By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 45   

All the older men said they thought the spring roundup was the best they ever participated in.  Sticker was pleased, and the last evening was festive.  Sticker pulled out all the stops and provided only the best.  We had prime steaks cooked over mesquite that melted in your mouth.  A good time was had by all.  When a group of men get together to cowboy it’s similar to the bonding Master Waddie told me about the men in his family had.  You really came to love and appreciate each one for his talents,  his uniqueness and individuality.

Sticker rode with me a lot during the roundup.  I got to know him even better than I had before.  I always thought he was the image of the last American cowboy, a drop dead, good looking man, but I never realized the gentle nature of his goodness.  He had a soft heart when it came to children, or critters in pain.  It really distressed him.  The afternoon before the roundup was over, he came riding over to me again.  We’d talked any number of times, and I think Bart knew we were talking about private matters so he kept his distance.  He’d look over from time to time to see if we needed him.

“I’m going back day after tomorrow.  Rance and I are flying out of Chapel Creek.  I’s jes’ wondering if you wanna’ share a couple of your ideas with me to take back and discuss with Sid?”

“Well, Sir,— I suppose one a’ the main things would be time off,— ever’ other weekend is a bitch.  H’it’s the number one thing the cowboys talk about being the hardest is not being able to be with loved ones and get away from the ranch more often.  I know the life of a cowboy has certain unwritten rules that have become intrinsic with the lifestyle; however, they were rules set down in the eighteen hundreds when cowboying started with the long cattle drives of hundreds of miles to get the cattle to a railroad to transport them to the Eastern markets.  The golden era of the cowboy and the long cattle drives actually only lasted little more than a brief period of twenty years until the railroads were built into most major cities of the west.

Since that time, it’s progressed little for the men who dedicate themselves to the life, but it’s my opinion,  cowboys shouldn’t have to become hermits, giving themselves over to a monastic order.  Who’s to say cowboying can’t evolve like everything else?  Who’s to say a ranch can’t be run more like a business than expecting men to dedicate their lives for so little in return?  My theory is, based on the number of men we get to participate in the roundups, if we gave ‘um a little more time to have some life away from the ranch, they just might stay longer.

Other than the roundups, you know there ain’t a hell of a lot what goes on around here on weekends anyway.  Saturday is a laid back day,  and half the day Sunday is spent in cowboy church.  The afternoons are free except for a couple ‘a hands what has to ride the cattle.  I’ve watched things and made notes on Myrtle May,—”

“‘Myrtle May’?”  Sticker laughed.

“Yeah, Myrtle May, my lap top.”  Sticker thought that was funny. He asked me to go on.

“I’ve made some notes about how much a cowhand actually does here on weekends, and I come up with the same amount of man power per ratio actually needed.  We got us a full compliment of cowboys with the younger men with us; however, we’re gonna’ be losing them probably the Fourth of July weekend.  Waddie Buck said something about want’n to stay, but his daddy done put the kabosh on ‘nat pert-damn quick at the end of the roundup.  I don’t blame Gip, he loves his boys, and he don’t git to see much of ‘um when they’s working on the ranch; however, that’s where my plan comes in.  I think I might a’ figured out a way we could keep more hands longer.”

“How’s ‘zat, Son?”

“If we could have a full complement of sixteen cowboys, not including Mr. Langtry and Wade Mulligan, we could have a larger rotation of men off.  According to my figures, there’s really only need for four cowhands to be here Saturday and Sunday.  Four into sixteen is four.   Each man would have three weekends off in a row and then pull duty for one weekend.  They could plan their schedules better and have a little more time to relax and get away.”

“What about Curtis and Wade?”

“I ain’t forgitten 'bout them.  If’n we could hire eighteen cowboys, you got two men, Brett, and Sam, who are fine cowboys fully capable of being a ‘lead’ cowboy over the four what pulls duty.”

“So you’d really have five men handling the stock while the others go into town?”

“Yes, Sir,— plus Will.  However, even Will needs some time off.  He don’t hardly ever take no time off.   The folks up to the ranch house take care of his clothes for him.”

“Let’s talk about Will later. What about an emergency situation?”

“Define emergency situation, Sir.”

“Like a big stampede.”

“What can eighteen men do in a stampede five men cain’t?”

“You got a point, and I cain’t think a’ no other major emergencies.  What about pay? You gonna’ dock the men for them two weekends a month?  They ain’t gonna’ be working them four days.”

“Naw, Sir. ‘At’s part of the draw to keep men work’n for the ranch. I’ve figured it out on an annual basis, and it don’t really cost that much more’n the  cost of two extra hands.  For a ranch this size it ain’t a high number of cowboys to have.”

“What do you base your numbers on, Son?”

“H’it’s all in Myrtle May.  I got my figures from five of the largest ranches in the county and two in Australia, the number of cowboys they have per land size and number of head they run.”

“My Lord, you got all that in your computer?”

“Yes, Sir.  I got it off’n the Internet and called the ranch foreman of each ranch to talk with him and confirm it.  I listed all the men I spoke with, their addresses and phone numbers.”

“You called Australia?”

“I e-mailed ‘um, Sir.  I got their replies in my information.”

“Hell,— I ain’t never done nothing like ‘at.  You present something like that to ole Sid, and he’s gonna’ have you in a suit in a week, cowboy, I guaren-damn-tee-ya.’” Sticker laughed.  I knew he was kidding and laughed with him.

“I tell you what, cowboy,— can you send that information to Kevin?”

“Yes, Sir, I’ll prepare a cover letter and a brief proposal.”

“It sounds like a great idea, Casey.  Sid and I been arguing over hiring  another couple of hands for over a year now.  As far as I’m concerned, if’n yore’ figures check out, I say let’s do it, but not before we have a full complement of men to implement it.  I’ll talk it over with Sid and git back to you ASAP.  How’s ‘zat sound?”

“Great, Mr. Wiggins.”

“Got any more bright ideas, cowboy?”  he said sarcastically then laughed.

“Yes, Sir.  Will’s git’n a little long in the tooth, and he cain’t do like he used to.  We’re help’n him out more and more.  Now,— us cowboys is fiercely protective of our cook for a number of reasons, and none of ‘um mind help’n him out. Sometimes he gits more help than he needs, and he throws a couple out.”  

“You think he needs help?”

“Yes, Sir, he cooks three meals a day, seven days a week and big meals on the holidays.  That’s when he needs his cowboy helpers the most.”

“What do you propose, Son?”

“Hiring another full time cook and two cook’s helpers,— like apprentice cooks.”

“How do you think that would make Will feel?  Sid and him go way back to when they rode this ranch together as cowboys.   I know’d him for a number years before Sid and I got his sorry ass off’n his ranch to work for us.  He was sit’n there dying of loneliness and grief over his boy he lost in Nam.  He’d be dead now if’n it weren’t for this ranch.  You think it’s gonna’ make him think we’re trying to replace him?  Sometimes when a man like Will don’t have no work to do and being around folks, they fold up and die. You men are like family to him.  I’d shore’ hate to lose me one of the best friends Sid and I ever had.”

“I don’t think you would, Sir.  Put him in charge.  Let him prepare the main meal of the day, which is always supper or Sunday dinner.  Let the helpers help both of ‘um, and— ”

“No,wait,— lemme’ guess.”  Sticker interrupted me, “ There’s four cooks so they gits the same weekend rotation as the cowboys.”

“I done told Will you’s a lot smarter than he allowed ju’ was.”  I winked at him. Sticker almost fell off his pony laughing.

“Make Will head cook and let him prepare the main meal of the day.  If them cowboys didn’t have Will’s catfish once a week, they’d revolt.  After a hard day in the saddle, they’s pert-damn revolt’n anyhow.” I laughed.  Sticker laughed, too.  “Let the other cook fix breakfast and lunch.  On Sundays he can fix breakfast and supper.”
“Makes sense to me.  I suppose you done run some numbers.”

“Yes, Sir, I have and Will’s due for a raise. He ain’t had no raise in two years.  That’s too long for the amount of work he does.”

“All right,  I’ll discuss it with our partner.  Send that info to Kevin, too, if you will.  Anything else?”

“Since you asked,— Wade Mulligan ain’t had no raise in two years neither.  He’s a damn good cowboy, he works his butt off, and he works well with Mr. Langtry and the other cowboys.  All the men respect him.”

“Okay,— okay!  That’s a good suggestion, too.  I wonder why Curtis ain’t never said nothing about it?”

“Simple,— Wade’s a cowboy.  He don’t complain.  I didn’t find out from Wade no hows.”

“I don’t even have to ask who told ju.’” Sticker grinned.

“Naw, Sir, you don’t.” I grinned at him.

“Now,— you see?  That’s exactly the things Sid and I want chu’ to do.  You talked to me about it, Sid sees the information you compiled, if we agree,  it’s a done deal;  however, Sid ain’t shy.  He may wanna’ ask you some more questions, or he might ask you about considering a compromise.  I ain’t say’n he’ll have any problems about these things, they’s pretty cut and dried.”

“I understand, Mr. Wiggins.  If he needs more info have Kevin e-mail me.”  

“Okay,— another thing,— you want your granddad to know you’re pulling some strings behind the scenes?”

“Naw, Sir,— well, not jes’ yet anyways.  I don’t wanna’ live no lie to my granddad, but I’ll figure out a way to tell ‘em.”

“You worried ‘bout usurp’n his position?”

“Yes, Sir,— but I ain’t actually pulling the strings, Mr. Wiggins.  You ask one of the cowboys for some input, he made a couple of suggestions, you and yore’ partner talked it over, thought it was a good idea, and decided to do it.”

“Well,— ‘at ain’t no lie.  That’s exactly what happened, cowboy.  ‘At’s smart, Casey,— Sid’s gonna’ love that.  Look,— you keep working as a cowpoke, and from time to time, you and I’ll get together and talk.  This is as good a way as any, to teach you how to run and manage the ranch, so when you’re tired of playing cowboy and wanna’ manage full time, you can step right into the job.”

“Sounds good to me.” I tipped my hat to him, “Shore’ ‘nuff ‘preciate you listen to this ole cowboy’s suggestions, Sir.”

Sticker rode away laughing and shaking his head.

* * * * * * *

The following weekend Bart and I met his dad and Brent in Chapel Creek.  I’d already told Gip I was spending the weekend with Bart and his family when he came the last night of the roundup to have supper with us and  to pick up little Gip and Waddie Buck.  He looked at me with a pained look on his face, raised his hand to his mouth, made a fist and bit his knuckles.  He was so funny,  I almost laughed my ass off.  Bart was standing there, but it went right over his head.  He couldn’t figure out what I was laughing about.  I told him, I’d tell him later.

Brent was growing like a weed.  I only got to see him a couple of times when his granddad and him came to pick up Bart in Chapel Creek.  We’d exchange greetings and go our separate ways.  He would start first grade in the fall.  He ran to me, and jumped into my arms.

“Ooofff!  Damn,— you’re heavy, Son,— another month or two, and I won’t be able to pick you up a ‘tall.”  he giggled and gave me a hug and a kiss.

“I’m so glad you’re gonna’ spend the weekend with us, Casey,  I got lots to show you.”

“I’ll jes’ bet you do.  I cain’t wait to see ‘um neither.”

Bart took him from me, so I could shake hands with his dad.  I was pleasantly surprised when Hank pulled me into a bear hug and kissed me on the cheek.

“Thanks, Mr. Conners,— I shore’ ‘nuff needed that.”  we laughed.
Bart’s dad, Hank, was a fine looking older cowboy.  He was one of those men of the West whose face is so tanned and wrinkled, it looks like boot leather.  You couldn’t really tell if he was middle aged or an older man  When Bart told me he was the same age as my dad, I couldn’t believe it.  

We drove out to their farm.  They called it a farm, but it was a huge piece of land.  It was as large or larger than many of the so called ranches I’ve visited.  Hank ran several head of cattle and some dairy cows he made money from.  They had a wonderful old two story farm house that reminded me of our place.  

“This is spooky.” I told Bart, “H’it’s a lot like my home in California.”

“Why do you think I felt so at home at chore’ place?”  Bart laughed as he took my bag and headed up the stairs.  I followed.  Brent and his dad went into the kitchen to make some iced tea.  We got to the top of the stairs turned and headed to one of four bedrooms at the front of the house.

“You can have yore’ choice.  You can have a bedroom to yourself, or you can bunk it in with yore’ cowboy brother.”

“Oh, I donno’— ” I tried to sound noncommittal like I was having a hard time making up my mind, “I guess it’ud be a down right shame to mess up two beds,— wouldn’t it?”  I looked at Bart, and he grinned real big.

“A cry’n shame, cowboy.  I’d probably lay in my room,— alone,— all by myself, and cry myself to sleep.”  he chuckled.

“Wouldn’t wanna’ cause a big, strong, fine look’n buckaroo like you to shed no tears.  Wouldn’t wont that on ma’conscience.” we shared a laugh.

“Okay,— that settles it,— you be bunk’n it in with me, cowboy.  ‘At’s okay,— my bed’s extra big,— I won’t roll over on you.”

“Darn.”  I said under my breath.

“Less’n, of course,— ya’ont me to.”  he quickly added looking deep into my eyes to see if he could gage a response.  I could see the purple of my eyes reflected in his beautiful light blue orbs. Through the window of his soul, I saw his love for me; his longing; his need.

“Could we play-like it’s New Years eve again, cowboy?”  I quietly asked. “I ain’t never forgot ‘tat kiss you gimme,’ and I thought it might be nice to see if’n you really was as good as I ‘membered.”  

I watched a big smile cross his handsome face. My invitation left little doubt in his mind what my offer meant.   

“Id be an honor and a pleasure, Sir.”  he responded softly.

Still looking into my eyes, he grasp my shoulder with his big hands and gave me a kiss that still makes my dick drop almost to my knee and start dripping when I think on it.  He pulled me into him, then surrounded me in his big, muscular, cowboy arms and continued his kiss.  I didn’t hold back my love for him either and it developed into more than just a gentle kiss.  We could feel each other growing in our Wranglers.  He gently broke off our kiss and looked at me for a moment.  I smiled at him.

“Damn, Casey,— I been want’n to do that again for so long.   I was beginning to think you’d never consider,— well,— you know.”

“Yeah,— I know.  I’ve wanted to do it lots a’ times, but I jes’ weren’t sure neither.  The time jes’ didn’t seem right.”  

“Did I do okay?” he asked like a kid who just stole his first kiss.

“You have to ask?  Of course, you done okay.  Look at the wet spot at  my crotch.  I’d say you done it pert-damn good.  Any better and we’d be on that bed roll’n ‘round like two dogs in heat dry humping one another.” I grinned at him. “C’mon, cowboy, we got time for that later.  Let’s us go downstairs and visit with your family.  I really like your dad, Bart, he seems like a fine man.”

Bart walked a little taller and beamed with pride.  He was a happy buckaroo.  His prayers had been answered.  In a way, so had mine.

We walked into the kitchen.  Brent and his granddad had big Mason jars filled with sweetened iced tea.  It was warm in Texas for early June and it tasted good.  Brent couldn’t wait for me to finish, he wanted to show me his menagerie.  Brent didn’t contact me a lot over the last six months. He knew he was welcome to, but his granddad was teaching him the cowboy way.  Part of it is to give folks their space and privacy unless invited; even then, don’t abuse the privilege.  Once in a great while he contacted me to say ‘hello’ and give his daddy a message.  Brent was too busy talking with his granddad’s ponies and every new critter he came across.  Sick and wounded animals would come to him for help.

He promised his granddad he wouldn’t touch an animal until he could take a look at it.  I asked Griz if he’d mind giving Brent some suggestions and talking with him occasionally.  I knew he would, that’s just the kind of man he is, but I felt it would be polite to ask first.  Griz became the source of a great wealth of practical knowledge for the boy and Brent’s mental capacity skyrocketed.

His granddad started teaching him to read after Bart left for the Lazy 8.  He worked with Brent all that winter and by summer, he was reading the more advanced children’s books.  He didn’t seem to have the same learning disorder his dad and granddad had.  His little mind exploded with new information.  When I talked with Hank he’d just smile and shake his head.

‘At damn kid keeps me running from morning ‘til night.  He don’t never tire.  Some nights I have to threaten to smother him with a pillow if’n he don’t get to sleep.  Other nights, we’ll have dinner, he’ll crawl up in my lap and he’s sound asleep in ten minutes.”  he laughed, “The upside is, I cut down on my vet bills for the critters around here.

They tell ‘em what’s wrong with ‘um, and sometimes, even what they need to git better.  Same with the wild ones.  Amazes the shit out of me when some wild critter will let me examine it, and it won’t bite me.  He somehow gits in they’s head and stops the pain for a while.  He says he tells ‘um we’s try’n to help ‘um and not to bite.  I ain’t been bit yet.”  he grinned.

Brent carefully showed me all his sick and injured critters. He explained everyone to me and whether they were getting better or not.  He told me Griz had been a great help to him, and he was able to save a number of the animals. He granddad was amazed how he could bring an animal back almost from the brink of death, just by caring for it and feeding it.

“He tells me he’s been in contact with a giant man by the name of Griz. I guess he taught Brent to hum to ‘um or some’um like ‘at.  He’ll sit by one of ‘um and hum for hours.  Damn, if’n they don’t get better.”  he laughed.

Bart was really proud of the way his boy was coming along. In six months Brent went from the runt of the litter to the cutest pup in the barn.  He was going to be as big or bigger than his daddy.  He formed a deep love and respect for his cowboy dad.   Brent was proud of his dad, and liked to walk everywhere holding his hand.  I complemented Brent on his accomplishments.

Brent showed me his pony next.  It was a fine looking young paint gelding. Bart bought him a junior saddle for his birthday and his granddad was teaching him to ride.  He was doing real good, but of course he was in direct contact with his pony at all times.  He spoiled his pony rotten.  It was amazing.  The pony loved Brent.  He would push and tease Brent to get his attention.  Brent smiled,

“He wants me to talk with him, but I won’t.” Brent said like he was mad at his pony.  He nipped me pretty hard the other day and it hurt.  Look!”  Brent held the underside of his arm for me to see.  Sure enough there was a bruised spot turning black and yellow.

“Tell, Casey the rest, Son.”  his granddad raised his eyebrow and admonished him.

“I had a carrot for him in my front pocket.  I was teasing him and holding my arm so’s he couldn’t get to it until I’s ready to give it to him.  He went for it and got my arm instead.”  Bart chuckled, and I almost laughed.

“I’m sure he feels awful about it,— don’t chu,’ boy?”  I reached over to pet him, and he responded by nodding his head up and down in agreement.  We all laughed.  “See,— he agreed with me. He feels bad about nipping you.  He told me he wouldn’t do it no more,— if’n you don’t hide no more carrots from him.”  I laughed,  Bart and his dad joined me. Brent grinned and told his pony he forgave him.   

* * * * * * *

We all pitched in to make supper.  It was like being home again.  Brent had come a long way.  He was now helping his granddad cook.  He was a big help and did a lot of small chores.  Hank was firm and in control of the boy;  he was Brent’s buddy, and Brent adored his granddad.  When Bart came home, Hank acquiesced to him, and daddy was in charge.  Bart intelligently, and graciously learned how to deal with his boy from observing his dad.  Bart told me he asked Hank how he could know so much about raising a young child when Helen didn’t let him participate in raising his own children.

“H’it’s simple, Son,— ” Hank replied, “I do exactly the opposite of what she done.”

Bart said he never laughed harder with his old man. He declared it made a hell of a lot of sense to him.  So Bart learned from his old man how to deal with his fast growing six year old son.

After we cleaned the kitchen, Hank suggested we sit on the front steps to watch the sun go down.  It was a warm, wonderful evening.  Brent wanted to be as close to me and Bart as he could and wedged himself between us.  It was a beautiful evening and the sunset proved to be worth giving up television forever.  The peacefulness of it all,— being with folks I loved and cherished,— sharing conversation, listen to the whippoorwill’s call,— was comfortable and relaxing.  I couldn’t remember a time my soul was more at peace.

 Hank excused himself for a minute and asked Brent to come along with him,  he needed his help. Bart and I sat and talked.  I moved over to him so I could touch him.

“Do you know what you’s git’n yore’self into with that kiss, cowboy?”

“Is Texas the lone star state, cowboy?”  I laughed, he fell backward on the porch laughing.

“Damn you, Casey.  You can git me laughing quicker’n anybody.  ‘At’s only a small part of why I love you and think on you as ma’brother; cep’n, brothers don’t never,— you know,— with each other.”

“What planet you been living on, hoss?  Maybe yore’ brothers don’t never, but mine sure as hell do.”   

“Wait a minute, you tell’n me, Logan Wainright, and ‘at big buffed out dude, Dwayne, and you,— ?”  Bart asked in amazement.

“Shore,’ we be brothers, Bart.  We love each other.  We don’t do it much anymore because our lives have expanded, and we got responsibilities to others.  Everyone’s lives change and grow as time goes on. Ours will, too. ‘At’s jes’ the way the good Lord intended it for us.  When us boys was grow’n up, it was jes’ us against the world, and we did ever’ thing together, including play’n hide the little green snake.”

“What?  Hide the little green snake?”  Bart asked, then threw back his head and laughed.

“Yeah, ‘at’s what we used to call what chore’ so afraid to say.” I grinned at him

“Well,— I guess it is a mite easier to think on it that way.”  he allowed.

Hank and Brent returned with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice-cream for each of us.  It was an unexpected treat and a great dessert at the end of the day.  We talked some more.  After a while, Bart crawled up in his granddad’s lap.  It was so touching to see Hank enfold his grandson with his arms around Brent’s front like he was protecting him from the bad things of the world.  In a way, I guess he was.  I envied Brent just a little.  I remember how it used to feel sitting in my dad’s lap with his arms around me telling a story.   I loved his fine baritone voice, and it would always lull me to sleep.

And so it was with our littlest buckaroo.  Hank began to tell a quiet story to Bart and me and ten minutes later his grandson departed for the land of wink’n, blink’n and nod.  We talked some more.  Bart took Brent from his dad, and took him in to put him to bed.  Hank and I sat there quietly for a while.  I felt comfortable with him.  Hank Conners came from the same basic stock my dad and granddad came from; the same quality stock Master Waddie, Gip Claymore, and Bubba came from.  He was a man of the Earth,— a good man.

“My boy loves you, Casey.”

“I love him too, Mr. Conners.  Is it that obvious, Sir?”  I asked softly.

“Not to someone who don’t know the two a’ you.  You done captured Bart’s heart, and you done a pert-damn good job a’ capturing mine.  Brent’s?  Well, let’s jes’ say he puts you someplace between his pony, his daddy and the Almighty.  He’s convinced you could walk on water if’n you’s a’ mind to. I ain’t never told ‘em no different.  Ain’t real sure myself.”  Hank chuckled.  “I can see how happy my boy’s become in the last few months.  He’s a different man, Son.  Ain’t never seen my boy so content with hisself and his life.  Brent and me,— we’s happy as two pigs in a wallow.  H’it’s like the three of us been living a dream we never could imagined, and you’re largely responsible for it.”

“How’s ‘zat, Mr. Conners?”  I looked at him.

“Bart done told me you was the one what caused him to start look’n at what was going on in his own home and our relationship.  He come home after Bart’s operation a changed man, and I got chu’ to thank for that.”

“I don’t think that way, Mr. Conners.  I jes’ try’n help people if’n I can.  I could see Bart was so taken with me’n ma’dad’s relationship, he wanted to talk about it and his relationship with you.  I’s jes’ glad ever’ thing worked out for ya’ll.”

“We couldn’t be happier.”  

 Bart came back and sat down beside me.

“You put ‘em in my bed, Son?”  Hank asked Bart.

“Yeah, Dad,— he’s fast asleep.”

“Good.  He sleeps with me from time to time if some’um’s bother’n him.  Other times he wants to sleep by himself.  He kin be an independent little cuss since he had that operation.  I thank God ever’ damn day for them doctors and that hospital.”

“Y’ain’t alone, Dad.”  Bart said then added quietly, “Cep’n, I add yore’ and my brother’s name to my prayer of thanks.”

Hank didn’t respond, he just let out a deep sigh of contentment.

“Well, gentlemen, I’s best be git’n my tired old butt to bed.  Casey, h’it’s a real pleasure having you here this weekend; so glad you could make it.”

I stood up, hugged and kissed Mr. Conners on the cheek.  He returned my kiss.

“Thanks, Mr. Conners,— coming from you, Sir,— it means a lot.”

“You men have a good evening.”  he said as he departed.

* * * * * * *

“Dad don’t cotton to too many folks, Casey.  He’s kinda shy-like.  Ain’t never seen him take to no man quicker’n you.”

“He’s a good man, Bart.  I’ve come to love him in a short period of time.”

“You love a lot of folks, Casey, and they all love you.  I saw that when I was at chore’ place.  All them folks think the world of you.”

“Yeah, I’m lucky, I guess.”

“I think it’s more’n ‘nat.  I think you genuinely love people.”

“I do.  I try to look for the good in folks.”

“We been invited to a small rodeo tomorrow.  They’s gonna’ have mostly team ropers.  H’it’s right down the road a piece at my high school buddy’s ranch he inherited from his dad.  His name’s Nick Chambers.  Dad told him I’d be home this weekend, but I’d have my cowboy buddy visit’n with us.  He invited all of us.  Dad said they’s gonna’ barbecue and serve food.  Dad told him I’d give him a call tomorrow morning if’n we could come.  I wanted to ask you first if’n you felt like going down ‘nair and toss’n a couple with me.  We could ride our ponies.  H’it ain’t very far.”

“Sure, I’d enjoy that.  We toss pert-damn good together.”

“I have a feel’n ‘at ain’t all we kin do pert-damn good together.”

“Wanna’ go find out?”  I teased.

“Is Texas the lone star state?”  he replied.   

* * * * * * *

We tried to climb the stairs quietly.  Well,— as quietly as a couple of cowboys can wearing heavy buckaroo boots.  We got to Bart’s room, and he closed the door behind us.  It was a huge master bedroom that joined another big room with a walk through bath between them.  It was dark in the room except for a small lamp on Bart’s dresser that had a tiny Christmas tree bulb in it.  It gave off a soft pink glow to everything and enhanced skin tones.  Bart didn’t need any enhancement.  He was one of the most handsome men I knew. He put his arms around me, pulled me close, and we gently kissed.  

Bart was an unwittingly good lover.  What do I mean by that?  He didn’t have a lot of experience and by default relied on his basic animal instincts coupled with his human element of compassion.  He was all right by me.  I could really get into his brand of cowboy loving.  

“I need to get into your shower, Bart.   It’s gonna’ take me a few minutes to clean up.  Don’t worry none about me if’n I ain’t back right away.”

“Sure, take your time.  I know you like Southern Comfort.  I got us a bottle.  You wanna’ snort to take with you.”

“Sounds good.”

Bart had glasses in his room and poured him and me two fingers.  We clinked glasses, I took a sip and took off for the bathroom.  It was an old style bath, but Bart and his dad put in a large metal shower pan that worked pretty well.  I cleaned myself good and debated whether to put my plug in or not. ‘That may be a bit too advanced for my cowboy.’  I thought to myself.  I decided against it.  Instead I lubricated myself well.  As hungry as my hole felt, I didn’t anticipate any problems.

I walked back into the bedroom without a towel around me.  Bart and I saw each other many times in the nude at the ranch, so it didn’t make much sense for me to play coy now.  He had his cloths off and was sitting in an overstuffed, wing-back chair reading a Farm and Ranch magazine.  He stood as I walked into the room.

“Gees, Casey, we’s seen each other naked a hunnert times, but I ain’t never let myself get a really good look at chu.’  What can I say?”

“You don’t have to say nothing.  Yore’ buddy down South is tell’n me ever’ thing I need to know.”

Bart was getting erect looking at me.  I went to him, we pressed our bodies together and kissed again.  This kiss was a bit more on the passionate side, and we began to get roaring hard.

“I guess I should go in there and cleanup. I ain’t showered since last night.”

“Please,— I don’t wanna’ hafta’ break yore’ leg.”  I laughed.

“Break  ma’leg?”

“Yeah,— I like you jes’ the way you is.  I like the masculine smell of your body.  Sometimes you ride so close to me on a warm afternoon, I git a lung full of your cowboy scent and my ole dick develops a mind of its own.  It drives me crazy.  So,— you make for the bathroom,— I’m gonna’ hafta’ break yore’ leg.”   I stole a kiss. We laughed.

“Never thought I’d admit it to anyone, but I do the same with you.  Why the hell you think I ride so damn close, sometimes.”  he laughed, “Ain’t cause I cain’t control ma’pony.  I jes’ wanna’ get me a big ole whiff of my cowboy buddy.  One good snort, and I stay hard for hours.”

We moved to the bed and continued to make love and feel each others’ body.  He was a lover, but I was raging horny to feel his fine, cowboy dick up my butt.

“Uhh,— men don’t require as much foreplay as women, hoss.”  I laughed trying to sound hungry for him.

“Oh,— you wanna’ git right to it?  Fine with me, cowboy,— what ‘da I do?”

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t.  I had to consider my partner.  I smiled at him and retrieved my lubricant from the night stand.  I lubed his big cock liberally.   I lay back and brought my legs up to expose my ass to him, I swear he sucked in air when he caught sight of my hole.

“Insert stiff cowboy dick ‘A,’” I pointed to his cock, “into waiting  cowboy hole ‘B,’ and slowly but surely sink it like the Titanic.”  I smiled at him.  “I’m leaving the rest to your imagination.”  His eyes left my hole to look into my eyes.

“I’m pert-damn big, Casey,— I don’t wanna’ hurt chu’ none.”

“Trust me, cowboy, you won’t.”  I encouraged him.

“All right, I’ll do my best.”

“‘At’s all any man can ask, hoss.”

He put the head of his dick to my hole,  tested it’s tensile strength, and decided to push a bit harder.  My hole gave way, and he popped the head of his cock past my sphincter.  I took a deep breath, grabbed him by his butt cheeks and pulled him the rest of the way into me.  He fell forward and stopped himself with his hands on either side of me.  He leaned down and brushed his lips against mine.

“How’s ‘at feel, cowboy?”  I whispered to him.

“Like I entered the gates of heaven.  Ain’t never felt me some’um’s good as this.  How’s it feel to you, buddy?”

Bart was holding his cock all the way inside me like he was afraid to move least he lose the feeling he was experiencing.

“Like I’s got me a handsome cowboy inside me what jes’ saddled up his pony,  and’s about to take his-self a good ride.  Go on,— git comfortable in yore’ new saddle,— take yore’self a big, long stroke, cowboy.”  

I didn’t have to ask twice, and felt his big, ten inch cowboy dick pulled out to the head and sink back again into the depths of my ass.
“Oh, fuck, Casey that feels so damn good.”  he allowed.

“H’it’s gonna’ feel a lot better in a few minutes, honcho.  Now, I’ll shut up and let you take over the fuck’n.  Let’s see what chu’ got, stud.”  I smiled at him, pulled him on top of me, locked my feet around his lower back and pulled him in tight.

“I know I’m dumb, Casey, but I didn’t know two men could fuck like this,— face to face, I mean.  This feels so right.”

“Feels right to me, too, brother. Y’ain’t dumb, cowboy.  Ya’ just ain’t been around a lot and y’ain’t never had nobody to show you these things.  C’mon, git over that, we’re here to enjoy each other.  I’ll talk you through this, buddy. Let chore’self go,— don’t be worried,— y’ain’t gonna’ hurt me none.  Take yore’ new pony for a ride, cowboy.”

I didn’t have encourage him again.  He began to fuck me with long, slow, deep strokes.  He seemed to be really enjoying himself, but I got the feeling he was holding back.  Bart was very meticulous with his strokes so’s not to hurt me.  After a little while, he had me so loosened up I was ready to be fucked by a wild stallion.  While his long dicking was wonderful and about to drive me up the wall, I was hungry for a good, hard ride.  I wanted to get fucked!  I had to teach my cowboy how to ride a bronc.  I pulled his head close.  He stopped his stroke for a moment.

“You gonna’ ride ‘iss damn pony, cowboy, or are you gonna’ carry ‘em on yore’ back?”

He was quiet for a moment, then he burst out laughing.

“Damn you, Casey,— !” he laughed, but he got my message.

My cowboy brother kicked it into high gear like he’d spurred his pony hard in the flank to get him going.  The more he rode me the more I responded to him until our bodies were moving in the same rhythm.  It was like being on the back of Big Red in the moonlight riding across the prairie, looking back over my shoulder to see if the moon was chasing us.  He was feeling mighty fine.

“Awwh, damn, cowboy.  You’s doing me some good now.  Ride yore’ pony, cowboy.  ‘At’s it!  ‘At’s it!  Spur him hard in the flank!  Make him take you where you wanna’ go.  Slap some leather, cowboy!  Ride ‘at thing!  Ride yore’ cayuse down hard, buckaroo.  Oh,— oh, ‘at’s some good fuck’n right ‘tere, stud!  Oh, yeah,— take us home, cowboy.  Ride your good pony to the barn!”

I didn’t have to explain the metaphor to my rider.  He was putting the hammer down and taking what he needed.  He was taking what he’d been  needing for so long.  I could tell the way he let loose, something snapped within him, and he took me at my word.  He was going to ride me down hard for both of us.  I heard him breathing heavier, and I knew he was near climax.

“Don’t hold back none, stud, you cain’t fuck me too hard!  Give it to me, buckaroo!  Shoot your hot cowboy seed in my gut!  C’mon, I want it!  I need it!  You been want’n to spill yore’ load into me since you met me.  Now’s, yore’ chance to win the rodeo, cowboy.  Git it, stud! Git it good!”

Bart was slamming his dick into me strong and hard.  He was scoring a direct hit on my come button over and over.  I could feel it boiling up inside me.

“Cain’t hold it back no more, cowboy,” I told him, “I’s about to come out the chute.  Oh, God!  I’m coming!   Aaaaarrrggg!”

I shot and shot between us.  He continued his onslaught until he felt my ass trying to bite his dick off.  I knew the minute it happened,— it was such an awesome feeling for him,— he started to fill my butt with his cowboy cream.

“Oh, damn, Casey!  I’m coming!  I’m shoot’n my load in yore’ tight little ass, brother.  Awwwwhhh, damn!”

“Give it to me, bubba!  Gimme’ all of it!  Don’t cheat me none! Empty them big, bull balls a’ yores’ in ‘nair!”

He began to slow his assault on my ass, and I knew he emptied into me several times.   He slammed it into me one last time,  locked it there, and collapsed on top of me.  I locked my feet around his waist and pulled him into me as tight as I could.  We lay there, our bodies locked together in the blissful afterglow of climax.  It was wonderful.  Bart really came through like I always suspected he could.  He performed admirably for his first time out of the chute.  Hell, he won the damn rodeo as far as I was concerned.  I could tell he was pleased with himself.

“Thanks, Casey.  That was unbelievable.  I never imagined it could be that good.  The one time I,—” he trailed off like he thought better than to finish his sentence.  I didn’t asked.  I just figured he might not be a virgin to a man’s ass.

“T’was pert-damn good, cowboy.  You won the rodeo. You shore’ ‘nuff satisfied yore’ cowboy brother’s hole for a while.  You should be proud of yourself.”

We lay there for a while making a little love.  I urged him to take another stroke from time to time.  He would almost swoon from the goodness of our coupling.  We began to talk, he lost his erection and slipped out of my ass.  I took a towel he handed me, and gently cleaned his dick and my ass.

“Casey,— mind if I ask you something?”

“What’s ‘zat, cowboy?”

“Did you clean yore’self out down ‘nair?”

“Shore,’ I do ever’ time I’m gonna’ let a cowboy ride me. It’s cleaner and healthier for you, it’s safer for me, and h’it’s jes’ more respectful of your partner to come to him clean.”

Thanks, Casey.”

“Hey, I got just as much out of it as you did, honcho.  You noticed I didn’t have no problem shoot’n my gun.  You done good, cowboy,— I’m proud a’ you.”

We made more love and talked a bit more.  I feel asleep in his arms while he was holding me.  I don’t think he let go all night.

* * * * * * *

We cleaned up the next morning, dressed and went downstairs to help with breakfast.  Hank and Brent were already in the kitchen cooking.  Brent ran to his dad for a morning hug and a kiss, and then to me.

“You men rest well?”  Hank asked with a grin on his face.

“Pert-damn good, Dad.”  Bart looked at his dad and grinned.

“Better’n pert-damn good, Mr. Conners.”  I grinned and winked a him. Hank chuckled as he was breaking eggs into a big bowl.

We pitched in and breakfast was ready in no time. We joined hands around the small table and Bart asked Brent if he would like to say grace.

“Thank you, God, for everything you give us. Thank you for our food. Thank you for our family and especially letting Casey come visit us this weekend.  Bless us all,— and my pony Scratch, too.  Amen.”

We all echoed Brent’s ‘Amen.’  I tried hard not to laugh when we sat down.

“That was a nice prayer, Son.”  Bart told him seriously.

“Shore’ was, cowboy.  Cain’t remember hear’n me a better one.”

Brent beamed with pride.

We cleaned the kitchen and headed out to the barn to saddle four ponies.  Bart had two, well trained, roping ponies, and he let me take my pick.  They looked pretty well matched to me.

“Which one’s your favorite?” I asked him.

“They’s both about the same, but I usually pick the grey gelding.  He seems to work a little better for me.”

“Fine.  I’ll take, ‘Sally’, the buckskin.”  Hank looked at Bart and grinned.  I realized they hadn’t told me her name.  She told me she’d be happy to work with me, she’d heard a lot of good things about me.

We rode the trail by the side of the blacktop road.  It was a good way off the road so we didn’t have to worry about traffic.  There wasn’t too much traffic anyway; however, country folks know to slow down and give the right of way to anyone on horseback.  I was amazed with Brent.  He was riding just as fine as the rest of us.  He was going to make a fine horseman.  I could tell the way his pony carried himself he was concerned and looking out for the boy every step of the way.  Scratch was a fine, intelligent pony.

Hank and I were riding behind Bart and Brent.  They were talking.  We couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was an animated conversation. They were laughing a lot and enjoying each other.

“‘At’s good to see,— ain’t it, Son?”  Hank saw me looking at them.

“Damn good to see, Mr. Conners.”  I replied.  He looked at me and grinned mischievously,

“So,— how was my boy last night, Son?”  Hank grinned.

“Like I done told ju,’ Sir, better’n pert-damn good; especially, after I got him broke in.”

“Broke in?”

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Conners,— he’s being all gentle-like and worry’n about hurt’n me.   After a while, I asked him if he planned to ride ‘iis damn pony or was he gonna’ carry it on his back.   After that,— he hunkered down right nice-like,— decided he’d  do his-self some good, hard riding and win the rodeo.  Damned if he didn’t.”  I allowed.

I thought Hank was going to fall off his pony he laughed so hard.  Bart and Brent turned around to look at him.  He got himself together.

“That good,— huh, cowboy?”  Hank was still laughing shaking his head.

“He didn’t have no problem ride’n this old cayuse to the barn, Sir.  He was spur’n hard and slap’n leather like the top cowhand he is.”

Hank covered his mouth with the back of his hand so Bart and Brent wouldn’t hear him laughing.

“Thanks for that, Son.  You’re a piece a’ work, Casey.  God love ya,’ Son,— I know we do.”

We arrived at Nick Chamber’s ranch and lots of folks were already gathered.  We got down from our ponies at the front gate and walked them the rest of the way into the corral area.  A big, burley, fine looking cowboy lumbered towards us.  He was a bit smaller than Bart.  He was masculine and carried himself like an athlete, but he had fine features.   He looked jes’ a tad too pretty for a man.  That was just my opinion.  I assumed he was Nick Chambers.  I was right.

He shook hands with Mr. Conners and Bart.  He welcomed Brent, then Bart introduced me to him as his saddle partner and cowboy buddy from the Lazy 8.  Nick Chambers took one look at me, and I could feel instant dislike from him.  I didn’t have to be a mind reader to feel the man’s animosity toward me as he shook my hand.

“Good to meet you, Mr. Chambers.” I said in a well met tone of voice.

“Yeah,— good to meet you, too, Casey.”  he replied real quick, like his greeting was an afterthought of everything else he had on his mind.

In the West you call a man ‘Mister’ and by his last name until he gives you permission to be informal with him.  Even if you meet a man younger than you, it doesn’t give you the right to assume you can be informal with him.  To call a man by his first name the first time you meet him is inconsiderate and unmannerly.  It’s just plumb down right rude.  It’s part of the unwritten code of the West.  It certainly isn’t the cowboy way.

I didn’t say anything.  The cowboy way and code of conduct wouldn’t allow me to.  You don’t return rudeness for rudeness, nor do you bring any displeasure up you might feel about it; especially, to your host for the weekend.  I didn’t have to.  They picked up on it right away.  Nick Chamber’s slight didn’t go unnoticed by either Bart or Hank.  Even Brent, who was still learning the cowboy way from his dad and granddad, knew that rule by heart.

Nick turned his attention away from me as quick as he could and told Hank and Bart for them and their ‘guest’ to enjoy themselves.  There would be food later and drinks were available right now.  The roping was just getting underway and for us to get something to drink and head on over to the corral.  Bart and Hank thanked him, and we walked over to the drink station.  Hank got a light beer.  Bart, Brent and I got sodas.  We were walking over to the corral when Brent turned to me.

“That wasn’t very nice of Mr. Chambers, Casey.”

“Shuu,—” I quietly admonished him, “H’it’s all right.  I’m just a cowhand, Son,  I don’t own me no big, fine ranch like Mr. Chambers.”

Bart looked at me and grinned real big.  He didn’t know whether to fall on the ground laughing  or go spit in Nick Chamber’s face.

“Out of the mouths of babes,— ” commented Hank, “The boy’s right,— it was a pert-damn rude thing to do if’n you’s to ask me.  Brent’s daddy and me’s learned him that.  ‘At’s jes’ part of the cowboy way.  Nick Chambers knows it, too.  His daddy was a fine man and a good cowboy.  I know for a fact his daddy done learned him the cowboy code of conduct.

“You’re right, Dad.  I’m disappointed with Nick.  H’it ain’t like him.  Maybe he’s got some’um going on in his life, and he jes’ ain’t think’n right.  You told me he weren’t git’n along none too good with his wife, Evelyn.”

“He ain’t, but ‘tat don’t matter none!  H’it still don’t give him the right to be rude to a stranger,— especially our guest for the weekend and a man we love.”  Hank insisted, “I’s about ready to pack it in and ride back to the house.  You be rude to my guest, gotdamn it,— you be rude to me.  I done learned ju’ that, too, Son.”  Hank stated with a bit of anger in his voice.

“Brent and dad’s right, Casey, I feel the same damn way.”  Bart agreed, “Say the word and we’re out a’ here.”

“Gentlemen,— gentlemen,— thanks for your concern.   I’m including you in that, too, young man.” I looked Brent right in his eyes and addressed him, “Yore’ dad and granddaddy’s raising you to be a fine young man,— a gentleman cowboy.  I’m proud a’ you.” I turned my attention to all of them,  “It’s all right,— I ain’t upset.  I ain’t wounded none.  Let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt.  It was probably jes’ a momentary slip in judgement,— a one time thing.  Let’s us jes’ forgit it and have us a good time.”

“Yore’ a better man than me, Casey.”  said Hank shaking his head.

“No, I ain’t, Mr. Conners.  I’d have ta’ go me some to be as good a man as you.”  I patted Hank on the back, and he shook his head in disbelief at Nick’s actions.

We joined the folks at the corral.  It was a really nice rodeo arena with a small covered grandstand section on the sun side for the folks to sit in the shade to watch.  It even had an announcer’s box with a PA system.  Nick  hired an announcer for the day to tell folks who was who and the times they scored.  It came time for Bart and I to rope, and we rode over to the stocks to get into position.  The announcer spoke up.

“Our next ropers are two cowhands from the Lazy 8 ranch.  Our own local cowboy, Bart Conners and his partner Mr. Casey Longhorn.”  There was a chuckle went through the crowd at my name.  I didn’t care, I was use to it.  

“Casey and Waddie Claymore won first place in the roping even at the Fourth of July rodeo in Chapel Creek last year.  Casey also won first place in the calf roping event.” said the announcer.
There was some applause, and I tipped my hat to the crowd in acknowledgment.  I wondered where he got his information.  I found out later he was the regular announcer for the Chapel Creek rodeo.  It was his job to know about cowboys.

Bart and I got into position.  I told the ponies what I’d like them to do before we even got into position.  They promised they’d do their best.  The rope was dropped and Sally took off like cannonball.  Bart’s pony was right behind. We had the steer roped and pulled tight in no time.

“And that, Ladies and gentlemen, is the way it’s done.  Good run, gentlemen.”  the announcer congratulated us.  

The people were on their feet stomping, applauding and cheering for us. We tipped our hats to the announcer and the folks in the stand.  I knew it was a good run, but I didn’t realize just how good it was.  

“The time for Bart and Casey was seven point two seconds.  A new arena record.”

The crowd went crazy.  Bart and I tipped our hats to them again and rode out of the arena.  On our way I caught Nick Chambers out of the corner of my eye stomping away in disgust.  It suddenly dawned on me, for some reason, Nick Chambers was jealous.  Did he and Bart have a past?  Bart never said anything to me.  Was that what he was going to tell me last night but didn’t finish?

We made one more run and bested our first run by two seconds.  Nick and his partner roped, and while they were good, they were too slow.  Their times were in the eighteen to twenty-three seconds.  I could tell he was not pleased. He berated his partner loudly.  While I felt sorry for his partner, it wasn’t any of my business; however, it didn’t go unnoticed by the Conners family or the rest of the crowd.  We were having another drink, and I pulled Bart to one side away from Brent and Hank.

“Hey, pod’na,’— is there some’um I should know about Nick you ain’t telling me.  I ain’t never met the man before, and he’s acting like he hates me. That ain’t natch’rul.”

“I’m sorry, Casey,— I was gonna’ tell you last night, but I didn’t want you to think bad of me.  The summer of our senior year in high school Nick and I got drunk one night and drove his daddy’s pickup down to Windmill Creek. We got into the back, and I fucked him for hours.  He seemed to love it at the time,— like he couldn’t get enough.  It felt pert-damn good to me, too, so I kept on doing it until I shot, but I made damn sure Nick got his. The next morning, he said he was too drunk,  he couldn’t remember a thing from the night before. I didn’t want him think’n I’s queer,  so I told him I didn’t remember nothing neither.”

“I don’t think bad of you, hoss,— yore’ my brother, I love you, but guess what?”


“Nick Chambers lied.  He remembered that night and probably has for years.  I think he’s in love with you, brother, and he don’t know how to go about telling you.  He sees me as a threat.  He obviously can see we’re comfortable together.  Yore’ old man asked me this morning how you was in the sack.”

“He didn’t.”  Bart looked at me with a surprised expression.

“‘At’s what he was laughing about on the way over here.  I told him you was better’n pert-damn good after I told ju’ to stop being so gentle with me and ride me like a bronc with a burr under its saddle.”

Bart laughed. I laughed with him.

“How is it, you and I can laugh about it, have a good time, and Nick’s so damn uptight about it, he cain’t admit he enjoyed it with me?  Hell, even my old man can laugh about him and our neighbor.”

“‘Cause we love one another, cowboy; but be fair, it t’weren’t too long ago you couldn’t even talk about,— you know,— ”  I emphasized the ‘you know’ part to make my point and he laughed.

“You mean,— hide the little green snake?”  he said like a kid and chuckled.  I just smiled at him and nodded my head.

We got a bite to eat and went to join Hank and Brent at a picnic table when several cowboys came over to congratulate us on our winning times.  Nick was standing near and spoke so everyone could hear.

“Well,— what the hell ju’ ‘spect?  ‘At’s all they do ever’ damn day at the Lazy 8.”  with more than a little bit in his voice.

There was a deathly silence.  Hank pushed his food aside, took Brent by the hand and started walking toward the ponies.  As he passed Bart and me,  he said quietly without emotion,

“‘At’s it for me, gentlemen,— my grandson and I are leaving.”

“Yeah, Dad,” Brent spoke up angrily,  almost in tears,  “I’m with granddad,  I wanna’ go home.”  

“We’re right behind you men.  Casey, take our ponies and go with dad and Brent.  I’ll catch up with you directly.”

“Bart,— don’t do nothing rash,— remember, you live in this community, and underneath his fear and anger, Nick loves you.”

“I won’t, Casey.  It’s hard for me to believe he loves me after today, but in my heart, I know you’re right.  I’m jes’ gonna’ go pay my respects and thank him for the invite.”

I walked to the ponies with Hank and Brent.  Brent took my hand in one hand and his granddad’s in the other as a small show of solidarity.  We started to walk the ponies down the short road out of the property.  Everyone was watching.  You could feel the tension, embarrassment and empathy they felt for us.  Bart walked over to Nick and took his hand.

“Thanks for the invite, neighbor,— we had us a real good time, but we’s gotta’ be git’n on home now.”

“You leaving,— so soon,— why?  We’s jes’ git’n started.  We’s gonna’ have a country band play after while.  What I said a while ago,— I’s jes’ kidding, Bart,— you know that.”

“No you weren’t, you meant it.  You were rude to my guest and meanspirited about losing.  Anyway,— thanks again, Nick,— see ya’ around,— bye.”

Bart didn’t give Nick time for a comeback.  He spun on his boot heel and walked away.  He heard Nick behind him holler,

“I’m sorry, Bart,— don’t go,— c’mon back, brother.”

Bart jogged a little to catch up with his family.  He had tears in his eyes as  we mounted up at the gate.  I noticed several other folks were getting in their trucks and leaving.  We rode the rest of the way back to the farm in silence.  Bart was crushed.  Hank was madder than an old mother hen who had her chicks threatened, and Brent was so concerned for me, he kept fighting back the tears.  Nothing was said about it.  We rubbed the ponies down and put them away.  We were walking back to the house when I had a great thought.

“How far’s ‘zat fish’n hole ya’ll been tell’n me about?”  Hank and Brent brightened right up.

“Yonder,— ‘bout a hoot and a’ holler down ‘nat dirt road ‘der apiece.”  Hank said.

“We gonna’ let this ruin our day?  I come here to be with folks I love, relax and have a good time.  Let’s us men go wet us a hook.  I ain’t fished in a long time.  I love catfish.”

“So do we, Son,— ‘at’s a great idea,— I’m in.”  said Hank

“Me, too, Casey.  Grampa and me,— we love to go fish’n.” said my little buckaroo buddy.

“Best idea anyone’s had around here today, brother,— let’s get the gear and mosey our butts on down to the crick.”

It amazes me how folks can, sometime, turn a bad day around to become a great day.  We had a wonderful time fishing.  We walked down to the creek, and it was beautiful.  I told Bart, Hank, and Brent I’d rather be there than anywhere else.  They agreed with me.  We had a great afternoon, and I got to talk with, and come to know Hank Conners better.  He brought along his ubiquitous little silver flask of Comfort and passed it around the grownups.  I guess that included me.  I don’t think of myself as an adult sometimes.  I’m still very much in tune with the little boy inside me, and he was loving this day.  His big daddy, the cowboy, even let him have a taste of Comfort.

Brent was fishing a little way away from us.  As I was talking to Hank and Bart,  they told me the story of the first time they took Brent fishing and how he cheated catching the fish.  I thought I was going bust a gut laughing.  Only a kid would think to talk a fish into biting a hook.  Hank was convinced Brent was playing fair now and not using his gift.

“Can you really contact him anytime you want, Casey?”  Hank asked.

“Yes, Sir.  I’ll touch him and tell him to holler if’n he can hear me.”

I sent out a feeler and touched Brent.  He heard me knocking and let me in.   

<< Hey, little brother,— yell out loud if you can hear me. >>

“I can hear you fine, Casey.”

Hank and Bart laughed.

“Excuse me for a second, I’m gonna’ talk with him for a minute.”  I spoke to Hank and Bart.

<< Hear’d about chu’ talk’n to them fish and not playing fair.  Yore’ granddaddy’s right, but jes’ between us, I think it’s funny.  It would never occur to me to do some’um like ‘at.  How do you do it? >>

Brent explained the way he did it and told me it was simple.  Did I want him to show me?

<< That would be disobeying your granddad, Son, and I won’t be a party to that. >>

<< He never said nothing about me talk’n one into bitting his hook, Casey. >>  he giggled mischievously. << He ain’t never said I couldn’t show you how I done it, neither. >>

I fell out laughing. Bart and Hank didn’t have a clue, but they could see a big smile on Brent’s face.

<< Okay,— but jes’ once.  Our secret,— huh, cowboy? >>

<< Our secret, Casey. >>

Brent took me in his mind to the bottom of the creek. It was cool, deep and dark, but I could feel things moving around.  Then I sensed Brent feeling for whiskers.  He found some whiskers that were attached to a big catfish.  I felt him put the thought of some stinky food in the big fishes mind and pulled him along with his mind like the big cat was on a string to his granddad’s baited hook.  Sure enough, the catfish struck Hank’s line so hard it almost pulled Hank’s pole out of his hands.  I could hear Brent giggling in his mind.  He broke it off with me to holler to his granddad.

“Don’t lose him, Grampa!  Dad,— get the net!  Look, Dad!  Look, Casey! Look at his pole,— look how it’s bending.  H’it might be that cat I caught, Grampa.”

It wasn’t,— this one was bigger.  Hank was using all his considerable skill to tire the big fish.  He’d let him run and then turn him to run the other way.  Finally, he was able to bring the fish to the surface, and Bart slipped the net under him.  It was huge.  Biggest damn catfish I ever saw.  It would easily feed four to six people.  As it was we caught a couple of other good size catfish that day.  I think Hank was so thrilled to catch the big fish he never stopped to consider his grandson might talk one onto his line.  The kid was not only gifted and bright,  he was clever.

We were in a great mood as we walked along and talked.  We got back and started dinner.  Bart and I cleaned and skinned the catfish.  We had more than we could possibly eat for dinner so Hank decided to freeze what we didn’t cook.  We were busy wrapping the fish and putting it away.  Hank and Brent were cooking.  Suddenly, we heard the horn of a car or truck.  Bart went to the door and hollered back to us.

“Oh, fuck,— it’s Nick and he’s drunker than a lord.  Ya’ll stay in the house I’ll take care of this.  I might have to drive him home.”

Bart walked out to Nick’s truck.  Nick was in tears.  He looked like he’d been crying for some time.

“I had to come over and apologize, Bart.”

“You left your guest?  You left your barbecue?”  Bard demanded.

“Fuck my guest!  Fuck the damn barbecue!  I done my brother wrong, and I had to come apologize.  But, ‘tat ain’t all.   I’s offer’n prize money for first three places so’s we could git us some good competition.  Well,— we did,— we got us the best.  You and yore’ buddy won first place.”  Nick pulled a cashiers check out of his shirt pocket with Bart’s name written on it, “Here’s your winnings,— five hunnert bucks.”

“I don’t want chore’ prize money, Nick.  ‘At ain’t why I come to your place.  Nobody told me nothing about no prize money.  You didn’t say anything.  I came because I wanted to introduce a man to you what means a lot to me.  You was my best buddy, I wanted you to meet him.”  

Nick threw his arms around Bart and kissed him on the cheek.  He smelled like stale cigarettes and booze.  Bart didn’t hug him back.

“Don’t be that way, Bart.  Hell,— you and yore’ buddy won.  Take it,— please!  I’m sorry, Bart.  I’m so fuck’n sorry, I hurt inside, brother.  What I done was wrong.  It was a damn rotten thing to do.  The worst thing is, I knew it when I done it.  I knew it was wrong, Bart.  Please forgive me.  Take the money.”  he cried and stuffed the check into Bart’s shirt pocket. “You’re the only person in my life, other than my boys, I give a shit about, and I done went and fucked it up.  I saw you with that good looking cowboy, and I got to think’n you’s replace’n me with him in yore’ life.  It jes’ made me go crazy, Bart.  Ain’t no other word for it,— I guess I’s just jealous and envious, and ‘at ain’t no way to be.  Ain’t no excuse for it, neither.  I’m so sorry!  I love you so gotdamn much, Bart.”

“Casey’s my cowboy brother, Nick.  He’s the man I done told ju’ about what offered me and Brent a ride on his company’s private jet to San Diego when we couldn’t git no ride for any amount of money.  Him and his family stood by Brent and me when we needed him.  He got me a job on the Lazy 8.  He cowboys with me ever’ damn day.  He’s a good man what don’t ask for nothing for lending a help’n hand to his cowboy brother.  Casey’s a cowboy jes’ like I am, but he’s also a gentleman.  He’s humble and a damn fine cowboy.  We done whupped the pants off’n you and all them other cowboys at chore’ rodeo.  So, I’ll take your check and give him half.”

“‘Ass fine.  ‘Ass cool.  I love you, Bart.  I always have.  I ain’t got me no more false, bullshit, macho pride left to keep me from tell’n you neither.  I’m sorry I hadda’ git drunk and hurt chu’ to finally spill my fuck’n guts and tell you I love you.”

So,— tell me, Nick,— you so drunk you gonna’ forgit tomorrow you done told me you love me,— jes’ like you forgot the next morning after the night I made love to you in the bed of yore’ old man’s truck?”

“Oh, God,— you do remember.  I lied, Bart.  I didn’t forget.  I’s afraid you’d think I’s queer.  I fuck’n loved ju’ fuck’n me, brother!  Ain’t never felt me nothing so good since.  I won’t forgit tomorrow what I told ju.’ I jes’ don’t care no more, Bart.  I fell in love with you that night, and I ain’t never stopped loving you since.  I only got married ‘cause you done went and got married.  I didn’t think you could ever love me the way I love you.”

“Well,— you jes’ might a’ been wrong, bubba.  Look,— I forgive you, Nick.  Thanks for the check.  I’ll call you the next time I’m home and we can get away and talk. Right now, we’s fixing dinner, and I have a guest.  I ain’t got time to hash this out with you right now.  You wanna’ talk with me when you’re sober, ‘at’s fine.  Now, go on home to your guest and your barbecue. You want me to drive you home?”

“Naw, Hi’s okay.” he hiccuped, “H’it ain’t ‘tat far.  Hell, I can take it out a’ gear and coast ‘at far.”

“I don’t want you to wreck your truck.  Leave it here and walk home.  Either give me the keys, and I’ll bring it over in the morning or you come back and pick it up.”

“I’m okay.  You forgive me, Bart?”

“I forgive you.  I weren’t mad or nothing, but I was disappointed with you.  You’re a better man’n ‘nat, Nick Chambers.  I’ve know’d  ju’ all my life, and I ain’t never know’d ju’ to be rude or hateful to another man.  Yore’ daddy would roll over in his fuck’n grave if’n he knew the way you treated my family and my friend.”

“I know,— I know,— he’d take his strop to me, for sure, and I deserve it.  Tell me you still love me, Bart.”

“Why?  I ain’t never stopped loving you, Nick.”  

Nick smiled through his tears.

“‘Ass good to hear, brother,— ‘ass good to hear.  I’ll go on home now.”

“Drive safe, Nick.”

“I will,— I promise.”

Nick turned his truck around and drove away.  Bart walked out to the edge of the road to see if he made it home okay.  He did.  Bart didn’t start to return until he saw Nick get out of his truck.  He slowly walked back to the house with his head hung down looking at his boots as he walked.  He was stunned by what Nick told him.  Casey was right.  Nick didn’t forget about that night.  Bart felt like he wanted to cry.  He didn’t know why.  He reached the steps to the porch, turned and looked back down the road he just walked up.  He shook his head in disbelief, walked up the steps and into the house.

He went into the kitchen.  Casey was chopping up pickles to make tartar sauce for the catfish.  The smell of the fish cooking was intoxicating and he suddenly realized how hungry he was.  He left his food sitting on the table at Nicks.  He went to his dad put his arms around him and wept.  Casey, quickly moved to the stove, took the spatula from Hank’s hand and continued frying the fish. Hank didn’t say anything, he just let his son get it out.

Brent came over to his dad and put his little arms around his waist.  Bart reached down and caressed him gently.  He slowly got himself together, came to me, put his arms around me from behind and gently kissed me on the neck.

“Hey, cowboy,— don’t do that less’n you love me.”

He laughed and kissed me three more times in a row.

“I do love you, wise-ass.  I appreciate you being here and hope all this ain’t put’n no damper on your weekend.”

“Not a bit.  You don’t let it bother you none, and it won’t bother me, I promise.  As far as a damper on the weekend is concerned,— ain’t had me no better time in a long while.  Hell, this place it as close as I can git to being home.”  I winked at him.  He understood my analogy.

The repressed love Bart harbored for Nick all these years had finally been declared.  He resolved it in his own mind long ago when he gave up the idea and decided to have a family.  Now, it was like the scab was ripped from the wound and it lay open and bleeding.  I knew Bart was terribly mixed-up and confused at the moment, but I had a feeling things were going to work out.  In a way, Nick’s declaration may have opened other doors for Bart he didn’t considered.   Did I feel threatened?  Not in the least.  I knew my place in Bart’s heart was secure no matter the outcome.

Our supper was wonderful.  I told them I didn’t know whether it was how fresh the catfish was, or whether it was Hank’s cooking, but I never tasted any better.  He really got a good scald on it. While I never missed catfish when Will cooked it, this had an edge on his.  I ate a bait of it, it was so good.  They laughed at me as I took my third piece from the platter.  My tartar sauce made a big hit, especially with Brent.  It was another wonderful evening.

We all pitched in and cleaned up the kitchen.  I washed and Bart and Brent dried.  We made Hank sit and talk with us.  While we were cleaning up, Bart asked if I wanted to watch T.V. or drive into Chapel Creek for a movie.

“Naw,— I wanna’ do exactly the same thing we done last evening.  I jes’ wanna’ sit on the front stoop with the folks I love and watch the sun go down.”

“Ah, Casey,— ye be a man after me own heart, ye’ are.”  said Hank in and Irish brogue.   I laughed at him. “I suspected ye had a wee bit of the romantic in ya,’ Lad.”  he added.

“Are you from Irish stock, Mr. Conners?”

“Eye, laddie buck,— that we are.  Why do ye’ think I carry a wee drop of the dew in me pocket?”  he asked rhetorically.  We all broke up laughing at him.  

So,— that’s what we did.  Once again, for the first hour or so, Brent wedged himself between his dad and me.  We talked and Hank asked Bart what Nick wanted.

“Aww, he jes’ said he felt really bad about what he done and said he’s sorry.  He wanted to apologize directly to Casey, but I done told him an apology to me would be enough.   I told him what you said, Dad,— if you’re rude to my guest,  you’re rude to me.  He seemed to accept that.  He told me he loved me and didn’t wanna’ lose my friendship.  He told me he and Evelyn may be headed for divorce.  He knows if she leaves him she’ll take his boys away from him.  I guess it’s eat’n him up.

He said a couple other things about him remember’n a certain incident he done claimed he forgot about.  I told him I didn’t forgit about it, I remembered.  He told me he loved me like a brother, and I asked him if he was gonna’ forgit tell’n me that tomorrow when he sobers up.  He assured me he wouldn’t.  We’ll see.  I ain’t gonna’ hold my breath none.  ‘At’s so much water under the bridge.”

Hank and I knew what Bart was talking about without going into details for Brent’s sake.  A little later Brent went to the kitchen with Hank to help bring us some more ice cream.  This time it was fresh peach.  It was so damn good when Bart asked for seconds, so did I.  I complimented Hank and told him it was damn good.  He and Brent made two freezers full, one vanilla and one peach, a couple of days before we arrived.

“Yeah, after h’it started to freeze, it got pert-damn hard to turn the handle.  I put some towels over the top and had Brent sit on it to hold it down while I cranked.”  Hank smile.

“I shore’ hope you and dad enjoy yore’ ice cream, Casey,” Brent stated, “h’it done liked ta’ froze my dang butt off!”  Brent exclaimed while rubbing his little behind. Bart and I had a good laugh.

While they were in the house Bart and I talked.

“You been think’n on Nick a lot, brother?”

“Not really,— I’m too content sit’n here with you and ma’family sharing a wonderful evening.  I been think’n more on whether I might get lucky again this evening.”

“After winning last night’s rodeo,— I’d say yore’ chances are pert-damn good, cowboy.”  we shared a laugh.

“I apologize for this morning, Casey.  Dad and I both were embarrassed and hurt about what Nick done.”

“No apology necessary, Bart.  T’weren’t your fault.  Nick jes’ felt threatened by me, s’all.  When two men are comfortable with each other, some folks notice.  Nick noticed because of his repressed affection for you.  I don’t think Nick counted on us winning his little rope’n competition.”

“You’re right.  I guess it did sort a’ git his goat.” we laughed, “Part a’ why he come over is this.”  Bart pulled the check out of his pocket.  “He was offer’n prize money of five hunnert dollars for first place.  At first I didn’t wanna’ take his damn money, then I got to think’n about you and it wouldn’t be right to cheat chu’ none because of my anger.  So when he stuffed it in my pocket, I didn’t try to give it back to him.  I’ll write chu’ a check for half, tomorrow.”

“Why don’t you keep it.  I got me enough money right now.  Brent might need some extra things for school.  I’m sure it might come in handy.”

“Naw,— now, we’s a team.  I gits half and you gits half.  ‘At’s the way h’it’s gonna’ be.”

“Well,— I’ll take your check, but I won’t cash it.  Please, Bart, take it for my little buckaroo buddy.  When you buy him some clothes or whatever he needs for school, tell him his cowboy brother helped.”

“You sure, Casey?”

“I’m sure, brother.  I love you and Brent.  I’d be a damn liar, if’n I was to say I didn’t love your old man, too.  He’s special.”

“Thanks, Casey.  I’m amazed  how far away this morning seems to me.  We done come home, dusted ourselves off, and had us the most wonderful day I can remember.  I was really content to jes’ be with you, dad and ma’boy.  I didn’t even allow myself to think on Nick all afternoon until he done drove up and honked his horn.”

“H’it was a good day, brother.  Look at that sunset. It has to be purttier than the one last night.  Think that’s God’s way a’ tell’n us, ever’ thing’s gonna’ be all right?”

“It has to be, Casey.  Why else would He give us some’um that beautiful at the close of day?  It’s almost like He’s giving His approval and done wrapped it up in a purttie package with a colorful bow on top.”

“And your old man calls me a romantic.”  I said drolly. Bart laughed as I put my arms around his waist and squeezed him.

After we ate our ice cream it wasn’t long before Brent crawled up into his granddad’s lap and promptly went to sleep.  Bart took him in and put him to bed in his dad’s room.

“Do things like what happened today happen to you a lot, Son?”

“Ain’t never really thunk on it, Mr. Conners.  Now that you mention it,— I guess they do.”

“I ain’t surprised.” he said softly, “If’n things happen to you a lot, you jes’ git used to ‘um.  You don’t think on ‘um much.  I remember Bart tell’n me the story about you saving your granddad’s life, and I marveled at your quick think’n.”

“T’weren’t really me what saved him, Mr. Conners.  H’it was my Uncle Ocie and two wonderful ponies what save the both of us.”

“That’s the way you are, Son.  You’re a modest man.  ‘At’s what make folks love you so much.”

“Thanks, Mr. Conners.  I appreciate that.”

Bart returned and we continued our conversation.  I told Bart what his dad and I talked about; how stuff always seems to be happening to me.  I told them about my Cousin Rance’s boy, my Cousin Dwayne, and what happened between him with his step-dad.  I told them how my little brother and I join forces with a community of good men, including my dad, Sticker Wiggins and Sidney Wainright.

They were both squirming on the porch from the discomfort of my words when I told them what the Colonel did to Dwayne and how he planned to sell my brother into slavery.   Hank almost couldn’t believe what I was telling them.  I told them I had a DVD upstairs in my bag to prove every word I said.”

“Then, that explains the giant, black military man in your family.” Bart said.

“Yeah,— and it was Lamar who went into action and got his commandant to get the Army to send a helicopter to pickup my granddad and our ranch pony we all love.  See, Mr. Conners,— if’n it weren’t for my brother Lamar, my granddaddy wouldn’t be alive today.”  I smiled at him. He just look at me with a grin and shook his head.

“What are your plans at the ranch, Son?”

I heard a voice in my head I’d never heard before.  It told me to tell Bart the rest of what he didn’t know about me.  I protested, but it told me he could handle it.  He was stronger than I gave him credit for being.

“I don’t really have no plans, Mr. Conners, other than work’n as a cowboy for the next couple of years,— maybe three.  I love the life, but I would like to see it improved for the cowboys.  I think if’n they was to change a few things they’d have a better chance of hold’n on to their best cowhands.”

“Bart said you held some stock in the company,— is ‘zat right?”

“Yes, Sir.  Remember what you done said about modesty?” I asked Hank.

“Yeah,— I done told the same to Bart about chu.’  Lemme’ guess, you have a greater interest in the ranch than you been let’n on.”

“Yes, Sir.  I didn’t lie to Bart, Mr. Conners.  I jes’ left out some.  I guess now’s as good as any to come clean with you and my brother; at least, that’s what a small voice in my head jes’ told me a minute ago.” I laughed, Bart was looking at me like what the hell is he gonna’ tell me now, “I’m a partner in the company.  I hold one third of the stock.”

Bart jumped up ran down the steps, turned around and looked back up at me.  I thought he’d gone mad.  Then, he slapped his knee a fell out laughing and pointed his finger at me.  Hank laughed, too, and shook his head.

“You tell’n me,— my saddle partner,— my cowboy buddy,— my brother,— owns a third of the Lazy 8?”

“E’aup,— ‘at’s what I’s tell’n you.”

Bart came back to the stoop, sat down and shook his head.

“It’s hard for me to believe, but it all makes sense; the private jet, what Mr. Wainright told me when I asked if your recommendation might git me a job and everyone laughed; Sticker Wiggins talk’n with you a lot at the roundup, and you and Mr. Wainright’s son being brothers.  It all adds up.”

“Y’ain’t mad or nothing, are you, Bart?”

“Ah, hell, no.  I’s jes’ happy for you.  I jes’ don’t want you think’n I’m your buddy because of what you got, s’all.”

“I don’t think ‘at’s fair to Casey, Son.  The man loves you.  You cain’t hide some’um like ‘at.  I see it in the way he looks at you sometime.”  Hank came to my rescue. “He was jes’ being modest, not because he didn’t want you to know, he jes’ didn’t want you think’n he’s bragging or putting on airs.  It’s the cowboy way, Son.  Am I right, Casey?”

“Couldn’t a said it better myself, Mr. Conners.”

Bart dropped his big arm around my shoulder and pulled me close.

“Who all knows about this at the ranch?”  he asked me.

“Jes’ you, my granddad, and Will.  Little Gip, Waddie Buck, Vince and Seth knew about it, but they’d never say nothing.  The sheriff, Bubba and my Uncle Ocie knows.  That’s about it. Sticker didn’t even know about it until I told Will he could tell him at the fall roundup.”

I went on to tell them about me and my brothers’ secret corporation; how, Sid’s personal assistant, Kevin, figured it out.

“You mean the name ‘Hensly Agrocon’ spells out ‘Casey Longhorn.’”

“‘At’s right, brother.”  Bart shook his head.

“I don’t care if’n you is a rich cowboy, I still love you.”  he grinned.

“Cain’t say’s it don’t make me love you jes’ a bit more myself.” said Hank laughing his ass off.  We all laughed.

* * * * * * *

Hank said goodnight and went in to go to bed.  Bart and I sat there for a while longer.

“Is there anything else to learn about chu,’ pod’na.’?”  Bart asked.

“Well,— since I done told you that, I might as well tell you the rest.”

“Oh, Lord,— I’m glad I’m sit’n down.”  he laughed.

“What I’m about to tell you has to remain between us,— at least for a while.  I don’t even want my granddad to know, and you’ll understand why when I tell you.”

“Okay,— I agree to that.  I won’t even tell my dad.”

“I don’t care if you share it with yore’ dad.  He ain’t around them folks that much.  ‘Sides ‘zat, Hank ain’t the kind a’ man what goes around tell’n other folk’s business.”

“You’re right about that.  My dad would take a secret to his grave.”

“Sidney Wainright and Sticker have asked me to take over management of the Lazy 8.”

Bart whistled long and low.  I held up my hand for Bart to let me finish.

“I turned ‘um down.”

“You what?  You turned ‘um down?”

“Wait a’ minute!”  I interrupted him, “I told ‘um I weren’t ready for that kind of responsibility right now.  I explained how I had to grow up fast when my mom died to help take care of my dad.  I always felt like I missed something growing up, because I had to be more mature and think about other folk’s needs other than my own.   Now,— I’ve been away from home almost a year,  I begin to see things in a different light.  Waddie Claymore helped me understand some things.

I love what I’m doing right now.  I loved jes’ being a cowboy with little or no responsibilities other than doing a good job.  I love the men I work with and git to work for my granddad.  How great is ‘zat?  I have a sense of family with you and my cowboy brothers.  It’s my chance to reclaim a portion of my youth I never had.  I told ‘um I wanted to be nothing more’n a cowboy for another couple of years,— maybe three.

I plan to go home for a couple of weeks during Christmas and the summer to be with my dad.  As you know,  I’m leaving right after the Fourth of July to fly back to California for two weeks.  They came back with a counter offer.  They want me to be a voting member of the board for the company and submit proposal of ideas I might have to make things better, run more smoothly, and ultimately make better profits.”

“So,— they’s gonna’ let chu’ continue being a cowboy and sort a’ making suggestion as a silent partner.

“More or less.  I wanted you to know so’s there ain’t no secrets between us.”

“I can handle it, Casey,— s’long as I know I’m gonna’ have my saddle buddy around for a while; hell, I can handle anything.  I can understand why you might not wont chore’ granddaddy to know.  It jes’ dawned on me, yore’ granddad works for you.”

“E’aup.”  I replied.

“How’s he handling it?”

“Well,— he don’t know about the last part I told ju.’  I think he handles the idea of me owning a third of the company pretty well; however,— why do you think I call him Mr. Langtry like all the other cowboys?”

“You recognize him as boss while you’re working for him.”

“‘At’s right.  I never call him ‘granddad’ or ‘grampa’ while we’re working. I show him the proper respect he’s due in his position.  I call him ‘grampa’ in private, but that’s different.  I was worried about telling him at first. After I helped save his life, and he found out I’m his grandson, I think it was easier for him to accept.  I hope I’m a good enough cowhand he wouldn’t have to worry none about it.”

“Hell,— you’re one a’ the best they got.  Well,— second best next to me, that is.”  Bart laughed.

“Cain’t gainsay that, pod’na.  You be the best.  You shore’ ‘nuff  know how to ride a wild bronc.  You done won my rodeo, cowboy.” I grinned at him.

“Last nights ride was pert-damn good,— weren’t it?  Do I git a re-ride tonight?”

“Yore’ bronc’s in the chute wait’n for ya,’ cowboy.”

“Let’s us mount up and ride, hoss.”  said Bart.

End of Chapter 45 ~ Texas Longhorns
Copyright 2005 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com