taking a deep breath, he looked down the table. “So all packed?”
“Yeah, I think so. Paul?”
The Kid looked across at Cowdry.
“Yes sir. All ready.”
“Good,” said Heyes and looked down at his dinner. He sighed and tucked in. Sounds of mastication filled the dining room, somewhat embarrassed eating by some.
“Say er Heyes. I’ve been thinking about Blackie,” the Kid said, breaking the silence.
“Yeah. Have you decided what ya gonna do with him?”
Heyes picked up his wine glass and finished his mouthful. “No I haven’t.” It was a sore subject. He knew he wouldn’t ride him again. He’d reluctantly told Mary what had happened earlier but he certainly didn’t really want to discuss it here in front of everyone.
“He’s a good horse.”
“I know,” Heyes snapped, hoping that would end the conversation. He did have a good horse, young and fit. Too good for the knackers but equally he couldn’t in all good conscience sell him, knowing what had happened to him. He’d been lucky. Someone else may not be. The horse was just too unpredictable.
The Kid rubbed his chin. “If ya like, I’ll take him off your hands,” he said, slowly.
“Ship him back East. Have him schooled properly. I’ve gotta western saddle but I ain’t got a western horse,” the Kid smiled.
“Dunno,” Heyes mumbled and attended to his dinner.
“You’ll be able to visit, Pappy,” Susan suggested, hoping that would help.
“Yeah, Blackie can write!” piped Billy, and received an elbow from his sister.
“Ha!” Heyes laughed.
“I’ll pay ya for him of course.”
“Don’t want anything for him,” Heyes mumbled. “And his name’s not Blackie.”
“Isn’t it?” The Kid frowned. “Why does everyone call him Blackie?”
“’Cos he’s black but that’s not his name.”
“Then what is it?”
Here’s twirled his fork idly in the mound of his ruined dinner.
“Briscoe. His name is Briscoe.”
The Kid stared for a moment, unsure that he'd heard correctly.
Heyes looked embarrassed. “Yeah.”
“Why’s he called that?” Then the Kid fell in. “Ya didn't name him after Harry?”
Here’s frowned. “No ‘course not. I named him after the town of Briscoe. Where I bought him.”
The Kid looked doubtful. “Yeah. Why don’t I believe you?”
Here’s grinned and forked a mouthful. “’Course his name IS Blackie. What d'you take me for? Yeah, if you want him. You can take him. But promise me Kid,” He pointed in emphasis.“Only you ride him.”
The Kid nodded. “Yep. Deal.”
Heyes nodded. “Deal.”
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname