By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 37

We arrived at the ranch just before sunset.  Curtis Langtry, my new foreman, set about to get me settled in.  I stowed my gear in a good size locker in the back of a bobtailed truck.  They had a long trailer they pulled behind the truck that was used to store all the tack used on the ranch.  I threw my old working saddle in with the others.

My granddad showed me around and introduced me to the hands.  First, he introduced me to his second man-in-charge,  Wade Mulligan.  Mr. Mulligan was a huge Irishman who looked like he was born to be a cowboy.  Other than Griz in Tucson, he had to be the second ugliest man I ever met, but when he smiled his face lit up like a beacon.  He seemed like he was another gentle giant.  I certainly wouldn’t want him mad at me. He looked me deep in the eyes and held my hand a little longer than socially called for.  He seemed to study me while my granddad was telling him about me.  Finally, he spoke in a booming bass voice,

“Glad to have you, Casey.  If’n you need anything,— git chore’self lost or confused, come to me, and I’ll git chu’ straightened out.”

I knew what he meant, but I laughed to myself and thought, “You’re way too late for ‘straightening’ me out, hoss.’

“Thanks, Mr. Mulligan.  I’m glad to be here, and I’ll keep that in mind.”

There was two naturalized Mexican-Americans, Jamie Garcia and Gabe (Gabriel) Espesito who my granddad introduced me to next.  They seemed like decent men and spoke English as well as Mexican.

There were two wet-backs who spoke little English and relied on Jamie and Gabe to interpret for them.  They saw no need to learn the language of the gringo.  Their names were Jesus Fuentes and Esteban Pesado.  Unfortunately, I got bad vibrations from both men.  They looked at me like I was a prairie chicken ripe for the stew pot.  They had funny little smiles that were more like sneers than a friendly, well-met, welcome smile.  They made me think of two rattlesnakes, poised and ready to strike.

Next my granddad introduced me to two middle aged cowboys whom I also took an instant dislike to.  Their names were Randle Taggart and Quince Rattle.  Taggart and Rattle; together, their names sounded like a shyster law firm.  I shook their hands and told them it was good to meet them.

There was another man  away from the rest of the men coming out of his ‘cowboy condo’ for the night.  A cowboy condo is a fairly large canvas tee-pee the ranch provides for the hands.  They could easily be torn down and moved from place to place.  Usually there were two men to a ‘condo.’

This cowboy was a tall black man who looked like he might have come from the Zulu or Watusi tribe in Africa.  He was very black, but he was also a fine looking black man.  He wasn’t as buffed as Lamar, but he was a big man.  He was a little older man and had some tufts of grey hair sticking out from under his cowboy hat.  Curtis introduced him as Sam (Samson) Roone and of all the men I was introduced to, he seemed to be the most genuine.  He wasn’t overly gushing, but he was polite, well met and friendly.

“I’ve heard good things about you, Casey.  It’s good to have you with us.  I hope you like working for the Lazy 8.  It’s one of the best outfits around and Mr. Langtry is a fine boss to work for.  Do your job, keep your nose clean, and you won’t have no problems.”  He spoke to me in what sounded like a British or Jamaican accent.

“Thanks, Sam, I appreciate your welcome and advice.”  I told him.

Sam smiled at me with a row of perfect teeth as he shook my hand. He walked and talked with me and my granddad as Curtis took me to view the remuda.  I enjoyed hearing Sam talk.  While he seemed to have the cowboy lingo down pat, he had a musical flow to his words that was clear and crisp.

I was surprised by the number of ponies in the remuda for only a dozen hands.  There must have been close to a hundred ponies.  Curtis explained they liked to have that many so they don’t overwork any pony. They recommend the cowboys change mounts every day to give the one they rode the day before a rest.  I sent out feelers into the remuda as I was standing there listening to Curtis and Sam discuss some things.

<<Howdy.  I’m Casey.  I’m new, but not an inexperienced rider.  I’m owned by a fine pinto pony named Rocky. (I flashed a picture of Rocky to them.) I’d like a volunteer to be my partner tomorrow.>>

I got back all sorts of static and a few words; mostly negative.  I got back several names the ponies called themselves.  One big, dark red roan gelding standing in front of us eating some hay,  stopped eating and walked up to me, looked me up and down, introduced himself as Big Red, then lowered his head for me to pet him.  I talked to him for a minute and called him by his name.

“Thanks, Big Red, I appreciate you welcoming me. That’s real decent of you.  I wish some of the man-stallions were as nice as you.  I’d be honored and right proud to have you as a partner tomorrow.”
Sam and my granddad’s mouths dropped open.

“How’d ju’ know the pony’s name, Son?”  My granddad asked.

“He’s big and a deep red roan. H’it stands to reason his name is ‘Big Red,’ Mr. Langtry.”  I winked and smiled at him as I continued petting Big Red.

“He can be an ornery cayuse, Son.  I don’t know’s you wanna’ start off with him.”

“A pony is only as ornery as the man what rides him, Sir.”  I said softly.

Sam looked at my granddad and smiled.  “Looks like the man has some horse sense himself, Mr. Langtry.”

“I’ve seen him do some pretty remarkable things with his pony, Sam.  I think he’s gonna’ fit in right well here.”
The cook rang the triangle for chow and all the cowboys headed for the chuck wagon.  Curtis pulled the cook aside and introduced him to me.

“Casey this, here, man is our cook, nurse, psychologist, interpreter of dreams, and spinner of great yarns.  He’s been with us a long time.  I’d like you to meet Mr. Will Shott.  Will, I’d like you to meet our new hand, Mr. Casey Longhorn.”

“Longhorn?”  Will said as he took my hand.  He looked me up and down, smiled and shook his head.  I saw in the man’s eyes something clicked.  He knew my name and possibly had a clue to my real identity; however, Will was a cowboy.  He wasn’t about to say anything in front of the boss.

“Now that’s what I call a real name for a cowboy.  Good to meet cha,’ Son.  Jes’ call me Will, Casey.  I’m too damn old to worry about formalities.”

“Thanks, Mr. Shott,— Will.”  I laughed and added.  He grinned real big and went back to what he was doing.

Supper consisted of barbecued cabrito (young goat) with red beans, potatoes and whatever you wanted to drink.  There was iced tea, coffee and milk.  I got a cup of milk with my supper and went off to eat with Brett and Curt.  Big Sam and my granddad joined us.  I like buffalo and venison, but I’m not a big fan of mutton or goat; however,  the barbecue sauce Will made and cooked the meat in disguised its recognizable taste.  The food was tasty and there was plenty of it if you wanted more.  I didn’t.  One helping was enough for me.  

It was a warm evening so the only fire for the evening was Will’s cook fire. The stars started coming out, and it was like being in a planetarium.  It was an awesome sight to behold.  It was like a blanket of stars and lights replaced the sun. I’d forgotten how much it impressed me when Dwayne and I spent our two summers cowboying for my cousin Rance.  

I dropped my bedroll in the empty condo next to Brett and Curt’s before chow call and decided to wait until after supper to get set up for the night.  I wish I’d done it earlier as it was a bit more difficult in the dark.

During supper, Mr. Langtry advised me if I ever had to help move the tee-pee condos to be sure and move mine within the perimeter of the other men’s.  That way I’d be pretty safe from having something drop on me during the night.  I thought he was kidding and laughed.

“He ain’t kidding, Casey.”  Commented Sam, “We don’t talk about it much outside the ranch; most folks ‘ud think we’s crazy,  but every other month or so we hear cows being dropped out of the sky.  We find ‘em the next day mutilated and their bodies completely drained of blood.  There’s no foot prints, truck tracks or any other kind of tracks around.

About a year ago, one of the Mexican cowboys on guard at night says he saw a couple of cows being lifted into the air by a beam of light into a dark hole; however, he said he didn’t see no aircraft or nothing.  That night the cows were dropped back to the ground and not far from where we was sleeping.  It woke everybody in camp up.  It’s jes’ best to bunk it in closer to a fire.  Cook keeps a fire going most all night and the men on night-guard feed it from time to time.”

I didn’t like the sound of that.  Whoever was doing it didn’t matter, it was theft and it was hitting me in my pocketbook.

“Gees,— I’ve heard of cattle mutilations, but I ain’t never seen one.  Any one have any ideas who or what’s doing it?” I asked.

“Yeah,— there’s some pretty wild ideas floating around among the men, but nobody knows anything for sure.”  Added Curt.
* * * * * * *

I wondered about Brett and Curt bunking it in the same tee-pee and how the other cowboys might look up on it.  I asked Brett about it while we were still at the sheriff’s ranch and he told me it’s not uncommon for two cowboys to bunk it in together in the same tee-pee since they were designed for two men.   Whatever anyone wanted to make of it is there own business and what Brett and Curt choose to do is their business.  No one ever said anything about it.  If a man is a good cowboy, no matter what he might think, another cowboy is due his respect as a man.

On a ranch you go to bed early and get up before dawn.  It felt like I no sooner got to sleep when Mr. Mulligan was making the rounds to wake the hands.  I managed to stumble out of my bedroll and get dress.  Then I rolled up my bed, packed it away in my locker and was ready for breakfast.  Will all ready had coffee made and trays of fresh eggs, bacon, ham and hot cakes if you wanted them.  I was advised to eat a good breakfast because sometime lunch was eaten on the run and most times consisted of  sandwiches with a mug of milk, coffee or tea.  The two main meals of the day were breakfast and supper.

During breakfast Wade Mulligan introduced me to two more cowboys, a small man and a native American who was asleep and was awakened about the time we went to bed to ride guard on the herd during the night to keep the cattle quiet. They would ride nights for a week and then two other cowboys would rotate.  So once every three months your sleep pattern was thrown off for a week of night riding.

The small man was named Art Fern and went by the name ‘Preacher man,’ although, he assured me, ‘he weren’t no preacher!’  He didn’t elaborate on how he got that name, but he was used to everyone calling him that.  He seemed pleasant enough, but he also seemed really tired.  He was more interested in eating and getting his ass to bed.

The second man was obviously a native American.  Wade introduced him as Garth Yellowhawk.  He preferred to go by the name ‘Hawk.’  He was quiet but friendly and made me feel his welcome was sincere.  He was, also, preoccupied with eating and hitting the sack.

After breakfast I got my old saddle out of the tack trailer and followed the rest of the men to the remuda.  I left my lasso with the rest of my tack and just took my saddle with me.

“Yore’ gonna’ need your lasso to rope a pony to ride today, cowboy.”  One of the two men I didn’t care for named ‘Taggart’ spoke me.”

“Naw, I don’t need it,— but thanks.”  I walked on with my saddle. They were all going with their lassos before they got their saddles out.

“Fuck’n tenderfoot.”  He muttered in disgust and turned back to his buddy to laugh about me.  “I got twenty bucks says he has to go git his rope.”  He said so everyone could hear him.

“I’ll take that bet, Taggart.”  spoke up my granddad.

“Me, too,— I’ll be happy to take twenty from you, Tag.”  Barked Brett at him.

“I don’t know the man, but I’ll bet on him, Taggart.”  said big Sam.

“Yore’ on,— all of you!  Easy money,—  suckers!”

I walked up to the remuda and who should be waiting for me but Big Red.

“Morn’n, Red.” I spoke to him, “You’re look’n fine this morning.  You ready to be my partner today?”

The big pony stamped his feet and shook his head up and down like he was ready.  The rest of the men stood there and watched in awe as I bridled and saddled Big Red without him moving so much as a foot away from me.  When I finished I reached in my pocket and brought out an apple I got in the food line and slipped it to him when no one was looking.

<<Thanks, Red.>> I projected <<I appreciate you coming through for me.>>

<<I agreed to work with you today, rider.  I’m here,— ready to go. I got a bad reputation.  Some a’ them idiots wouldn’t know a good piece of horse flesh if it sat on ‘em.>>

I laughed at his take on some of the cowboys as I swung up into my saddle ready to work.  The rest of the men were still chasing a pony with their lassoes.  Only one man,— Sam,—  caught his ride for the day.  There was much laugher and praise from those who bet on me.  There was much razzing and laughter at Taggart.

“Who’s the sucker now, Tag?”  Asked Sam.

“Yeah,— thanks for the easy twenty bucks, Taggart.  I can use it about now.”  Said Brett.

“My thanks, too.” added Curtis to Taggart.  Taggart was grumbling and cursing.  He was the last to rope a pony.

I rode over to Taggart  after I saw him toss his rope for the fifth time and miss.

“Need any help, there, cowboy?”  I asked real friendly-like and grinned real big.

“Go to hell, tenderfoot!”  He shot back.

“As you wish, buckaroo.”  I rode off on Big Red laughing.

<<He deserved that, Casey.>> Red projected to me. <<He’s ain’t good enough to be a horse’s ass.>> Red turned to look at me and laughed.  I liked this pony.  He had a good sense of humor.

Sam rode over to me. “How’d ju’ do that, Casey?” He asked.

“Simple.  I jes’ asked Red last evening if’n he’d be my partner today.  He told me he would, and he was kind enough to keep his word.”  Red snorted and shook his head in agreement. Sam didn’t miss it either.

“I’ll be damned.  Well, thanks for the extra twenty bucks, cowboy.”

“Don’t thank me, Sam.  Thank my partner, here.”  Once again Red shook his head in agreement.  Sam almost fell off his pony laughing.  He reached over and patted Red.

“Thanks, Big Red, I owe you one.”   Big Red laughed.

* * * * * * *

We spent all day rounding up cattle and finding strays.  Big Red was a master at convincing ornery critters they should go the way Red and I wanted them to.  He was a good pony and worked hard all day.  I watered him often and shared my piece of fruit I had for lunch with him.  

<<Thanks, rider.  That was good.  Sorry about that critter I let get by me a while ago.>>

<<Look, Red.  Ya’ done fine.  It was a rocky slope with loose gravel.  You lost your footing.  I’d rather the son of a bitch got past us than you fall’n and injuring yourself.  No heroics with me, pod’na’,— only hay and oats cowboy stuff.  We ain’t at no rodeo, Red.>> Red snorted and laughed.

<<You’re a decent man, Casey.  Y’ain’t gonna’ have no problem git’n a pony to work with you.  ‘Socks’ all ready done told me she’d be right proud to work with ya’ tomorrow.  She’s a good gal, you’ll like her.>>

<<That’s great, Red.  I appreciate you spread’n the word.>>

<<Didn’t have to.  They’s all tuned into you’n me.  They know how you’re doing.  They’re bicker’n about who’s gonna’ git to claim you for a rider after ‘Socks.’  If’n they gits to work with you, means they don’t have to work with one a’ them assholes.  Brett, Curt, Sam, second stallion-in-charge, Hawk, and Preacher man ain’t bad.  Yore’ grandsire is one of the best riders next to you.>>

<<You know about Mr. Langtry being my grandsire?>>

<<Sure.  We tuned into your thoughts when you got here.  We could see and hear how you worship him.  He’s a good man-stallion, Casey.  Your ‘owner’ was right.  You stay man-colt for while longer. Learn from your grandsire.  Let us teach you some things.  We take good care of man-colt.>> Red stamped his feet for emphasis.

<<I told my ‘owner’ I would stay a man-colt for a while longer, Red, and I’d be honored to have ya’ll teach me.  How else is a good man-colt gonna’ become a good man-stallion if’n he don’t have help from his friends who know about that sort a’ thing.>>

Red and I worked steady and hard all day. I couldn’t have been prouder of him when I rubbed him down and made sure he got fed well.  I took my time and gave him a good rub down.  ‘Socks’ was standing right there watching.

<<Thanks, rider, for the good rub down.  Them boarder hoppers and two stink-stallions give a lick and a promise.>>

<<You deserve it, Red.  Thanks for making my first day a good one.  I’ll look forward to work’n with ya’ again.>>

<<Count on it, man-colt!>> He laughed.

Socks was a pretty blonde filly with four white feet.  She came to me and I petted her.

<<You gonna’ bring me a treat tomorrow morning, man-colt?>> she asked.

<<If’n they has fruit again like they done this morning,— I sure will, Socks.>> She nudged me to pet her some more.

“That yore ride for tomorrow, Casey?”  Sam asked as he walked by.

“I hope so, Sam.  She’s a beauty ain’t she?”

“Socks is a good pony.  She’s been good to me.  You treat her right, she’ll treat you right and give you solid day’s work.”

<<You really think I’m pretty, Casey?>>

<<One a’ the prettiest fillies I ever did see, Socks.>>

<<Woah!  Who let the bull in the remuda to stink up the place?>> I heard some pony comment about my remark to Socks.  I laughed.

<<Hesh, up!>> she rebuked them. <<If Casey thinks I’m pretty, that’s good enough for me.>> She laughed and nuzzled me again to pet her some more.

* * * * * * *

I was surprised the ranch had toilet facilities and showers. The ranch my brother and I worked on in Montana for Cousin Rance didn’t have any  conveniences.  I just expected the same for the Lazy 8.  There were four portable toilets situated over a deep open pit.  Their was a huge tractor with a a backhoe and a huge shovel in front they drove from place to place.  They’d dig a trench and drag the toilets over the pit.  They fill it in again when they left the area.

The showers were a solar heated affair and there was warm water in the evening for bathing.  There were four shower stalls and an overhead pull chain.  You pulled once to wet yourself, soaped up and pulled again to rinse off.  It worked well and conserved water.

After I cleaned up and got my bedroll set up for the night I went to see if I could help Will with anything.  After all, as part owner I had an interest in making sure everything was running smoothly.  Will raised a suspicious eyebrow.

“You’re the first cowboy who’s come and asked me if’n he could give me a hand.  God bless you, Son.  I’ll take you up on your offer if’n for no other reason than to git to talk with ya.’”

Will handed me a potato peeler and a big sack of Idaho spuds.  I knew to peel until he told me to stop.

“So,— how’s yore’ pa back in California?  Vince Longhorn,— I believe his name is?”   I threw my arm across my mouth so he couldn’t see my surprise, but I couldn’t help but laugh.  He pointed a finger at me and laughed with me like we were playing “Battleship” and he just sunk my fleet.

“My daddy’s jes’ fine, Will,— thank ya’ very much.  My little brother is home taking good care of him. I done know’d ju’ knew who I was when I saw that look in yore’ eyes yesterday evening.  Thanks for not giving me away, pod’na.’” I smiled at him. “How’d ju’ know?”  I asked Will.

“Aww, hell,— Sticker, Sid and me goes back a long ways.  I was the one what found Sticker to take care of yore’ little brother.  Actually, it didn’t happen quite that a’ way.  Logan found him, I jes’ introduced Sticker to his daddy.  Sticker’s all the time tell’n me about Logan’s wonderful brothers Casey Longhorn and Dwayne Harding.  Ya’ cain’t fergit a cowboy what’s name is ‘Longhorn.’ Sticker told me Logan done taught his brothers how to use their gifts they didn’t know they had.”

I smiled and winked at him.

“That’s how you won that bet for them men this morning,— ain’t it? That pony was a’ wait’n for you.  You done lined that pony up to be yore’ partner  last evening,— didn’chew.”

I just grinned real big and lowered my head to peel a potato.

“Them be mighty pretty blue contact lenses you be a’ wear’n, cowboy.”  

Will knew it all and had me roaring with laughter.  The old man was no dummy.

“Do you know why I’m wear’n ‘em, Will?”

“Don’t know fer shore’ but Sticker done told me about them violet eyes a’ yorn,’ and he wondered if’n Curtis Langtry might be related to you.  Then after the stories I told him and how much yore’ daddy hates his old man, he never said nothing to Curtis or you about it.  He thought Curtis might be yore’ granddaddy, but it weren’t his or my place to tell you or yore’ dad.  Sticker reckoned if’n you wanted to know bad enough you’d come a’ look’n for Curtis.  Shore’ nuff you did.”  This time Will laughed.  “But, that ain’t all I know’d about chu,’ neither.”

“Lord help me,— I’m afeard to ask,— what else do you know, Will?”

“I know’d who the owner and executive board members of Hensly Agrocon is.”

“Ohhh, shit!  Did my little brother spill the beans?  I’ll wring his neck the next time I see him. He was the one what told me to keep it secret.”  I laughed.  Will knew I was kidding.

“T’weren’t him, Son.   It was Sidney’s male secretary what done figured ya’ll out and Sid told me; however, he ain’t told Sticker yet.  Sticker don’t have no clue.  Sid told me when his secretary come to him and comminced to tell him what he discovered, he damn near laughed his ass off.  Told me he laughed so hard he cried.

Sid’s been follow’n you ever’ step of yore’ journey.  He know’d where you is and what chur’ doing at all times.  You think it was by chance you run into them bikers at that gas station in Tucon?”  Will slapped his leg, pointed his index finger at me like a gun to shoot me, and laughted.

Sid didn’t count on you and Waddie Claymore fall’n in love, but he laughed when he found out and wished you both well.  Sid was pleased. He thought that big cowboy/biker jes’ might teach you a thing or two.  From that silly grin on yore’ face I’d suspect Sid was right.”   Will laughed again, and I couldn’t help laughing, too.  He was right, I did fall in love with Master Waddie and learned a lot from him about life, roping, male bonding, and love.

“You don’t know it, Son, but yore’ being watched over even as we speak. There’s a reason why, too, but I cain’t tell you about it without betraying Sid’s confidence. I ain’t about to do that.  You’ll find out soon enough.  Anyways, Casey, it’s so damn good to finally meet chu’ and have you here.  You’re a welcome addition to this place.”

“Thanks, Will.  I’ve heard Mr. Wainright speak of you many times, but I was slow to make the connection until Big Red told me this afternoon while we was brush pop’n.”

“Damn ponies!  They never could keep no secrets!” Will said disgustedly.

Will and I laughed again.  Curtis and his second, Wade, came to see what all the hilarity was about.

“Aww, I’s jes’ tell’n our new hand, here, one a’ my cowboy tales; but, I’s charge’n him boss.  I ain’t tell’n none a’ my stories fer free no more. I’s make’n him peel spuds for supper.”  Will laughed again almost as hard.   
 “Glad to see you put ‘em to work, Will.  He done good today.”

“Thanks, Mr. Langtry.  Hope I’ll be an asset to ya.’”

“Ain’t no doubt in my mind;— yores, Wade?”  He asked his second.

“Naw, Sir.  He done right well for his-self today.  I still wanna’ know how he got Big Red to do some a’ the things he done.  Ain’t never seen that pony perform like that.  I about done give up on him.  Sam told me you all ready got a pony lined up for tomorrow.  Is that right, Son?”  Wade asked me.

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Mulligan.  Socks told me she’d be right proud to partner me tomorrow.”  He looked at me funny, then thought I was fun’n with him and laughed.

“You won’t be laugh’n tomorrow morning when he walks out to the remuda, Socks is there wait’n for him, and all he has to do is bridle and saddle her.”  My granddad chuckled.  “Hope ole Taggert wants to bet again.  I could shore’ nuff use me another twenty bucks.  Which reminds me,—  I better git me on over there and be collecting on today’s bet before he runs out a’ money.”  He walked away with Wade laughing and talking with him.

“Curtis ain’t got nary a clue.” said Will shaking his head, then chuckled. “But that’s as it should be fer right now.  I hope and pray you two become a blessing to each other, Son, and maybe yore’ daddy kin find it in his heart to forgive him.”

“I pray for the same, Will.”  I told him in all seriousness.

“Curtis used to be a bastard, but he’s changed.  He’s a good man today. I got him his job, here,— as a cowboy on the ranch when he came back to the area after being an outlaw biker for several years.  He fell in love with a young man who returned from Nam with his face almost plumb blown off, but the kid was the bonded slave of another outlaw biker who was a bad man. Broke yore’ granddaddy’s heart, he did.

Curtis come to me look’n for a job.  He wanted to be a cowboy again.  I told Sticker to hire him,— to give him a chance.  It was one of the smartest decisions ole Sticker ever made.  Hell, yore’ granddaddy weren’t never a biker at heart.  Once a cowboy, always a cowboy.  He rolled his bike into the barn up to the big house, covered it with an oil cloth, and it ain’t been out since. I know’d yore’ granddaddy all his life, and I know’d yore’ daddy and his little brother what was killed in Nam.  Yore’ the spit’n image of Seth Quee,  Son.  I’m surprised Curtis cain’t see it.  Maybe God’s blinded him to it for a reason.”

“He’s said a couple a’ things to other men he thinks I look like a young cowboy he knew and loved a long time ago.  I know he must be think’n on my Uncle Seth.”

Will raised an eyebrow and slowly shook his head.  I peeled a lot of potatoes until Will hollered stop.  I washed them, cut them up, put them in a huge cook pot he handed me and he put them over the fire to boil. I helped him with a couple of other things.  He was delightful company.  I fell in love with the old man that evening.  Usually it takes a good hot fucking to make me fall in love with a cowboy, but Will Shott was a special man;— a true man of the old West;— a genuine cowboy.

“Funny thing about yore’ situation,— here you is, work’n for yore’ granddaddy;— he don’t know it, but he’s work’n for you.  Funnier yet, here you is my boss man, and you’s cut’n up ‘taters for me.”  Will slapped his leg and got flour all over himself and laughed.  I laughed with him. He was infectious with his sense of fun.  “Tells me a lot about chu,’ Son. Tells me yore’ a true cowboy; not jes’ some wanna’ be.  Jes’ a word of warning, though.  Watch out for Taggart and Rattle, and them two boarder jump’n beans, too.  They ain’t good men.  I ain’t said nothing to him, but I don’t know why Curtis puts up with ‘em.”

“Thanks for the tip, Will, but I got them four pretty well sized up when I met ‘em.  A man what don’t genuinely welcome a new buckaroo ain’t no real cowboy.”

“You’re wise for yore’ age, Casey.”

“My daddy done taught me the cowboy way, Will.”

“He learned it from the best, Son.”

* * * * * * *

When my head hit my bedroll, I died.  I didn’t realize how tired I was until Wade came around before sunup to wake us.  We had breakfast and headed out to the remuda again.  I carried my saddle and noticed Taggart and Rattle stood back and watched.  Standing by the fence rope was Socks waiting for me.  I greeted her and proceeded to bridle and saddle her with no problems.

<<I didn’t forget my promise, Socks.>> I told her as I slipped her a Bartlett pear.  She took it and ate it quickly enjoying its goodness.

<<I know,>> she flashed back,<< I could smell it in your pocket. Thanks, Casey.  It was good.>> she giggled.

Socks worked well with me.  She was a little more sure footed than Red; however, to be fair to the big roan, she was a smaller pony and had less to navigate.  Nary a cow or dogie got past Socks.

The days began to fly by.  I guess the wet-backs really didn’t like me, or thought I was trying to show them up.  One evening I sat up my bedroll a little early and went to the showers.  When I came back I saw them walking away from my condo, zipping up their jeans, laughing and slapping each other on the back.  I went  to investigate, and the sons of a bitches pissed in my sleeping bag.  I didn’t say anything, but just asked around if anyone had an extra bedroll.  Wade and Curtis kept extra bedrolls around all the time.  I sat mine out to dry and used the borrowed one.  I’d take mine with me on my weekend off and wash it in Cindy’s washer.

The next night I waited until the two wet-backs went to chow and loaded their sleeping bags with fresh, juicy cow pies.  I put them way down to the end so they wouldn’t notice until they slipped into them.  Everyone in camp heard them cursing and carrying own.  They pulled on their jeans and boots and headed straight for my tent to confront me.  They had blood in their eyes they were so angry.  They walked toward me with their fists clenched.  I was ready for them, but before they could get there big Sam stepped in front of them.

“Hold it right there, hombres.  Y’ain’t gonna’ do nothing to Casey.  Ya’ pissed in his sleep’n bag last night. My condo’s right across from his.  I watched ya’ll do it!  Paybacks is a bitch.  You should a’ know’d better. What chu’ sow, so shall you reap.”

They were going crazy with their Mexican gibberish, shouting at Sam and me when Gabe walked up to interpret.  By that time the whole camp gathered ‘round.

“Is that why you asked to borrow a sleep’n bag, Casey?”  Wade Mulligan asked me.

“Yes, Sir.”

My granddad was standing back watching and letting Wade handle the situation.

“Is it true, Gabe.  Did them two piss in Casey’s bag?”

“Yes, Sir. Sam saw ‘em do it, but they say they’s jes’ play’n a leetle practical joke on ‘em.   They say what he done was much worse.”

“Practical?  How practical is it to piss in another man’s bedroll? How is it worse?  Mexican piss or cow shit?  S’all the same to me. Seems to me like Casey was jes’ return’n the favor. Tell ‘em bastards to go back to their tents and shut the fuck up.  I don’t wanna’ hear no more about it.  If’n they don’t like it, they can ride up to the big house with me tomorrow morning and draw their fuck’n pay. Them lazy bastards don’t do that gotdamn much work around here no ways. They want the good money, but they don’t wanna’ have ta’ work for it. They’re more trouble than they’re worth. You tell ‘em, Gabe, if’n they don’t all ready understand, — I won’t put up with shit like that.  They got what was coming to ‘em.

If’n Casey had come to me or Mr. Langtry, he would’ve been looked on as a tattletale or a cry baby.  He did what any good cowboy would do.  He took care of it himself.  Now they wanna’ reek havoc on ‘em for doing the same damn thing they done.  I don’t think so, buckaroo,— not on my watch.  You tell ‘em if they got any ideas of get’n back at Casey they better forgit ‘em.  They’ll be headed back to mother-Mexico faster’n a damn tick on a dog.”

Gabe told the two wet-backs what Wade Mulligan said and they walked away mumbling to themselves, cursing in Espanole.  They didn’t get anyone to loan them an extra sleeping bag either.  I was warned not to loan them anything.  Everyone told me I’d never get it back.

I don’t think they were a bonded pair.  Brett and Curt didn’t either.  They saw themselves as macho caballeros who were only on this planet as a gift to the female vagina.  Any cowboy worth his salt would come up and shake a man’s hand after he paid him back for some prank, and it would be all over between them.  They could become friends.  Not the jumping beans. They steered clear of me, but sneered at me a lot from that time on like they smelled shit on their upper lip.  For a while, I’m sure they did.  Aside from the other men’s warnings, something inside me told me not to waste my time on them. It would be like trying to make friends with a pair of Gila monsters.

I noticed they would always ride together, whether it was herding the cows or brush popping for strays.  Sometimes they’d act like they were going after strays, disappear and be gone for a couple of hours and then return with no cattle.  It was like wherever one went the other went.  Most all the other cowboys went after strays by themselves.  The wet-backs were drawing two salaries and doing the work of one cowboy.  That didn’t seem right to me; however, cowboys don’t say nothing or complain about another cowboy. Being just another cowboy, it wasn’t any of my business; however, owning a third interest in the company made it my business.  These suckers were costing my company twice what an average cowboy made and only doing the work of one.  I could put up with them knowing their days on the Lazy 8 were numbered.

* * * * * * *

Two weeks went by like a short freight train and it was Friday morning. The previous weekend, Matt Mulligan and six of the other cowboys had the weekend off.  The rest of us had to tend the cattle; however, weekends on the ranch was a lot less work and Sundays were free days to do what you wanted.  There still was a couple of men needed to ride night watch, but that was scheduled.

My granddad brought his food over to the picnic table where I was eating my breakfast and sat across from me.

“Casey,— we don’t usually give a man a weekend off until he’s been here a month, but I’m gonna’ make an exception with you.  I know you got clothes to clean and the following Monday all the extra hands are gonna’ be here for fall round up.  I figure you didn’t bring that many clothes you can go another two weeks.  Some of these men, it wouldn’t make no difference; however, I know you have good hygiene habits, and I ain’t never see’d you wear the same clothes two days in a row.”

“Yes, Sir.  I get pretty dirty ever’ day, and I’m jes’ about out of clean clothes.”

“If’s a cowboy’s doing his job, he should git dirty ever’ day; however,  when we start fall roundup ain’t nobody gits a weekend off for two weeks, and it’ll be another two weeks before our rotation comes around again. So it’ll be a full month before we can get away from the ranch to take care of personal things. It’s a tough hall, but that’s jes’ the way it’s gotta’ be. You may wanna’ think on wear’n your clothes more’n one day.  So, that’s why I’m making an exception.  It would make it too damn long for you not to have a weekend off in a month and a half.”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Langtry.”

“Fine,— then after lunch get chore’ shit together ‘cause the truck’ll be here and you can ride into town with the other men who have the weekend off.  Brett and Curt have been invited to stay with Sheriff Claymore and his family this weekend, but I’m going on down to Bubba’s to stay the weekend with him, his boys and O.C. Harris.   I think you’ve met Mr. Harris.”  My granddad raised an eyebrow and grinned real big.  He was joking with me. I wasn’t about to let him get away with it.

“Don’t know ‘em too well, Sir, but I’ve met him, and he seems like a fine man.  I think he’s one hell of a cowboy.”  I grinned back.  Curtis laughed at me.   

“Anyways,— the sheriff and his boys will bring you back to the ranch and stay the night.  Gip’s got to git back but his boy’ll be ready for the next morning’s work.  Bubba, his boys and O.C. will bring me back and stay the night.”

“I know you stay with the sheriff and his family sometimes, Mr. Langtry.  Would it be inappropriate to invite you to bunk it in with me in my coach at the sheriff’s sometime?”

My granddad looked me deep in the eyes and slowly smiled.

“I probably wouldn’t consider it if’n it was any other cowboy, Son, but I’ll be honest with you,— I’d be down right proud and honored to bunk it in with you.”

“I was a hope’n you might say that, Sir.  After roundup, whenever you’re ready jes’ let me know.  I’d be pleased to have you as my guest, Mr. Langtry.”
We talked about other things and were joined by Sam, Hawk, Preacher, Brett and Curt.  
“What pony you ride’n today, Casey?”  Hawk asked me. Being a native American, he was impressed with my skill with horses.

“I’m due to partner with Sally Good’n.  Ain’t never partnered with her before, but she’s been a pester’n Big Red to let her partner with me.  I could get a surprise when I walk out there,— now that they know I got the weekend off.”

“How would they know that?”  Sam asked me.

“Word gits around.”   I answered laughing.  The other cowboys laughed, too.

“Yeah, but the way you talk about the ponies is like ever’ damn one of ‘em’s yore’ friend, and you know ‘em all by name.  You don’t talk about riding ‘em.  You talk about partner’n ‘em.  That’s unusual for a cowboy, but you know what? It makes good sense to me.  I been think’n on them ponies differently since you come, and I swear to you, it’s like something come over ‘em. I ain’t never got so much cooperation from ‘em before.”

“Me, too.”  added Sam.

“We’ve noticed a change.” said Curt, “Brett and I talked about it the other day.”

“Do you talk with ‘em?” asked Hawk.

“Naw,— I hardly ever say anything to ‘em.”  I dodged his question.
“Then how do you know so much about ‘em and only been here two weeks?”

“A pony’s a pony, Hawk. I jes’ watch ‘em and figure out who they are and what they’re all about. Jes’ like when you meet a man and you size him up as a good man or a bad man.  Some call it intuition, I call it a feel’n I git.”

“I’ve noticed them wet-backs have a devil of a time with some a’ them ponies.  Taggart and Rattle don’t do much better with ‘em.  How do you account for that?”  Hawk asked me.

“You kin figure that one out for yourself, Hawk.” I laughed. “They think they’re in charge, but they ain’t.  Any one a’ them ponies got twice the smarts of all four a them assholes put together.”  Everyone laughed at my comparison.

“Yore’ right, Casey.  Stupid question.  So you give control over to yore’ pony.”

“It’s a partnership,— but yes, ninety percent of the time I let my pony do the work.  He’s smarter’n me and has a faster reaction time.  That’s why we have ‘em, to help us do the work.  The only thing is, they’re doing most of it while we sit back and enjoy the ride. I have a great appreciation for their skills and talents.  My job, as I see it, is like a man driving a train.  He’s there to make sure it runs at the right speed and stays on the tracks.  The rest he leaves up to the engine.  If’n a cowboy keeps that in mind, he won’t have to go out there and chase them ponies down to partner him.”

“Hell, I’m open to new ideas,— anything to make my day easier,— I’m certainly will’n to give it a try.  That little dun colored mare we call Trixie and me,— we got us a thing going.  I really like her, and I git the feel’n she likes me.  I appreciate her work.  I give her a lot of latitude, but she works her butt off for me.  She ain’t been ridden in several days, but I’d shore’ like to have her partner with me today.  It would make for an easy morning.”

“Tell ya’ what, Hawk.  Slip one a’ them apples in yore’ pocket and take yore’ saddle out there with me without chur’ rope and I guaran-damn-tee ya’ she’ll be wait’n for ya.’”

“You’re on, Casey.  I’ll try it.  Hell, I’ll try anything once.” He grinned.

After breakfast the rest of the cowboys watched as Hawk and I got our saddles and headed for the remuda.  Sure enough, there was the little dun mare waiting for Hawk with love in her eyes.  I thought the cowboy was going to lose it, but he caught himself.  He talked softly to her and told her how pleased he was she wanted to partner with him today.  He told her it was to be a short day because he was going away for the weekend.  After he bridled and saddled her he gave her his apple.

I got a surprise when I got to the ponies.  Sally Good’n was there but so was Big Red.  He told Sally she could wait a while longer, it wasn’t going to be a full day anyway, and he wanted to partner me.  I thanked Red and after I got him saddled, I gave him his treat.

Hawk was agog all morning.  Every time he’d look over at me he’d give me a ‘thumbs up’ point to Trixie and grin. Then,  he’d pat the little dun on her neck.  He couldn’t believe what I told him would come true; however, he was bold enough to take the chance, and that’s all the pretty little dun needed.  Hawk never had another problem getting a pony to partner him.  He’d have a pony in mind he’d like to partner, and they’d be there waiting for him.  He was amazed and a couple of the other cowboys began to do the same thing.

<<So, grandsire-boss-stallion let you leave ranch for a couple of days?>> Red asked.

<<Yeah,— thankfully.  I need time to clean my clothes so’s I don’t become no stinky-stallion.>>   I laughed.

<<Stinky man-colt.>> Red corrected me and laughed.

<<Yore’ right, Red.  Cain’t wait to see my ‘owner’ again.>>

<<He’s lucky to own a man-colt like you, rider.>>

<<Thanks, Red.  I’m lucky to be owned by a pony as fine as him.>>   

The morning flew by and Wade gave us the high sign to ride in for lunch. I was feeling sad to say goodbye to Red and the rest of the ponies.  After I rubbed Red down and fed him some extra oats, the other cowboys watched as several of the ponies I’d made friends with gathered around me in a circle for me to acknowledge each one to say goodbye.  Hawk was almost in tears when he told Trixie goodbye.

<<It’s not like I’m gonna’ be gone that long.>> I told them.  It didn’t seem to matter, they acted like they just needed my reassurance I’d return.

* * * * * * *

The cowboys going into town for the weekend quickly ate lunch, got their gear and loaded it in the back of the pickup truck.  We all climbed in the large crew cab and headed for Chapel Creek.  On our way out, I saw Bubba and his boys driving down the ranch road to pickup my granddad for the weekend. We waved as we passed each other.

We arrived in Chapel Creek at two o’clock in the afternoon.  The driver pulled up right in front of the sheriff’s station across the street from the County Court house.  We were getting our gear out of the back of the truck when the sheriff, all his deputies, his secretary, little Gip and Waddie Buck came out to greet us.  Little Gip got to me first.

“Damn,— look at chu’?  Two weeks in the saddle and you’re brown as a Mexican.  Yore’ look’n good, cowboy!  Jes’ ripe for pick’n.”  He laughed.

“I’ll say.”  Added Waddie Buck as he threw his arms around my neck and hugged me. “Welcome home, brother.  Missed the shit out a’ you.”

“‘Scuse me! Out a’ the way there, Son.  Let chur’ old man through.  I need me a big hug from this, here, cowpoke.”

I was laughing at the three of them.  It was so good to be away from the ranch for a while and be back among the good folks I loved.

“Brett,— Curt,— Gip Jr., here, and his little brother is gonna’ drive ya’ll on out to the ranch.  I’m gonna’ keep Casey here for a while.  I need to talk with him about some things, and I’ll bring him out with me.  Hawk,— if’n you ain’t got no place to stay for the weekend, you’re welcome to bunk it in at the ranch.  Ain’t a lot to do, but the chuck’s pretty good.”

“Thanks, sheriff.  Don’t mind if I do.  Is it all right with you guys?”  Hawk asked Brett and Curt.

“Hell, yes, brother.  C’mon.”

We said goodbye to the driver from the Lazy 8 and he was on his way.  Brett, Curt and Hawk threw their stuff in the Claymore boy’s old pickemup truck and got into the back with it.  The boy’s truck had a single cab, but it wasn’t a long ride out to the ranch.  They waved goodbye, and I told them I’d see them in a while.  Gip picked up my duffle bag,  and I carried my plastic bag of dirty laundry inside the sheriff’s station.

Gip took me back to his small, one bedroom apartment at the rear of his office.  

“Stow your gear in the living room, there, cowboy, and let’s us go on back to my office.”

Gip sat my bag on a couch,  I dropped my bag of laundry and followed him back into his office.  He walked over and closed the big door.

“What chu’ got to talk to me about, Sheriff?”  I questioned.

“Not a damn thing but to welcome you home.”  Gip grabbed me, pulled me to him and kissed me hard.

“Damn, Sheriff, that was some welcome home.  As long as it’s been I could eat chu’ right here.  I ain’t been fucked in so long I’m afeard my ole asshole’s grown shut.  It’s beginning to squeak when I fart.”   Gip roared with laughter and we kissed again.

“Go in there to the bathroom and look under the sink.”  He ordered me.

I did as the sheriff instructed and opened the door under the sink in his private bathroom.  Low and behold, there was my hygiene kit and plug.  I almost laughed my ass off as I walked back into his office.  He had a small glass of Comfort poured for me.  He grinned sheepishly as he handed me the glass.

“Here, Son,— this’ll put hair on yer balls.  Welcome home, cowboy.”

“Thanks, Sheriff.  It’s really great to be home.”  He grinned at me again.

“Hope you don’t mind.  I took the liberty to enter your coach to find yore’ clean out stuff and yore’ plug.”

“Would ju’ like to tear yore’self off a big ole piece a’ cowboy butt this afternoon, Sheriff?”

“Oh, Lordy!  Don’t talk to me like that, Son!  I’m an old man.  You know’d I got me a weak heart.  As the king sang, ‘Don’t be cruel.’”

Gip could barely get the words out he was laughing so hard.  He was on a roll. We were laughing our ass’ off.  “I ain’t thought a’ nothing else all damn day but get’n into that sweet little cowboy butt a yorn.  You feel like give’n up a little piece to this desperate old man, Son?”

“Hell, you ain’t no desperate old man.  You’re one of the sexiest cowboys I ever did meet.  I’d be right proud and honored to give it up to you, Sheriff;— all you can handle, cowboy.  Are you through for the day?”

“Oh, hell, yes!  Once that door’s closed, them folks know I’m done for the day. ‘Sides I got me a big ole slip bolt on it.”  He grinned.

“Good,— then I’ll get in there and clean myself real good.  I’ll holler at chu’ when I’m though.”

We clinked glasses in a toast, and I downed my Comfort.  It relaxed me, and made me feel really mellow.  Gip poured me another two fingers to take with me.  Good thing,— I was going to need all the help I could get to get my plug in my ass after two weeks.  It took me a little while but I did it.  When I came out of his bath, the sheriff was sitting on the couch with only his brown leather western vest, his latigo bat wing chaps and his big buckaroo boots.  I damn near fainted.  What a hunk!  I’d missed the big man and his love.

Gip stood and opened his cowboy arms to me.  I went to him and we embraced in a passionate kiss that had both of our dicks fighting each other for space between us.

“I hope you ain’t a’ count’n on a lot of foreplay, Sheriff.  I don’t think I can wait that long to feel your fine cowboy dick up my butt.”

“I swear to you, Casey.  You’re gonna’ give this old man a heart attack.”  We laughed.

“C’mon then, pod’na.” I took him by the hand to lead him to the bedroom.  Let’s us mount up this posse and ride, sheriff.”

Gip fucked me with a passion I’ve rarely experienced.  He was primed and ready.  We reached a powerful climax, almost at the same time and lay hooked together, talking, laughing and enjoying each others company.  Gip and I hadn’t had a chance to talk intimately in quite a while, and I missed him.  He was like a big, protective, older brother to me, and I couldn’t help but love him.  We didn’t stay in the apartment long.  I told him my door to the double ‘R’ was open to him all weekend.

“I appreciate that, Son, but I’ll probably have to take a number behind little Gip and Waddie Buck.”  We laughed.

We got into the shower in his apartment bathroom, and I washed him good.  Then, I sucked the sheriff off in his shower.  Gip had some mighty fine tasting cowboy cream.  It was strong and flavorful.  All afternoon I was humming to myself, ‘I got the sheriff’s shot, but I did not suck the deputy.’

We drove out to the ranch and everyone came out of the big house to welcome me.  Cindy got to me first with a big hug and a kiss.  She was giggling up a storm.  She wasn’t dumb.  She knew why Gip and I were delayed getting to the ranch.

“Golly, Casey,— you can’t KNOW how happy I am to see you. Gimme’ a big ole hug and a kiss.” Cindy giggled.

“I’ll jes’ bet I can, Ma Claymore.”  I laughed and smiled at her wickedly.  She knew she was going to get the snot fucked out of her later that evening, and her twat was twitching.

They had supper waiting for us, and the other cowboys from the Lazy 8 joined us. I left my gear in the back of the sheriff’s truck and went in with them to eat.  We caught the family up on every thing that was going on at the ranch, and we told them we were looking forward to little Gip and Waddie Buck coming for roundup.

Hawk began to tell Gip about me and the horses in the remuda and how I taught him he didn’t have to bother roping one to saddle it anymore.  Brett and Curt were fast learning to do the same.  Gip raised an eyebrow and looked at me like he knew something.

After supper, Gip walked me out to the double ‘R’ and carried my bag for me.  Then, I walked with him to the barn to visit my ‘owner’ for a while.  Rocky was happy to see me and had a few choice comments for his man-colt.

<<Ya’ done good with big-happy-man-stallion.  He felt good way up your colt-hole.>>

<<My colt-hole?>> I couldn’t help laughing out loud.

“What chu’ laughing at, cowboy?”  The sheriff asked me.

“Jes’ something my ‘owner’ told me.”

“What owner,— you talk’n about my dad?”

“Naw, Sir.  I’s talk’n ‘bout Rocky.  He thinks on me as his man-colt and he’s my owner.  I cain’t say’s I don’t see his reasoning,— he’s brought me around to his way a’ think’n,  and truth be told, he is my owner.  He told me he wanted me to stay his man-colt for a while longer.  He’s got things he still wants to teach me;— so do the ponies in the remuda at the Lazy 8.  They tell me I’s lucky to be owned by such a fine pony.  I have to agree with ‘em.

What I’s laugh’n about is, he’s with me most a’ the time and he experiences almost everything I do;— and, I mean everything including what we done before we come out here.  He done told me the big-happy-man-stallion felt real good way up my man-colt hole.”

Rocky stamped both his feet, shook his head affirmative and gave a big horse laugh.  I couldn’t help it, I grabbed Gip’s arm and started laughing again.  I thought Gip was going to have a stroke he was laughing so hard.

“I’ve suspected you talk to Rocky like Griz talks to animals.  I watched you and Rocky since you been here, and you two are too damn close not to have some greater communication.  I’ve seen, first hand, what Griz can do with animals, and it never ceases to amaze me.”

* * * * * * *

After a big hug and a kiss, Gip returned to the big house, and I walked back to my coach. It was so great to be home in the double ‘R’ again.  It wasn’t a big space, but it was mine.  I was going to enjoy my weekend.  It would be a month before I got another weekend free.  We got paid before we left. I hadn’t bothered to open the envelope my check came in.  I opened it and smiled at the amount.  How little money I was paid for two weeks of hard work.  My interest in my investment on the ranch for a couple of days was more than I was paid for two weeks.  I made a mental note to see what I could do to raise the cowboy’s pay; get rid of the bad ones and pay well enough to get good men.

* * * * * * *

The weekend went by far too quickly, and I found myself back on the road to the ranch in Gip’s big truck with his boys and the three cowboys from the Lazy 8.  The weekend was fun and relaxing.  We rodeoed a bit but we also got a few things done for the sheriff around his ranch.
I got all my clothes washed, folded and put away.  I washed my two bedrolls.  Cindy gave me a big plastic garbage bag to tie up the bedroll Wade Mulligan loaned me.  I didn’t want to return it to him dirty.  I tied mine up as well to keep it clean while transporting it back to the ranch.  

* * * * * * *

We got to the ranch and it looked like we were the last to arrive.  Bubba, his boys, Vince and Seth, O.C. Harris and my granddad were all ready there.  There was a couple more ranchers and their sons there and one big man who towered over the rest,— Mr. Sticker Wiggins.

I almost dropped my teeth, and I don’t wear dentures.  I didn’t know he was coming this year for fall roundup.  I was a bit nervous as Curtis introduced me to Mr. Hays and his boys, Jim and Justin; and, Mr. Cole and his boy Bryce.   I noticed Sticker patiently awaited his turn grinning like a Cheshire cat with the mumps.

I could see Will standing over near his cook trailer.  He winked at me and grinned.  That’s all I needed to know he got to Sticker before we arrived. Curtis proceeded to introduce Sticker to me as rancher from another county who often helped with the roundups.  (Well, he was from another county,— in California.)  Sticker smiled and stuck out his big, ham of a hand and shook mine.

“Good to meet cha,’ Mr. Wiggins.”

“Mighty nice to meet chu,’ too, Son.  Mr. Langtry done told me some good things about chu.’  I’ll look forward to ride’n with you.”

“Same here, Mr. Wiggins.”  I almost laughed.
I was dying to hug Sticker, and I knew he felt the same.  The feeling  passed between us, but we managed to play it cool.  Will all ready filled him in.  There was no need to tip my hand with my granddad.  Seeing someone from home was almost too much for me to handle.  I wanted to get him off by himself to talk with him.

Curtis introduced me to O.C. again with a big smile on his face.

“And I believe you met Mr. Harris before, Casey.  Hope ya’ don’t mind, Son, I told him he could bunk in your tee-pee?”  Curtis grinned at me real big.

I wanted to hug and kiss O.C. in the worst way, but I didn’t, I just stuck out my hand and shook his like a proper gentleman cowboy.

“Fine with me, Mr. Langtry.  Good to met cha’ again, Mr. Harris.”

“Good to see you again, Son.”  O.C. smiled like a cat ready to eat the canary.

Bubba, Vince and Seth were having none of my granddad’s introductions and were all over me with hugs.  It was like a family reunion.  In a way, I guess it was.  I couldn’t have been happier to see them and O.C.   I wondered if O.C. had a chance to talk with Sticker before we got there.

I took my gear and threw it in my locker and headed over to the cook shack to give Will a big hug and ask if I could give him a hand.

“Thanks, pod’na, for running interference for me with Sticker.” I whispered to him.

“Figured I better.  We didn’t know ‘til the last minute if’n he was coming.  I didn’t think he was.  I think maybe Sid urged him to.  When he found out you was here he grinned from ear to ear.”

O.C. came over to talk with us and the next thing we knew Will had more help than he knew what to do with.  All the young cowboys wanted to be around me and O.C. Harris for some reason.  I guess they figured if Casey volunteered to help the cook, it was good enough for them.  Will had supper ready in record time.  At the beginning of roundup and usually at the end, the ranch served prime t-bone steaks cooked over mesquite that would melt in your mouth.  Best steaks I ever had, and you could eat as much as you wanted.  One steak was enough for me, but I watched Bubba and Gip pack away two.  

Gip stayed for supper and seemed to have a great time.  I could tell he didn’t want to leave.  He wanted to stay and play cowboy in the worst way; but, he hadn’t arranged to be away this year, and he had to get back. Gip was a cowboy first and a sheriff second.  It was just in his blood.  His daddy and granddaddy brought him up to be a cowboy and taught him the cowboy way.  While it made him a good cowboy, it also made him fine sheriff, a loving and responsible family man.   After supper he said his goodbyes and drove back to Chapel Creek.

We settled in for the night and O.C. and I retired to our condo.  We had a lot more room and privacy than I originally thought we were going to have.  Still, privacy was limited in the facilities, and I couldn’t clean myself properly for anal sex.  Didn’t seem to bother O.C. a bit.  We sucked one another off and lay there talking for a while in each others arms.

“I’m so glad you’re here, O.C.  I’ve missed you.”  I told him.

“Oh, Lord,— you can’t know how much I’ve missed you, cowboy.  I’ve never been one to jack off a lot, but since that weekend with you in your coach, I git ta’ think’n on it and have to go relieve myself to make the damn thing settle down.”  He laughed.  “Don’t git me wrong, Casey.  Ain’t trying to scare ya’ none or make you think I’m needy, Son.  My daddy and your dad taught me the cowboy way, and that ain’t to make demands on nobody, to be thankful for the good what comes your way and not expect more than is given to you.”

“I know that, rider.”  I smiled at him.  “We both got other obligations. It’s just like it was with Master Waddie, you’ll always own a part of me, and I’ll always own a part of you.  What we shared with my uncle that last night few men ever get to experience. We became bonded brothers of the first order.”

“I feel that way, too, Son.  I wanted to tell Curtis about it so bad, but you know I wouldn’t.  It has to come from you, Casey.  For the first time in a long time, yore’ granddad bunked it in at my place this weekend, but we were with Bubba and his boys everyday,— all day. We had a great time.  All he could talk about was you, but that was fine with me.  He knew I wanted to hear all about what you were doing.

He teased me a lot about our weekend.  I’d jes’ grin and not respond.  He knows a cowboy ain’t never gonna’ tell what he done with his buddy.  I wondered if’n he might be test’n me.  We slept in separate rooms, but to be honest with you,— I would’ve accepted an invitation to his bunk in a cow town minute.

I kept getting the feel’n he wanted to tell me something, but he jes’ couldn’t come right out and say it.  I didn’t push him.  I know better’n to push a man like Curtis Langry. Before Bubba and his boys came by to pick us up, I told him I loved him.  He got a funny look on his face, grabbed me, hugged me and told me he loved me, too.  I ain’t never see’d Curtis get so choked up about anything.  He held me like his heart was gonna’ break.  He made me get all choked up.  I was embarrassed ‘cause I didn’t want him to see my tears. It was an awkward but wonderful moment.”

“You think he still has guilt feelings about not forgiving your dad?”

“He mentioned it a couple of time during the weekend; how hard it was for him to live with it.  He asked me how he could not have forgiven a man he loved all his life,— who was the loving symbol of his youth on which all the other loves of his life were based;— a man, who brought him such joy and happiness?  Why did he harden his heart over such a small indiscretion?”

“Maybe he’s looking for forgiveness though you, rider.”

“I don’t know,— I jes’ don’t know, Son.  All I know is, I forgave him a long time ago.  I love him, but he’s the only one who can forgive himself.  I told him that, too.  I told him I didn’t think my dad would want him to live his life with that burden.  He has enough baggage he’s carrying around with him to worry about what happened thirty-five years ago.”

We lay there together and made a little more love, but we knew the dawn came early.  It was good to sleep with someone again; especially, a good man like O.C. Harris.  Before I drifted off to sleep, I wondered what the greater significance of our relationship was my uncle spoke about.  A voice came to my head,

<<Ask the cook, rider.>>

End of Chapter 37 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
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