By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 38   

We were awakened by Wade Mulligan before dawn, we put our bedrolls away, had breakfast, and walked out to the remuda to catch a ride for the day.  There was Sally Good’n waiting for me.  O.C. didn’t have to throw his lasso.   Socks was right there and stood waiting for O.C. to saddle her.  He was a bit taken aback until he saw Hawk didn’t have to lasso his mount.  One of Hawk’s favorite ponies was waiting for him.

We saddled up and headed out to start the hard work of rounding up the cattle.  That was just the beginning; however, with cattle spread out over several hundred thousand acres of ranch land it can be a pretty daunting task. It wasn’t just rounding them up, it was also herding them together to keep them from wandering off.

There were two roundups per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The purpose of a fall roundup was to take inventory of the stock.  It was also to check the herd for injuries, signs of diseases, to castrate most of the new born male calves, vaccinate and inoculate against parasites and diseases, and to brand and tag the calves.  We would also dehorn a lot of the older cattle.  When you’re dealing with a several thousand head of cattle, it can be a big job.  Roundup is the busiest time of year on a ranch and cowboy’s work from sunup to sundown.

Curtis assigned O.C. and I to brush-pop.  We would ride away from the main herd to find strays and herd them back into the main body of cows.  We were never far from each other but far enough we couldn’t talk.  Just to see O.C. riding tall in his saddle was enough to keep me happy all day.  He was a good looking man, but he was a knockout of a cowboy.

Later in the morning I looked up an saw Sticker riding my way.  I’d managed to find a couple of heifers with mavericks. Sally and I was slowly urging them back to herd.  He rode along with me to give me a hand.

“What a nice surprise, Mr. Longhorn, to find you working as a cowboy for the Lazy 8.   Sid and I wondered how long it would take you.”  He chuckled.

“I didn’t know you were gonna’ be here, Mr. Wiggins,”  I smiled at him and added, “ but it’s damn good to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you again, too, Son. I see you got the best looking cowboy on the range bunk’n it in with you.”  He laughed and motioned to O.C.  who was heading back with several strays.

“He is a bit of a looker, ain’t he?”  I shook my head and laughed. “For some damn reason, he reminds me of my dad.  He don’t look like my dad, but he is a good looking cowboy.”

“I’ve met him several times over the years and always been impressed with him.  Him, Bubba and Curtis is tight with one another.  They go back a long ways with each other.  He’s helped out with several roundups.  I don’t think he needs the money.  I think he does it just to have something to do and be around other cowboys.  He’s a fine cowboy and a good man.  The fact that he’s good look’n don’t hurt none neither.”  We laughed, “Moving on to other things,— is Curtis Langtry yore’ granddad, Casey?”

“Yes, Sir,— he is.”  

“When I hired him about eleven years ago, I didn’t know you and your dad all that well at the time.  I didn’t know Curtis was related to you.  I thought it was a curious coincidence he had the same color eyes as you, but never really gave it much thought until I started hearing stories about Vince changing his name.  Then, over dinner one night, Vince told Sid and I about his dad and his real name.  Hell, Casey,— you could’ve scraped us up off the floor with a butter knife.”  Sticker laughed.

“Sid and I decided we wouldn’t say nothing.  We have a valuable employee in Curtis, and his son and grandson just happen to be two of our closest friends.  We didn’t see no sense in stirring up no shit.  Then, when we found out you was going rodeoing on your own, Sid and I done figured you was coming back to find your granddad; nice contact lenses, by the way.”  He laughed.

“Yeah, I didn’t want my granddad putting two and two together before I got a chance to see for myself what kind of man he is.  He’s told several folks he thinks I look like someone he used to know and loved a long time ago.”

“According to Rance you look like a twin for Vince’s younger brother.  So, what’da ya’ think of your granddad, Son?”

“He’s nothing like I expected from the stories I’ve heard about him.  He’s more like my dad.  He seems to be generous and giving.  He, also, seems to be racked with guilt for his actions in the past.”

I went on to catch Sticker up on my journey of discovery and the wonderful folks I met along the way.  I ended with my story of Seth Quee using my body to seek his bonded mate, O.C.’s, forgiveness and to make love with him one last time.  Sticker was astounded.

“You know, Son,— Sid and me,— we talk for hours about you, Dwayne and of course, yore’ little brother.  Sid is an astute man.  He’s seen you and Dwayne developing your dormant gifts as an aftermath of being exposed to Logan.   We find most of it amazing, and sometimes down right frightening; however, we also find great comfort and humor in you boys.  The things you men git yore’selves into defy common reason.  We jes’ thank the good Lord you an Dwayne didn’t start to develop yore’ gifts until you were more mature.

We watched our boy go though the tortures of the damned with all sorts of self-doubts and self-recriminations.  He could be so hard on himself.  The problem was, we didn’t know about his gifts until he reached puberty.  Then all hell broke loose.  That’s why Sid and me come to love you and Dwayne so much and think on you as Logan’s brothers.  You two men gave him something no one else could.  What you gave him was the gift of belonging and he in turn gave you the gift to recognize and develop your own innate, dormant gifts.  Were proud of you boys.”

“Thanks, Sticker,— it means a lot to know that.”

“Well, we are,— and I know’d there was something different about O.C. when I met him this time.  It’s like he’s a different man.  He walks a little taller and seems more self-confident.  Of course, I’m sure you had more than some small part to do with it.”  He raised an eyebrow at me and grinned real big.

“I can only hope so, Sticker.  He’s a good man.”

“I guess prayer really works. Sid and I been a’ pray’n for yore’ Uncle Seth ever since Logan and Dwayne begged us to.  I weren’t never one for bother’n the good Lord, but after seeing what follows in the wake of you three men, I’ve changed my mind.

“It’s working, Sticker,  and I thank you both for your prayers.”

Sticker rode in to the chuck wagon for lunch with O.C., me and a group of the younger cowboys.  He talked with O.C. as I shared with O.C. who Sticker was in my life and what our relationship was.  I stopped short of telling him about my third interest in the ranch.  I figured, for the time being, the fewer who knew about it, the better.

* * * * * * *

The two weeks flew by.  We worked our very butts off.  O.C. and I worked together well with our roping skills and would immobilize a maverick quickly for a man with the branding iron to do his thing and the man with the ear tag gun to do his; then, they were vaccinated and innoculated.  If they were male they would be castrated.  A couple were left natural to be breeding bulls. They were checked for parasites and released.  They’d run back to their mommas crying and telling her about those terrible men and the horrible things they did to them.

I tried to keep watch on the four men I didn’t like.  Taggart and Rattle were missing a lot and always had some lame excuse why they weren’t working with the rest of the men. When they came riding back to the main herd they rarely had any stray cattle they’d found.

The two wet-backs were always missing. Whenever they finally showed up, usually at chow time,  Curtis or Wade would ask them where they were  and what the hell were they were doing.  They’d have to tell their story to Gabe or Jamie and they would interpret.  Most times what they said didn’t make much sense.  When questioned further they would just shrug their shoulder, grin a stupid grin, and show the palms of their hands like they didn’t understand or didn’t know.  On the other hand, the two Mexican-Americans were working shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the cowboys.

Something was wrong. I just sensed it.  The only person I shared my thoughts with was O.C.  He told me he felt the same way.  I was surprised Curtis, Matt, or Sticker didn’t seem to notice anything.  Maybe they did but just didn’t say anything to the others.  According to the spring roundup figures there should’ve been close to three thousand head of cattle, give or take a percentage for accidental death or old age.  They also figured in a percentage for ‘mysterious circumstances.’  All factors considered there should have been only a six to eight percent loss; no more than ten percent.  There was nearly four hundred head of cattle missing.

I could tell Sticker and Curtis were really concerned.  Was there a possibility there was still more strays out there?  It was two days before the roundup was over and Curtis announced to everyone the next day we would be riding the entire area.  We were to pick our favorite pony, tie our bedrolls behind our saddles, make sure we had our rifles, because wherever we were at sundown was where we camped for the night. Naturally, O.C. and I was one of the teams.

With my help, Will prepared multiple sandwiches and provided a thermos of coffee for each team of two men. If we didn’t find anything we were to continue looking until noon the following day and then head back to the main camp.  There was a couple of the younger cowboys helping Will along with me, but they were working away from us. We were talking softly about some things, and Will was telling me his take on the missing cattle.

“I know’d where them damn critters went to.” Will stated quietly with some authority.

“You wanna’ share it with yore’ humble, cowboy boss man.” I grinned at him.  I knew Will didn’t think of me as his boss.  To Will I was just another cowboy,— his friend.

“Them cows is find’n their way to Mexican slaughter houses.”

“I was afraid ju’ was gonna’ say that, and we know who’s probably behind it,— right, pod’na.’”

“E’aup!”  Was all he said.

We talked about a few other things and Will asked me about my relationship with O.C. Harris.

“I been watch’n you two.  You got a little more going on between you than  jes’ being saddle partners.”

“E’aup!”  I answered him laughing.

I told Will about the weekend I spent with O.C. and our amazing experience with my uncle.  The hairs on the back of Will’s neck were standing straight up.  He was agog when I finished.  I went on to tell him about what my Uncle Seth told me about O.C. and me having a greater connection than we knew about.  I also told him my favorite pony, Red, told me to ask the cook.

“‘Em damn ponies!”  He muttered under his breath, then chuckled at how ridiculous his statement sounded.

I leaned in close to make body contact with him and spoke in a soft but demanding tone. “What do you know, old man?”  I smiled at him.  

“I was sworn to secrecy many years ago,— but since then, things have changed, and I see’d  me a greater pitcher of what’s happening here; you and O.C. have a right to know.  I don’t know’s how I should tell you the particulars.  That should be up to Curtis.  He done told me he was gonna’  tell O.C. last weekend, but he didn’t say nothing to me when he got back.  I ‘spect he thought better of it or chickened out.”

“O.C. mentioned he thought Curtis wanted to tell him something, but he jes’ couldn’t come right out and say it.” I told Will.

“O.C. Harris is Curtis Langtry’s son by Tom Harris’ wife.  O.C. is yore’ uncle, Casey.  He’s half brother to yore’ daddy and uncle, Seth Quee.”

I was stunned.  I didn’t see it coming.  Will knocked the slats out from under me.

“No wonder he reminds me of my dad.” I said in awe and shook my head in disbelief, “No wonder it was so important for Uncle Seth to make his peace with O.C.  But,— how,— when?”  I asked in desperation.

“I know the whole story, but I won’t tell you the particulars.  That should be up to Curtis.  I can tell you this, it ain’t no sordid tale of sexual infidelity or nothing like that.  It’s a story of love between two brothers.  I’ll leave it up to you whether to tell O.C. or not.  I have a feeling if’n you don’t, Curtis will take it to his grave with him, and that jes’ ain’t right.  O.C.’s a good man, and a fine cowboy,— he has the right to know.  Curtis’n him,— they’s tighter’n a bull rider’s belly cinch anyways.”

“I don’t know, Will.  I can’t say’s I’ll tell him, but I’d sure as hell wanna’ know if’n it was me; especially, if I loved and admired a man like he done told me he loves my granddad.  After all, that’s exactly why I came looking for Curtis. I wanted to know for myself if’n I could love him.”

“And,— ?”  Will raised an eyebrow.

“What’du you think, pod’na’?”  I grinned at him. Will roared with laughter.    

* * * * * * *

When O.C. and I went to saddle up, big Red was waiting for me.  I could swear he was smiling.  Trixie was waiting for O.C.  

<<Hey, Red.  Good to see you again.  I appreciate you want’n to go on this search with me.>>

<<Figured I better.  Keep you out a’ touble. I don’t like some of the things I been hear’n.>>

<<Anything specific, Red?>> I asked him.

<<Bits and pieces of talk you ain’t ‘spose to know about.>>

<<Okay, Red.  I’ll trust your sense.>>

<<You should.  Ain’t told ju’ wrong, yet,— have I?>>

I knew Red was talking about his tip to me about asking Will what he knew about O.C. and my connection.  I laughed to myself and thanked him.  I told O.C. what Red told me about something being wrong, and he was disturbed.  He thought we should let Curtis or Sticker know.  I told him it was all right for us to accept the word of a pony, and maybe we could get Sticker to believe us, but getting my granddad to believe us was another story.

* * * * * * *   

O.C. and I spent all day going way back into the wildest part of the ranch.  Curtis and Wade gave each of us a photo copy of the entire ranch.  Our area we were suppose to check out was outlined in a red magic marker pen.  Each team was given a separate area to search.  We made it to the outermost region of our map just before the sun began to go down.  O.C. and I decided to make camp under some scrub oaks.

We found a small tank of fresh water not far away for the ponies.  We unsaddled the ponies and let them walk off down to the water hole.  When they came back we rubbed them down, and fed each of them some oats from our hats.  What does a cowboy use to water and feed his pony when he doesn’t have a bucket or a feed bag?  He uses his hat.  Now you know why some Western hats were rated by the gallon.  After we fed them, we gave them an apple and a carrot for treats.

“Should we put a rope on ‘em, Casey?”  O.C. asked me.

“No, it ain’t necessary,  they won’t go no place.  We’re lucky we got ‘em with us to watch over us.  Red will let me know the minute he hears something out of the ordinary.  They got much better hearing than we do.”

O.C. and I made a small fire.  The last couple of weeks in Texas, the weather starts to get chilly at night.  We had our light jackets with us to ward off the cold.  We had another sandwich with some small plastic containers of potato salad we ate with only one shared spork.*  We drank a little more coffee but saved some for morning.  We undid our bedrolls close to the fire and zipped them together.  We lay down on them before going to bed.

It was a clear, beautiful night.  It was as if the heavens added thousands of extra lights for us to marvel at and watch over us.  It was awful damn romantic and when you’re with the hottest cowboy on the roundup what a’ ya’ gonna’ do?  If you answered, pull out his fine cowboy dick and chow down, you win the cee-gar, pod’na.’

“What about the ponies?”  O.C. asked.

“Are you kidding?  They tune into us play’n around all the time.  They know what, when and where we do it. They also know how it feels to both of us.  Any more questions, rider?”  I asked laughing my ass off.

Red and Trixie started laughing and stamping their feet. O.C. looked at me in dismay, smiled and just shook his head.

“It’s our last night together for a while.  I guess we should make hay while the moon shines.”  He laughed.   

Everything’s better under the stars,— even love making.  I made up my mind when my partner shot his hot load in my mouth and the joy I experienced as I claimed his cowboy cream for my own, I couldn’t keep Will’s secret from him any longer. I would tell my new uncle that evening about Will’s revelation. There was a voice in my head, but it was a different voice; one I’d didn’t recognize.

<<I know you can hear me, Son.  Your Uncle Seth sent me to you.  I know you have the gift of hearing and seeing.  I also know what you’re think’n right at this moment enjoying my boy’s come.  My boy taste good, doe’nee?>> A chill ran up my spine, and I shuddered like a rabbit just ran over my grave.

“You okay, Casey?”  O.C. asked me.

“Shuuu,— just a minute, rider.”  I pleaded.

<<Mr. Harris?>> I asked the voice.

<<Yore’ uncle told me you were a sharp young man.  I believe him. You’d have to be to be Vincent Langtry’s son. Yes, Son,— I’m Tom Harris.  I’m Ocie’s dad.  No matter what you’ve heard, I will always be his dad; however,  my boy has the right to know the truth.  He deserves to know how much I wanted him, and how much I loved him.  He weren’t just no ordinary byproduct of the union of a man and a woman.  He was planned for and brought into this world as a gift to me from my beloved brother, Curtis Langtry. I couldn’t have no kids.

I’ll leave it to my brother to tell you the story, but Will Shott was right today when he told you Curtis will probably take our secret to his grave.  That jes’ ain’t right.  Curtis and me,— we had us a pact,— if Curtis outlived me and my wife, he was to tell O.C. so my boy wouldn’t feel so alone in the world; he’d have his daughters, but he would also have Curtis for a dad.  Now, thanks to your journey, he will have you and Vince for family.  After what happened between Curtis and me, and after all Curtis went through over the years, he’s afraid to tell O.C.  He still feels so guilty about his life, he’s afraid everything he tries to do will harm someone and turn bad for him.

That’s why he stays on the ranch.  You can’t go too far wrong with cowboys, horses and cattle.  For all his religious nonsense in his younger days, Curtis always held to his strong beliefs in the cowboy way.  Thank God the cowboy way finally won out over his fanatical adherence to fundamentalism.  Like an alcoholic or drug addict, he had to suffer a lot; he had to reach rock bottom before he let go.

 My boy is the last person he has in the world to think of as his own.  O.C. has been Curtis’ strongest tie to reality through his darkest moments.  If Curtis is to be forgiven, he must first learn to forgive himself. You will help him with that, Casey.  You will heal his spirit and sooth his troubled soul.  You must tell my boy tonight, yore’ granddaddy is his biological father.  If’n you love O.C., you’ll tell him.  Promise me you will, Son.>>

“I promise, Sir,— .” I spoke softly.

<<You’re a good man, Casey.  Live a long and happy life, Son, and love those around you who know how to give and receive love.  Take good care a’ my boy.  God bless, you, cowboy.>> And he was gone.

“Promise me what, Casey?”  O.C. asked quietly.

“No,— not chu,’ rider.  I jes’ promised yore’ daddy I would tell you about our ‘greater connection’ I learned from Will Shott this morning.”

“You heard my dad? He came to you?”

“Only in voice, rider.”  I said softly.  

“What is it?  What do you have to tell me?”

I took O.C. in my arms and held him close.  I shed a few tears thinking I  was no longer holding someone who only felt was like family to me.  I was holding my blood relative, my uncle, and God gave me and my dad another relative;  a man I all ready admired and loved.  O.C. didn’t understand my tears and was rightfully confused.

“Shuuu,— it’s all right, Casey.  What could be so bad?”

“It ain’t bad, rider.  H’it ain’t bad a’tall.  H’it’s fuck’n wonderful for me, but it may be a shock to you.  It may rock you on yore’ heels.  I don’t know how to tell you, rider, but jes’ lay it on the line.  Yore’ daddy made me promise I’d tell you, because he didn’t want chu’ to feel so alone in the world.  I’m your nephew, O.C.  You’re my uncle.  My daddy is your half brother.  Curtis Langtry, my granddad, is your biological father.”

“Oh, my God,— that must a’ been what he wanted to tell me the weekend before the roundup.  He came and stayed with me for the sole purpose to tell me,— but he couldn’t. I knew he wanted to tell me something.”  

O.C. broke down in tears in my arms.  I couldn’t help it, I cried with him. His tears were tears of confusion, frustration, revelation, but finally, acceptance of something he’d always known, deep down in his gut, but he would never allow himself to consider.

Curtis always treated O.C. like a son from the earliest days he could remember. He couldn’t understand how Curtis could do what he did to his two boys, but he never, once, treated O.C. in that manner.  He always treated O.C. with the utmost love, admiration and respect; like any good father should treat his son.  Now, O.C. knew why.

It was because Curtis set O.C. apart in his mind as the shared son of his beloved brother, and no matter what happened between them Curtis carried on his love for his brother through O.C.  O.C. became a bridge of love between Curtis and Tom neither man could walk across.  Through O.C., they could be apart for whatever foolish reason, and still love each other.  The old saying, ‘Love will find a way,’ was never more apt than their situation.

I talked with O.C. and told him what his dad said. He began to understand just how much his dad, Tom Harris, must have loved him. It was strange how this information made O.C. feel.  He hadn’t really lost his dad.  Tom Harris would always be his dad; but, he gained another dad, a brother and a nephew.  He recovered, pulled himself together, and we began to talk about what it all meant. We talked until it was late,— until he fell asleep in my arms.  I kissed him gently on his forehead and bid him goodnight.  We didn’t let go of each other all night.  We clung to one another like we were each others’ life raft and we were adrift in the cosmos together,— within the very heart of the universe.

* * * * * * *

We woke with the dawn the next morning.  I fed the ponies the last of the oats and sent them off for a drink of water.  We had our last sandwiches and the last of our coffee.  We didn’t have a lot to say to each other.  We didn’t have to. We understood each others hearts.  There was a growing faith that surpassed language.  It was the language of the heart, the language of family,— the language of belonging. We knew a secret that bonded us by blood. It was enough.

We saddled, mounted our ponies and rode into the last of our area we didn’t cover the day before.  With my geo-positioner it was a snap. All the coordinates were included on the map. All we found was one cow which had been dead for several weeks.  It was surgically mutilated.  It was missing one eyeball, its tongue was cut out, its anus cored, and its bag and utters were completely removed.  It stunk to high heaven; however, it didn’t seem to be decomposing, nor did it show any signs of scavengers.  There were no flies swarming around it, no insect of any kind, and there was no maggots.  It was weird,— like it was against the laws of nature.

O.C. and I agreed we’d covered every acre of our search area, but we didn’t come up with anything other than the dead heifer. We decided to head back to the main camp site.  It was about midmorning . The sun was only halfway to its zenith.  I checked the clock on my positioner and it said nine-thirty two. We were slowly riding and talking about things.  We were in no hurry because we finished our search early.

Suddenly, our ponies stumbled.  I felt a searing pain shoot though my leg and upper thigh.  If that wasn’t bad enough I felt a pain shoot though my upper shoulder and another near my hip.  The pain was so great, I thought for a minute I was going to pass out.  I reached over and grabbed O.C.’s arm to steady me.  Then I heard the cry of a voice in my head,

<<Casey,— oh, God!  Casey,— help us,— we’ve been shot!>>

It was Socks. I recognized her immediately.  I’d seen my granddad ride out on Socks.  He’d taken a shine to her, and together they made a great pair. He rode out alone because he was the odd man out.  Every other rider had a partner.

<<Where are you, Socks?>>

<<I hear your grandsire’s head say we in Southeast quadrant in a canyon.  I’m down, rider, I can’t get up.  Shot in leg and hip.  I threw your grandsire over me when I went down.  He landed in quicksand, and he ain’t moving.  He’s hurt bad, Casey.>>

<<We’re on our way, Socks.>>

I knew the area because O.C. and I went looking for strays in that area the week before.  It had hidden canyons and rocky outcrops.  It also had numerous pools of quicksand; of which, a rider and his pony had to be very careful.  I must have turned pale white.

“What’s wrong, Casey?”  O.C. asked concerned.

“It’s Socks.  She and Curtis have been shot.  They’re in the Southeast quadrant.  Let’s ride, brother.”

Red turned on a dime and started for the quadrant with O.C. and Trixie close behind.

<<Did you hear her, Red?>> I sent to my pony.

<<Yes, rider, and you felt their pain,— didn’t ‘chu?>>

<<Yeah, Red.  It hurt some’um awful.  I thought I was gonna’ pass out for a minute. I’m gonna’ call for help.>>

I projected to my little bother.  I felt once, then again, and he was there.  He was sitting in a chemistry class in school taking notes on his laptop.

<<Little brother, I need your help.  I’m on the ranch.  My granddad’s been shot.  He had his pony shot out from under him.  I felt them getting shot.  Curtis is unconscious, but his pony called to me.  She told me where they are.  O.C. and I are on our way.>>

<<What can I do, brother,— name it!>>

<< Call Sheriff Bard, have him get in touch with Lamar.  I want the biggest damn chopper the Army has what can transport a man and a pony to a hospital.>> I projected almost breathlessly trying to hang on with Red’s pace.

<<Will do, brother.  Do you have the coordinates?>>

<<I’ll get those to you as soon as we get there, and I can take a reading.>>

<<Done, brother.  Is everyone else all right?>>

<<‘S’far as I know.  Curtis was riding by himself and must have been ambushed.  Please, little brother, don’t waste any time.>>

Logan ran out of his classroom without any word to his professor.  As soon as he got into the hallway he took out his cell phone and dialed a private number to the sheriff’s office.  Sheriff Leland Bard recognized Logan’s voice immediately.  It took Logan only a minute to relay my message to him and Lee was on his other phone to Pendleton speaking with Sargent Lamar Bradley. Lamar had his commandant phone a general at an army base near the ranch and a huge chopper was dispatched  before O.C. and I could arrive.

When O.C. and I got there, before I did anything, I took a reading with my positioner and sent the information to my little brother.  Socks was down.  She wasn’t moving.  She tried to raise her head, but it hurt her too much. She’d lost a lot of blood.  My granddad was laying on his back with his arms spread in the quicksand, but his feet and legs were sunk deep into the mire.  His torso was sunk into the sand almost up to his rib cage.  Since he wasn’t moving, and he didn’t seem to be sinking very fast I ran to socks first.

<<Oh Casey,— it hurts so bad.  I can’t get up.  Am I gonna’ die, rider?>>

<<Don’t try to get up, Socks.  Y’ain’t gonna’ die on my watch, Darlin.’  Ain’t another pony’s pretty as you on this ranch,  Socks, and I ain’t about to lose you.  We have a big bird what flies through the sky coming to take you to a doctor.  Hang in there, sweetheart.>>

<<I’ll try, Casey.  Socks afraid.>>

O.C. was trying to figure out how to get Curtis to solid ground.  With him unconscious I knew we couldn’t get a rope around him.  I took my lasso and put the loop around my chest.  O.C. seemed to know instinctively what I was about to do and fastened the other end to his saddle horn.

“I’m gonna’ jump in behind him, O.C.  Throw me your rope when I get in, and I’ll put it around him.  Tie it off to my saddle horn.  Red and Trixie can pull us out.”

“Be careful, Casey.”  he warned me.

“Ain’t no time to think on being careful, brother.”  I said as I tuned and jumped, boots first, into the quagmire as close to Curtis as I could get.  Before I could do a thing, O.C. dropped a loop over my granddad as pretty as you please.  I lifted each arm and placed the lasso under Curtis’ arms and around his chest.  O.C. no sooner secured his rope to my saddle horn when Red backed up and gently tightened the loop around Curtis’ chest.  I placed my arms under my granddad’s arms and locked my arms across his chest.  O.C. whistled to Red and Trixie we were ready, and they began to back up.   Slowly but surely, the big, powerful animals pulled us from the quicksand onto firm ground.

Curtis was still breathing, but thankfully, he was out cold.  Thank God he landed on his back instead of his face. He would be dead by now.  He lost a lot of blood from his shoulder, but the pressure of the sand around his waste slowed the flow of blood from the wound to his hip.

“Take your bandanna and shove it in the wound at his hip, O.C., and I’ll hold mine against his shoulder.”

About that time Curtis started coming to. He had a dazed look in his eyes, but he smiled at seeing us tending him.

“You’re gonna’ be okay, Dad,— help’s on the way.”  O.C. spoke softly with tears running down his cheeks.

I chuckled at O.C.’s boldness calling Curtis ‘dad,’ but he did the right thing.  Curtis smiled weakly before he passed out again.

<<Big truck what fly though sky coming, Casey.>> Red told me a couple of minutes before we could hear the chopper.

Soon we heard it, and it was there in no time.  They asked no questions other than to ask if I was Casey Longhorn.  I told them I wanted my ranch foreman airlifted to a hospital, but they had to take his pony with them. It was a special pony, and she needed immediate medical attention.  They didn’t know whether they could carry a pony or not, but it was a huge machine.

The man in charge gave a quick yell into the chopper, and out of the belly of the beast came twenty of the biggest, brawniest men I ever saw.  They had a huge sheet of canvas they gently slipped under Socks.  Ten got on one side and ten on the other with  O.C. and I helping at the ends.  Within minutes Socks was loaded.   There was a paramedic who wanted to transfuse my granddad, but they didn’t know his blood type.  We told them O.C. was his son and they hooked him up immediately.  I was going to stay behind and take the ponies back.

<<Go Casey!>> Red ordered me. <<Socks afraid.  She need you to calm and reassure her.  Your grandsire needs you.  Your man-stallion, rider, needs you. Trixie and me find our way back to camp. >>

I hugged Red and thanked him.

<<We take care of you,— you take care of Socks.>>

I ran and grabbed a big, beefy hand attached to a hunk in Army fatigues who pulled me into the machine.  Curtis was responding to the transfusion, but I was afraid for Socks.  There was another paramedic on board who gave her a shot of demerol and assigned two men to put pressure bandages on her wounds.  I sat down and took her head in my lap.

<<Don’t be afraid, Socks.  I’m here with you, sweet lady. Casey ain’t gonna’ let chu’ go, darlin.’>>

<<Not afraid with you here, rider.  Socks so cold.>>

“You got any blankets on board, Sir?”  I yelled at the paramedic.  “She’s cold.  She may be going into shock.”

“How do you know?”  he asked.

“She told me!”  I barked at him above the roar of the chopper blades.  He looked at me funny, but he must have been a good ole country boy, because he hollered at two other men to fetch a couple of blankets.  We covered Socks, and she took a deep sigh.

“Is ‘zat better, Socks?” I spoke to her.

Socks nodded her head slightly in affirmation.  The paramedic got a bemused look on his face.

<<Yes,— thanks, Casey,— much better.  Socks get sleepy.>>

“No, no!  Don’t go to sleep, Socks!” I yelled out loud to her.  Her eyes fluttered, and she was wide awake again. I was afraid she would go into shock, or worse, a coma.

They dropped my granddad and O.C. off at the base hospital, and we were off again to the equestrian area on the base.  Socks was, once again, carried by manpower into a sterile  operating room.  There was several doctors ready to work on her.  I stayed with her until they anesthetized her.  I was exhausted and hungry, but I didn’t dare leave. I wanted to be there if Socks woke up and needed me.

After and hour or so, I got a call from O.C. on my cell phone.  He told me Curtis was out of surgery, he was doing fine, and he would recover.  Neither bullet hit any major arteries.  I was so relieved to hear my granddad was going to be okay I broke down on the phone.  I got myself together and told O.C. I didn’t have any word on Socks yet.  I told him I’d join him at the hospital as soon as possible.

I put in a call to Sticker’s cell phone.  He was riding back from his search area.

“Hey, Sticker,— this is Casey.”

“What’s going on?  We saw a huge chopper land somewhere in the Southeast quadrant and take off again.  Do you know anything about it? Where are you, Son?”

“I’m at an Army base not far from the ranch.  I don’t even know the name of it.  Curtis was ambushed by somebody and shot twice.  His pony, Socks, was shot twice as well, but we air lifted them here.  Curtis is doing fine.  He’ll recover, but I ain’t heard about Socks yet.  They’re still working on her.  You need to call Sheriff Claymore, Sticker, and get him involved.  O.C. and I done figured Curtis caught them wet-backs, Taggart and Rattle rustling cattle. I guess they figured if they did him in, they’d be able to get away with one big grab at our cows.”

“How in the hell did ju’ get an Army helicopter out to the ranch that fast?”  Sticker asked dumbfounded.

“I jes’ contacted my little brother, had him contact Leland Bard and he contacted Lamar.  Lamar’s commandant made one phone call and a chopper was in the air before we could get there on our ponies.  O.C. and I were waiting for them. They took O.C.’s blood to transfuse Curtis in the chopper on the way to the base.  We had to leave Big Red and Trixie to fend for themselves.  Red told me they’d find their way back to camp.  I had to go with Socks.  She was so scared, Sticker.”

“You done the right thing, cowboy.  Don’t chu’ worry none about it. You got more’n enough meat on yore’ plate to eat right now. I’ll put in a call to Gip as soon as we finish.  Maybe we can still catch them bastards, and—” Sticker paused for a moment, “Holy crap!  Son of a fuck’n bitch!”  I heard Sticker exclaim.

“What’s wrong, Sticker?”

“There’s choppers everywhere in that quadrant now.  There must be fifteen or twenty of ‘em.  It looks like a war game exercise.  I have a feeling we better git Gip here pert-damn quick.  I think the Army’s done intercepted our cattle rustlers.”

“Are you serious?  I never asked them to do that.  I figured Gip would take care of any investigation.”

“I have a feeling someone else had a hand in this, Casey.  I need to put in a call to my boss man; but first, I’ll call Gip.  Maybe I can get him before he leaves to come pick up little Gip and Waddie Buck.  I got chur’ cell phone number punched into mine. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know more.  I’m gonna’ gather the men and take a ride over that way.  Talk to you later, Son,— oh, and by the way, that was mighty fast think’n on your part.  Well done, cowboy.”  Sticker signed off.  

Socks was under the knife for about an hour and a half, and the doctors came out to talk with me.

“We think she’s gonna’ be okay, Son.”  the short, round doctor named Tully told me.  “She’s gonna’ need a lot of care, and she can’t be worked for quite sometime; however, the good news is, she’ll make a full recovery.”

“Can I see her, Doc?”

“Don’t see why not.  She’s just coming around from the anesthetic.  She’ll be groggy and confused.  Probably a good thing for you to be with her.”

I went into the stall where they moved Socks, and she had her head up trying to shake the fog from her mind.

“I’m here, Socks.  Take it easy, girl.  You’re feel’n funny from the stuff they put chu’ to sleep with.  You’re head’ll clear in a bit, and you’ll feel better.  You’re gonna’ be okay, Socks.  It’s gonna’ take a while, but I know a great, quiet place for you to recover.”  I spoke out loud to her.

<<Casey,— oh, Casey,— I’m so glad you didn’t leave me. Socks was afraid.  I not die?>>

“Trust me, Socks.  You ain’t  a’ gonna’ die. The doctors, here, removed the bullets and patched you up.  You’re gonna’ be just fine, pretty lady.  You take care of Casey and his grandsire,— Casey take care of you.”

<<Am I still pretty, Casey?>>

“Of course you are, Socks.  Next to my owner, you be about the prettiest damn pony I ever did see.”

<<Male ponies ain’t pretty. You jes’ say that because he’s your owner.>>

I heard a chuckle in her voice.  She was coming around.  She was regaining her wonderful sense of humor.  The doctor came into the stall.

“You talk to that pony like you’re carrying on a conversation with her, and she can understand every word you say.  What’s your pony’s name, Son?”

“Socks, Sir, and I assure you, doctor,  she can understand every word I say.”

“Humm,— ”  He thought about my comment, “Socks, you say? Makes sense,— good name for her.  We’ve given Socks some local anesthetics. She should be able to stand as soon as her head clears.  She’s going to be sore for a while, but we’ll keep her on pain killers for a day or so.”

“I’m sorry for having to call the Army for help, Doc, but being that far from anything I was worried they’d be dead by the time we got ‘em out of there.  I’ll take care of any charges for her and my foreman’s care, Sir.”

“You make that much money on a cowboy’s pay, Son?”

“Naw, Sir, but I got me a little saved up.  Cowboys don’t spend much. Ain’t got no wheres to spend it.”

The doctor laughed at me.

“Don’t you worry,— it’s been taken care of.  Socks is gonna’ be fine. You need to start thinking about yourself.  You’re covered in blood and quicksand.  You look like hell.  I’ll get a man over here to get you some food, find you a shower where you can clean up and a bed to rest for a while.  We’ll take good care of your pony.”  

He whipped out his cell phone and dialed a number.  I didn’t want to leave Socks, but she urged me to.

<<You go, Casey.  Socks be fine.  Not afraid anymore.  I know you take good care of me.  Go see grandsire.  He need you.>>

<<Thanks, Sock.  I’ll be back soon.>>

<<Thank you, Casey.>>

<<You’re welcome, Socks.>>

I hugged, kissed her and left.  A good looking young man came to the animal infirmary, looked me up and down like I was the last Girl Scout cookie in the box and smiled.  I was still wearing my buckaroo gear and my spurs were jingling loudly in the hallway of the infirmary.  It must have strummed a chord with him.  He couldn’t do enough for me.

“Howdy, Mr. Longhorn,— I’m Jim Sorensen.”  He said in a warm friendly manner as he shook my hand. “I’ve been assigned by the commanding officer of our base to be your chaperon, guide, chauffeur, ‘Man Friday,’ or anything else you need me to be.”  He grinned real big as he looked me up and down. “What can I help you with?  What would you like to do first, Mr. Longhorn?”  He asked.

“Casey, Jim,— jes’ call me Casey.  I’m jest’ a  cowboy.  I ain’t nobody important.  Could you take me to the hospital where my partner and  ranch foreman is?”

“Certainly, Sir. I have a staff jeep waiting outside.  This way, Sir.  Oh and by the way, Casey,— you’re important to the commander of this base, and consequently, you’re important to me.  Furthermore, I’d far rather be seeing to the comfort and needs of a cowboy like you than some aristocratic dignitary.”

Jim was really nice, and I got the idea this was one of the easiest jobs he had in a while.  He was thoroughly enjoying ‘taking care’ of me.  He didn’t say a lot on the way to the hospital, but he sure looked a lot. One thing he said made me smile.

“Damn, Casey,— seeing you dressed like that makes me wanna’ become a cowboy when I get out of the Army.  I was raised on a farm.  I ain’t no stranger to horses.”  
“Come see me on the Lazy 8 when you git out, Jim.  Be my guest for a couple of weeks and try it.”

“I sure will, Sir.”

Somehow,— I believed him.   

* * * * * * *

We arrived at the hospital and Jim took me directly to my granddad’s room.  He was asleep.  O.C. and I hugged each other and shed a few tears in each others arms.  Jim stood there astounded at two cowboys in all their gear showing overt emotions and affection for one another.  He seemed to be deeply moved.  

“They woke him after they brought him to the room, but they let him go back to sleep.  They said the anesthetic would soon began to wear off and he would wake up on his own.  According to the doctor, he won’t have no permanent damage.  He may have a sore hip for several months and problems with it as he grows older, but for right now, he should make a full recovery.”  O.C. told me.

“Thank, God.”  I told him.

“How’s Socks?”  He asked.

“She’s gonna’ be jes’ fine.  The doctor told me she’ll make a full recovery.  I waited until she woke up.  She was pretty groggy, but she realized I was there.  They’re gonna’ keep her sedated for a while, but they want her up and standing as soon as possible.  They gave her local anesthetics so she could stand without too much pain.  She told me she wasn’t afraid and for me to come be with you and Curtis.  She said he needed us right now.”

Jim looked at me wondering how I could know what a pony said, but he didn’t say anything.

“You gentlemen hungry,— could you eat something?”  He asked quietly.

“We ain’t et since early this morning.”  O.C. told him.

“No problem.  I know you probably wanna’ stay here until your foreman wakes up.  I’ll bring you a couple of trays.  Anything you’d like or don’t like, gentlemen?”

“We ain’t fussy, Jim.  Anything they got will be fine with us.”  I told him.

“Be back in a minute, gentlemen.”

We could tell, Jim was really enjoying his job.  When he first saw O.C. his eyes lit up like Budda under the Bodhi tree. Poor Jim was suffering a conundrum,  he couldn’t decide which cowboy he’d like to eat first.  O.C. and I talked for a few minutes, and Jim returned pushing a cart with two hospital trays of hot food for us. It wasn’t bad for hospital food and O.C., and I ate hungrily. It was really nice of Jim even if he was ‘assigned’ to us,  and we told him how much we appreciated it.  He beamed with pride he was able to help.

 A little while after we finished eating, Curtis woke up and saw us standing by his bed.  He smiled at us warmly. When Curtis woke up, Jim wanted to give us our privacy.  He made an excuse and left, but he gave me his cell phone number to call him immediately if we needed anything or wanted to go anywhere on the base; however, it was their rules, we had to be accompanied everywhere we went.  Sounded reasonable to O.C. and me for the generous services they provided.

My granddad was gaining strength.  The color was returning to his face and he didn’t seem to have any difficulty speaking.
“You men saved my life.  What about Socks?”

“We brought her along.  She’s in the equestrian center.  I stayed with her until she woke up.  The doctors say she’s gonna’ be fine.  She’ll make a full recovery.”  I told him.

“Thank, God.  I knew she was shot the same time I was.  I felt her stumble and fall.  I remember sailing though the air, but I don’t remember much after that.  We rode down into that box canyon you found us in and there was cow flop all over the place.  Someone kept a bunch of cows there for several days, but they were gone.  I was going after them when we was ambushed.  Don’t know who done it, but I have my suspicions.”

“I talked with Sticker a while ago and he told me the Army sent fifteen to twenty helicopters to the rescue.  They may have caught ‘em by now. I don’t know, I haven’t heard back from him.”

About that time my cell phone vibrated in my vest pocket.  I smiled at Curtis and O.C., and flipped it open.”

“Casey.”  I announced.

“This is Sticker, Son.  How’s Curtis and Socks?”

“Socks is fine.  She’s gonna’ make a full recovery.  Our boss man is laying here in front of me wide awake, with a big smile on his face,  and the doctors tell us he gonna’ be fine. Ya’ wanna’ say ‘hi’ to him?”

“Sure,— I’d love to.”

I handed the phone to my granddad.

“How’s it going, Mr. Wiggins?”  Curtis asked.

“When the hell you gonna’ start call’n me ‘Sticker,’ old man!”  He demanded, then laughed.

“I guess now’s as good as any, old friend.” Curtis told him.

“Good!  Now that’s settled and out a’ the way, how ya’ feel’n, hoss?”

“Like I’s one a’ the Dalton gang and we jes’ got back from the O.K. corral.”  Curtis smiled and winked at us.

“Them two men standing there with you saved yore’ ugly hide, cowboy.  They done some pert-damn fast thinking.  I’m proud of ‘em.”

“No more’n I am, and that’s fer damn sure.”  Said Curtis.

“I’ll be there to see you as quick as I can get away, pod’na.’”

“I’m gonna’ be fine.  Take care of the ranch.  You’re needed there right now.”

“Ain’t like I’m gonna’ come’n bunk it in with ya’ and stay a spell, old man.”  Sticker laughed.  Curtis laughed with him.  “You take it easy. We’ll handle all this one step at a time.”

“Thanks, boss.”  Curtis said and handed me the cell phone.

“Casey,— we got ‘em.  You and O.C. were right.  It was Jesus, Esteban, Taggart and Rattle.  The Army caught ‘em red handed with the four hundred head of cattle headed for the boarder.  The Army took ‘em off in handcuffs to Chapel Creek.   I talked with Gip, and he’s waiting to take custody of ‘em.”

“O.C. and I decided he’s gonna’ stay here with Mr. Langtry and Socks until they’re ready to be released.  I’m gonna’ come on back to the ranch to help out.”

“No, you ain’t!  You stay right where you is, Son.  All the men are gonna’ stay through the weekend.  Gip and a couple of his neighbors is gonna’ drive down and give us a hand for several days, so we should be able to git them critters rounded up and taken care of.  We got us enough men.

Mr. Hayes has to git back home Monday,  but his boys, Jim and Justin, are gonna’ stay on for a while.  Mr. Cole’s gotta’ get back, but his boy, Bryce, is gonna’ stay.  Bubba’s gotta’ git on back to take care of his and O.C.’s place.  He told me to tell O.C. not to worry.  He’ll see to his place as long as he needs.

Vince and Seth are gonna’ stay and help.  I talked with little Gip and Waddie Buck and asked ‘em if’n they’d like to stay on for a while.  They said they would, but all them boys is gonna’ need a couple a’ days off.  We’ll work it out, but for right now, you and O.C. take care of yore’ old man.  Yeah, Will done told me about O.C. and Curtis.  Damn near shit my pants.”  Sticker roared with laughter.

“Well, if’n yore’ sure, Sir.”

“I’m sure, Son,— trust me. I’m gonna’ hang around here until we git all this sorted out.  You won’t me to ask Sid to tell yore’ daddy what’s going on, and his dad’s in the hospital?”

I was silent for a minute.  I didn’t know what to say.

“You think on it, cowboy, and git back to me. You know I ain’t about to do nothing without ask’n you first.”

“I know, Sticker,— I’d rather not, right now.  Not until,— ” I trailed off.  I didn’t want to say any more in front of my granddad.

“I understand completely, Son.  Ya’ don’t have to say no more.  I’m sorry, I didn’t consider the circumstances. I didn’t mean to put chu’ on the spot, Casey. I won’t say nothing.  I sure hope it works out for you, Son.  We’re all a’ pray’n for you, Curtis, Vince and O.C.”

“Thanks, Sticker,— I appreciate that.”

“Gotta’ run, cowboy.  Talk with ya’ soon.  I’ll check in with ya’ll later today.”

“My best to Will, Sticker.”

“You got it, cowboy.  Love you.”

“Same here, Mr. Wiggins.”  I used Sticker’s last name as statement of my respect and love.  He got it.

* * * * * * *

“Can we git you anything, Mr. Langtry?”  I asked my grandad.

He smiled at me and looked at us for a long while before answering.

“No, Son,— I’m comfortable as I can be, and I think they’re gonna’ commince to feed me here right directly.”   He held out one hand for O.C. and his other for me to take.  “Thank you men for what chu’ done for me.  I owe you my life.”

“We done what any cowboy worth his salt would do, Sir.”  O.C. told him.

“Yes, but somehow,— you men being there,— wasn’t jes’ by chance.  Maybe the good Lord’s start’n to forgive me.”

There was a physical pain shot though my heart at my granddad’s words, and I saw a tear fall down O.C.’s face.

“How did you find out, Son?”  Curtis asked O.C. softly.

O.C. looked at me, and I nodded slightly for him to tell the truth. I knew he wouldn’t give Curtis any more than he needed to know.

“This young man has a gift, Sir.  Sometimes folks who’ve passed on come to him and tell him things.  My daddy done come to him last evening, and told him to tell me about your gift to him.  I couldn’t believe it at first, then I remembered the last weekend you stayed with me, I got the feel’n you was trying to tell me something, and it made sense.  You’ve treated me like I was yore’ boy all my life, Curtis.  You know I couldn’t love you more.  How many times I tell you I love you?”

“A goodly number, Son.  I couldn’t love you more, either, Ocie.”   Curtis dropped my hand and opened his arms to O.C.  The two cowboys embraced and cried in each others arms confirming their relationship as father and son.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, Son.”

“Weren’t no need.  You always treated me like I was part of yore’ family anyways.  It jes’ makes things a little sweeter knowing there’s a closer bond between us.  My dad will always be my dad to me.  He was good to me, he taught me to be a man, he taught me to be a cowboy,  and I loved him very much.  I still love him today.  I understand how you could’ve loved him enough to do what chu’ done.”

  “I did love yore’ daddy, Son.  I loved him so damn much. I still love him in my heart. I would’ve done any damn thing in the world for that man, even when we were estranged from one another.  I was such a hard nosed bastard in those days, Son, I didn’t understand the greater aspects of love and forgiveness. I only pray he can forgive me.”

“He does forgive you, Dad.  He told Casey he forgave you and wanted to make sure you kept your pact with him to tell me the truth.  It was his way of letting you know he forgave you and asking your forgiveness at the same time.  In effect, he was giving his boy to you to be your son so neither one of us would be alone in the world.  What greater gift of forgiveness could a man give?”

Curtis didn’t say anymore.  He just looked into O.C.’s eyes and nodded like he understood what he was saying.  He turned his attention to me and took my hand again.

“Can you really talk to them ponies, Son,— like Griz does?”

“Yes, Sir.  How do you think we knew you and Socks was shot?”

“Socks let chu’ know?”

“Yes, Sir.  It’s really Socks, Big Red and Trixie you got to thank for yore’ life, Mr. Langtry. I felt it when the bullets hit you and her.  I damn near fell off my pony.  If’n I hadn’t grabbed my partner’s arm, I would have.  She called out to me in horrible pain and told me you was thrown over her head into a bed of quicksand.  Big Red and Trixie done pulled us out of the quagmire.”

“Quicksand?  I was in quicksand?  Is that why you got all that sand all over you, Son?”  He asked me.

“Yes, Sir.” I replied.

“Casey jumped in with you, Dad, and put ropes around you and him.  Red and Trixie pulled you and him out.”

Curtis looked from one to the other.  He knew we were telling him the truth.  Tears started running down his face.  

“You risked yore’ life to save mine, Son?”

“He did, Dad,— without hesitation.  I didn’t know what to do. I panicked,  I was almost paralyzed, but Casey went right into action.  He didn’t waste no time cogitate’n.  He was shout’n things for me to do. I hope I helped, but Casey was the one what got the Army to come and pick you and Socks up.  Casey’s one of the finest cowboys I’ve ever did meet.”

“Of course you helped, brother.  You’re my partner, I coudn’t a’ done it without you.  You’n me,— we’re a team.”  I told O.C.

“I knew there was something about chu’ what was different, Casey; and yet, I recognized a common bond between us.  You’re like my boys were.  They was fearless when it came to protecting those they loved and cared for.  They would face the very gates of hell itself and they did.  I lost both of ‘em in Nam, but I recognized that quality in you.  How can I thank you, Son?”

“By think’n on me as one a’ yore’ boys, Sir.”

Curtis opened his arms to me, and I embraced him. He shed another couple of tears.

“I’d be proud and honored to think on you as my boy, Son.”  

Curtis held me for a good while.

“Of course, ramrod,— ya’ done promised to be my guest in my coach some weekend. That’ud be nice, too.”  I laughed.   He and O.C. chuckled.

“I will,— I promise.  Jes’ as soon as I’m able.  I’ll look forward to it.  All right, then,— you’re both my boys,— and no more a’ this ‘Mr. Langtry’ crap.  I’m either ‘Curtis’ or ‘dad’ to both of you.  If anybody has a problem with it they can take it up with me.  Understand?”  He looked at us seriously like a dad would his two sons.

“Yes, Sir.”  We both replied meekly.

“And, Casey,— when you see Socks.  Tell ‘at purdy pony for me, I said ‘thank you’ for saving my life.  She’s a fine pony.”

“She just heard you, Dad.”  I laughed. “She said to tell you,— you had her at ‘purdy.’” We all laughed.

“Far too much merriment in this room!”  Joked  the big male nurse who walked in pushing a cart with food trays on it.  It was supper time for Curtis.  We decided to let him eat in private and see if we could get lodging for the night.  I called Jim and he answered immediately.

“Yes, Casey.  What can I do for you, Sir?”

“We was wondering if’n there’s someplace we could git cleaned up.  We need to buy a couple of pair of Wranglers and a couple of shirts to change out of our dirty clothes.”

“I’ll be right there, Sir.”

In less than ten minutes Jim arrived.

“I have accommodations for you and Mr. Harris in the bachelor officer’s quarters.  It has a fully stocked kitchen, a full bath with shower, a living area with Cable TV, and  two bedrooms.  I’ll be happy to take you into town to pick up some supplies.  Whatever you need.  We can drop by the quarters first and you can leave your chaps and spurs there.  We can lock it up.  No one will bother your gear.”

“Sounds like a plan to me, Jim,— you, O.C.?”  I referred to my partner.

“Fine with me.”

We said our goodbyes to Curtis and told him we’d be back to visit for a while after we cleaned up and got something to eat.  I told him I wanted to visit Socks first, and then we’d come to the hospital.  He smiled, nodded and motioned with his hand for us to be on our way.

* * * * * * *

The bachelor officer quarters was nice.  Jim was right, it was fully stocked. The fridge had fresh orange juice, milk, eggs, and bacon.  Anything and everything you could think of.  Jim said we could fix something or we could be his guest at the Officer’s mess.  We decided on the Officer’s mess.

Jim took us into town to the local Western store.  O.C. and I bought a couple of pair of Wranglers and a couple of pretty Western shirts.  Jim was patient and joked with us about our selections.   On the way back O.C. asked if we could have a bottle of liquor in the BOQ.  Jim nodded and pulled into a liquor store.  Jim and I waited in the jeep while O.C. went in.  He returned quickly, winked at me and handed me the package.  I didn’t need to look, but I did anyway.  I knew he got a bottle of Comfort.

We returned to the BOQ and went in to clean up.  Jim wanted to give us our privacy, but I told him he could stay if he wanted and watch TV, we wouldn’t be long.  He sat in the living room, had a soda and watched the tube while we cleaned up.  While O.C. was in the shower, I got his pair of boots and mine and carried them into the kitchen to clean them a bit.  Jim didn’t miss that I was cleaning my buddies boots for him.  He didn’t have to say anything, but I could tell he thought it was hot.  The bulge in his uniform confirmed it.  When we finished and walked into the living room, I thought Jim was going to shit his pants.

“Damn,— you two cowboys clean up real nice.”  He smiled, “You ready for chow?”

“Ready.”  We answered.

Jim took us, as his guest, to the Officer’s mess.  He explained, while he wasn’t an officer,  when he was chaperoning guest of the base, he had full access.  He must have been popular with the officers because several waved to him and greeted him by name.  They were friendly and waved us over to their table to sit with them.  Jim was respectful of the officers, and O.C. and I found ourselves saying ‘sir’ a lot.

The food was better than O.C. and I expected; in fact, it was pretty damn good.  Jim introduced us all around and everyone of them knew who we were and why we were on the base.  They were more curious about O.C. and me than we were of them. They ask us all sorts of questions about being a cowboy.  We had a good time with them.  They all seemed like decent men.

* * * * * *

After dinner, Jim drove us to the equestrian infirmary.  We walked in and Socks was standing, munching away on some fresh hay.  She was happy to see us.  O.C. and I made over her, told her what a good pony she was and how glad we were she was up and around.

“You feel’n a little better, Socks?”  I spoke to her.  She nodded her head a couple of times for O.C.’s benefit.  He laughed.

<<I feel better than I have any right to, Casey.  They’re taking good care of me.  I don’t know what’s in that medication they’re giving me, but I want a pony bag to go.>> She giggled.

I’m glad you’re feeling better, Socks.  Any pain?”

<<A little in my hip, but they gimme’ a shot for that every now and then and the pain goes away.  My leg throbs a little, but it ain’t unbearable; not like it was this morning.  They fed me pretty good this evening, Casey; real fresh oats and lots of ‘em.  I ate ‘til I though I was gonna’ bust a gut.>>

I laughed and told O.C. what she said.  He laughed, too.

“Good, Socks.  It’s good for you to eat.  It’ll build up your strength; make you get well quicker.”

<<If I’m gonna’ be treated like this, I ain’t in no hurry to get better.>> she laughed. <<Jes’ kidding.>> she added.

<<Tell yore’ grandsire, he can stop thank’n me now.  He’s sending ‘thank yous’ every thirty minutes.>>  

I laughed at her candor. “I’ll tell him, Socks.  We better run and visit him before visiting hours are over.  You gonna’ be all right?”

<<Yes, rider,— Socks is gonna’ be all right.  Ain’t afraid no more.  Socks don’t like to be afraid.  Thanks, Casey for your goodness.>>

“You’re welcome, Socks.  I don’t want you to be afraid any more either.  It ain’t a nice feeling for any of us. We’ll be back tomorrow morning to check on you.”

We hugged her and kissed her.  We told her again how pretty she was.  Jim stood by and watched our interaction with Socks in awe.  He never said a word, but O.C. and I knew he was impressed.

Jim drove us to the hospital and we visited with Curtis for a while. They gave him a shot of Demerol and a sleeping pill shortly before we arrived, and he was beginning to feel the effects.  We bid him goodbye and told him we’d return in the morning.  Jim drove us back to the BOQ and dropped us off.  He told us we were not to leave the BOQ unless he was there to accompany us.  We assured him we wouldn’t.  We told him we were going to have a drink and go to bed; we’d been on a roundup and hadn’t slept in a real bed in over two weeks. He just smiled and shook his head.  He told us if we needed anything or needed to go back to the hospital for any reason,  to call him; he would be there in ten minutes.  O.C. and I went into the apartment.  I found two small glasses and poured two fingers of Comfort for us.  I handed O.C. his glass and we clinked in a toast.

“To life and family.”  said O.C.

“And, a good pony.”  I added.

“I’ll drink to that, brother.”  He replied.

We took a sip of our drinks.

“You know what, cowboy,—?” I smiled at him, “I did some searching in that well stocked bathroom and found some equipment jes’ like I have in my hygiene kit back in my trailer.”

“Oh, Lordy, Lordy,— does that mean,—?”  O.C. was biting his knuckles   like he was afraid to complete his sentence.

“Uh-huh.”  I nodded at him and grinned real big.

“How long’s it been, hoss?”

“Over two weeks.”  I moaned.

“Damn!  That’ud be like take’n a virgin. I shore’ nuff could use me a big ole piece a’ cowboy butt tonight, Darlin.’” O.C. said in his best West Texas cowboy drawl.

“Sheeit!” I replied, “I know I could use me some fine cowboy dick up my caboose to haul it on down the line.  I feel if’n any two cowboys ever deserved to share a good, hot fuck, we do tonight.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more, pod’na.’ How fast can you be ready?” O.C. asked me anxiously.

“Ten minutes,— tops.”  

“I’ll be a’ wait’n, hoss.  Don’t count on no foreplay.”  He joked in a rough tone of voice.

“God,— I love a man with spirit!”  I laughed.

* * * * * * *

O.C. was waiting for me with the biggest, roaring erection I ever witnessed on him.  Now I knew what the man’s magnetic attraction was to me.  He came from the same big cowboy dick that sired my dad.  He wasn’t a clone of my dad by any means, but there was just enough mannerisms and the way he conducted himself that left no doubt from where those attributes came.  My grandsire had the same traits.

Without my plug it was slow going at first, but my ass was so hungry for cowboy dick I told O.C. not to wait.  I wanted him to take me and take me hard.  He felt my hunger and fed me what I needed; all of it,— every last inch of his beautiful cock slammed to the hilt in my starving ass.   O.C. wasn’t kidding with his ‘no foreplay’ statement.  He was riding me before I could take a deep breath from his swift but sure entry.   He began to fuck me like a pony express rider who was late with the mail.  

I locked my legs around his waist and hung on for dear life.  Images shot through my mind of riding bareback on Big Red in the raw; my flesh against his hot, horse hide as he ran ever faster with me on his back.   I was leaning forward, holding him around his neck to hold on.  I wouldn’t pull his mane, it might hurt him.  I wanted to be one with him as I was conjoining with my flesh and blood uncle.   O.C. picked up his pace and began to fuck me harder and harder.  

I had my arms around Red’s neck.  My cock was pinned between my belly and his surging back, which would move in the same direction, to and fro, as we rode on across a vast savanna through the warm humid night.  My sweat began to mix with his sweat.  I could feel him urging me on the harder and faster Red ran.  O.C. was sweating profusely and I was, too.  Our body oils were mixing and flowing into a movement that was unstoppable.

On the savanna Red opened up my soul with his surging, rampaging run.  He was running free.  He was urging me; he was begging me with each hot breath he expired to join him; to let my soul run free with him.  There was no barriers between him and me.  He was riding me, and I was riding him in return,— toward a common goal.  It was there before us. It was in sight.  The city of lights shown through the night; the city of sky-rockets in flight; the city of desire, built upon the earthy scent of strong, healthy animals in rut.

Only a little more, another couple of deep breaths.  We both could see it.  There was no more us.  There was Red, there was O.C. and there was me, melting into one hot orgasmic whirlpool.  You may only enter the gates of the city as one,  as a camel might kneel to pass through the eye of the needle.*  A black hole which swallows everything including light, only to come;  eject;  ejaculate; to spew forth it’s fertile beginnings of life into the bowels of another parallel universe.  One giant, hot, animalistic, nihilistic, sacred yet profane,  cosmic fuck; to expand; then, collapse back upon itself,— to  temporarily conjoin and die, only to be reborn,— to do it over and over again for untold eons.  The secret ethos of the universe reduced to the simple mechanics of a single kiss, contained within boundaries of a good, hot, healthy fuck.   O.C. cried out,

“Fuck’n you good, — cowboy!  I can feel it! I can feel yore’ ass responding. We’re almost there!  Ride my dick, cowboy!  I’m your rider, — you’re my hoss.  Put it up there for me,— gimme a good ride!  I can feel it, Case!  Oh, my God, I can feel it!  I can feel you riding Red!  I’m behind ju’ on Red fuck’n you,— holding on!  Oh, my God!  I can’t believe it!  It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life!  I’m coming in yore’ saddle, hoss!  I’m coming in your cowboy hole, pod’na!  Take us home, Red!”  He shouted as he came deep within my gut.

I knew O.C. was coming in my ass as I exploded in volley after volley between O.C. and my bellies. We collapsed against each other.  It was a hard ride, but it was a good ride.  I began to babble sweet nothings to O.C. about how good he rode me, how well he fucked me,  and how he had never let me see that part of him before.  He was at once a man and a beast.  At that moment, it was a toss up which I preferred, but the way I was feeling, a decided nod went to the beast.

Only one other man ever fucked me like that, and that was my dear sweet dad; however, I knew in my mind, there was more than one beast fucking me that evening.  There was a big red pony who was fucking with my head while my other beast fucked my ass. It couldn’t have been more erotic for O.C. and me.   

<<Good one, Red,— thanks.  Damn!  Can we do that again sometime?>>
<<Thought you might enjoy it.  I’ll take you on that ride some warm night, rider.  All you have to do is ask and climb naked upon my back.  Invite your man-stallion to come along and mount you.  Red will do the rest for you.  My compliments to your rider.  He done rode you down, good and hard.   He’s a man-stallion to reckon with; worthy of your grandsire to call ‘son,’ Casey.  You stay man-colt for a while longer for them; for your owner, and for me.>>

<<I promise, Red,— I will.>>

O.C. and I made sweet love.  We fucked twice more that night and I sucked him off in the shower the next morning.  For all we’d been through, we were more solidly bonded than ever.  Our souls transcended the gap between our individual existence; our oneness.  Our very hearts beat in synchronicity with one accord;— we were family.

End of Chapter 38 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

* spork ~ a plastic eating utensil that’s a cross between a fork and a spoon.

* eye of the needle ~ in ancient times city gates were purposely made low so a camel would have to kneel and pass thought on its knees.  The gates were made low to protect the city from invading armies on camel back.