When my day turned into a country song.

All these things happened last Thursday.  The first part happened to me, the rest happened to my coworkers..

 

Stranded by the side of the road

No luck with repairs

Shut the hood, a long walk awaits

No phone service here

Pull up along side

Told him not to give up hope

It’s an easy tow into town

As I pull out a rope

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

But give a stranger a chance

Be rewarded in faith

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Ground’s washed out at the river’s bank

A victim of summer’s rain

Not to worry, a little bit of work

And he’ll bring it back again

Drive the tractor up to the edge

Watch a heron fly

Hit the gas instead of the brake

Think that he’s gonna die

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Hit reverse in a panic

Keep backing up till you feel safe

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Cleaning up around the bend

Picking up debris

The boy sees large weathered log

Must’ve been a strange looking tree

Imagine his surprise

Reaching out for the branch

Came a whip from a tail

Followed by a violent splash

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Keep focus on what you’re doing

Don’t become gator bait

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Back in the saddle

A man lay down in a bed of earth. His body was covered in a dingy batter of dirt and sweat.  The summer heat of the sun slowly baked the batter to a dry crisp.

Away from him, a horse wandered around, rooting with its nose as it searched for a thatch of grass to munch on.

There was no thought in the man’s head. Just the shallow rising and falling of his chest.  Up, down.  Up, down. In and out. Breathe.

He groaned softly as he lifted his arm to block the sun from his face.

Sore.

An easy move made hard by the crash of the fall.

Cursing silently, he cajoled himself to sit up.

“Is it worth it?” He asked as he looked at the horse.  “Does it really matter?”

His back stiffened in protest as he shifted to his knees. The man slowly turned his head to see if there are any witnesses to his fall.  There was no one around.  Only the three rail fence separating him and the horse from the open fields. Past that, open prairie expanding into the horizon.  No one was there to impress; no one to disappoint. There was nothing to prove. The man exhales slowly.

The horse’s nicked as the man stood up. Every bone and muscle protested against him. He stretched to protest back.

Sighing at the thought, the man groaned as he bent to pick up his hat. Limping as he walked, he made his way to the horse. The horses ears twitched as she shifted away from him.

“Easy.” He soothed. “Let’s take this slow.”

The man slid his boot in the stirrup and climbed back into the saddle.

Daniel’s Lion – Part Three

The trail wasn’t hard to find.  If anything, the climb back up the hill caused more effort; at least physically.  Daniel stared at the gaping hole of broken branches and flattened earth before him.  It was if a road to hell had been paved specifically just for him and that certain death waited at its end.  Shivering in the cold rain, Daniel hesitated.  A flash of light, followed closely by the clap of thunder, forced his decision.  Daniel hurried into the false shelter of the forest canopy.

“What are you doing?”  A voice whispered inside his head.

Daniel ignored it as he trudged his way forward.

“It’s just the mail.”  The voice continued.

“It’s my job.”  Daniel said aloud.

“Your job?”  Taunted the voice inside.  “You saw the telegraph poles being installed along the trail.  Your job won’t be here for long.  Maybe six months, if that.”

Daniel’s foot slipped on a loose rock.

“Damn it!”  He cursed aloud.

“Why go on?”  The voice continued.  “There’s nothing there.  You know the bear ate all the mail.”

“No I don’t.”  Daniel argued.  “It’s my responsibility.”

The branches grew lower as the path broke left and up the hillside.  Soft muddy soil slowly gave way to hard rocky ground.

The voice seemed to grow louder.  “Your responsibility?  You’re supposed to deliver the mail, not die for it.”

“There are important documents in there.”  Daniel thought.

“Sure there are.”  Said the voice.  “Love letters from politicians to their mistresses no doubt.”

Daniel grabbed a broken sapling trunk for support as he climbed higher.  “No.   There are contracts, payments, and deeds that need to be delivered.  People’s homesteads are at stake.”

Lightning flashed to reveal a cave roughly fifty yards away.  The drag trail of the horse’s body led right to it.  Daniel stood there and stared at the inky black abyss.

“Looks like you’re about to find out.”  The voice teased.

Daniel’s Lion – Part 2

Lightning lit up the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder.  Daniel’s steed bucked in response.

“Easy!  Easy.”  Daniel soothed, trying to calm the beast.  “Just some noise.  Ain’t nothin’ to be scared of.”

Steady streams of water flowed down the muddy hillside in miniature rivers as they struggled against the flow.  A second flash lit up the sky.

“Oh yeah.  We are right in the heart of it!”

Thunder roared so closely that the ground shook.  Daniel flew through the air as he felt the horse buck him off.

“God damn it!”  He yelled picking himself out of the muddy trail.

A piercing cry grabbed his attention.  Daniel’s eyes mirrored the horror of his horses as his mind relayed the true event.

His horse cried out again in a mix of pain and primal fear as it was dragged violently on its side.

“No!”  Daniel screamed while yanking his Colt from its holster; firing three shots in rapid succession.

A roar from behind the horse echoed the roar of the shots as a large paw clawed across Daniel’s shoulder and chest.  The force of the impact knocked him down the hill.

Daniel lay against the trunk of a large Pine, clutching at his shoulder as he heard his horses last muffled cry off in the distance.  The pain held him hostage and he sat there as the rain pelted him mercilessly.  Slowly, his mind and body reconnected.  The feeling of hot lava ran down his shoulder as his blood mixed with the mud on the ground.  Daniel’s good arm shook rapidly as he assessed the damage.

Five cuts dug deep into his shoulder, scraped his collar bone before continuing their journey diagonally across his chest fading to an end just above his belly.

With shallow breaths, Daniel struggled to take off the scraps of cloth that was his coat and shirt.  Useless and heavy, he let the coat fall to the ground.  His hand shook rapidly as unbuttoned the few buttons on his shirt.  He screamed in agony as his body twisted while trying to take off the shirt.  Failing at the effort, Daniel took out his knife and tore at the fabric until his injuries were free and exposed.  Using his knees and teeth, he cut the fabric into smaller pieces and let the rain wash over them.  He then bound his wounds as best as he could before trussing his left arm up with a mix of ticks and cloth. Daniel cried out again as he slid his arm into the sling.  Sweating from the effort, he paused for a moment then struggled to his feet on wobbly legs.  Slowly Daniel made his way back to where he last saw his horse.  Nothing was left but a large mark where the bear had dragged the body away.  Daniel walked around the area, looking at the muddy ground.  After what seemed an eternity, he stopped near a large puddle.  He dug his hand into the soft mud and pulled out his revolver.  Wet and filthy, he pulled the hammer back until he heard two clicks.  Spinning the cylinder, he counted the primer caps.  One.  Two. Three.  Three rounds were left.  His reloading powder was gone and the powder in the gun was questionable at best.  Silently, Daniel set the gun back into its holster.

There was nothing for it.  Daniel looked up at the sky and with a deep breath; he started his walk down the drag.  He had to find his horse, or what was left of it.

Daydreams of: The Duel

“I’m callin’ you out.”  The stranger said, his voice full of gravel.

Travis’ eyes widened with fear.  “But it’s not my fault.  I never said anything…”

“Don’t matter who said it.”  The stranger coldly stated.   “All that matters is that people believe it.  Now I gotta fix it.  That means fixing you!”

Cotton filled Travis’ mouth as sweat clamed upon his palms.  His mind raced back to the Headline in the paper two months ago.

Travis Morgan judged the quickest gun in the west!

Travis Morgan beat out twenty five competitors in the annual fast draw competition held in dry bean county.  Travis won five different timed shootouts against the best the west had to offer…..

“Can you believe this?”  Travis called to his friend, Antonio.  “It had to be Travis Monteque that entered and won that contest.  Not me.  I wasn’t even in the county when that happened.”

Antonio held an expression of amusement as he read the paper for himself.  “Si.  But maybe you are making that story up.  Maybe you were at the contest instead of branding cattle with the rest of us.”

Travis was not amused by the joke.  “Yeah, and maybe I’m the President too!”

“People will believe it if it’s in the paper.”  Antonio teased as he handed back the paper.

Travis grabbed it and immediately crumpled it into a ball.  “Damn thing ain’t even good for toilet paper.”

Antonio patted Travis’ on the shoulder reassuringly.  “I would not worry about it too much, Amigo.  We live in a small town and it’s just a small town newspaper.  Nobody will take it seriously.”

Travis kicked up a small ball of dust with his boot.  “I hope you’re right.”

The next morning did little to ease Travis’ mood.

“Ye Haw!  Lookie there!”  Cried out one of Travis’ co-workers.  “If it ain’t Quick-draw Travis six gun himself!”

“Put a cork in it Abe.”  Travis replied dourly.

“You better listen to the man.” Another man warned.  “Ol’ Six-gun there will shoot you quicker than you can blink!”

The crew laughed heartily as Travis hiked to the barn.  “Where the hell’s the coffee.”

The teasing continued through the day when a boy with his mother passed by.  The child, curious at the men working stopped and moved closer to the corral.  Mesmerized, the child couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.

“Are you really a gunslinger?”  The child yelled to the men.

The men chortled as Travis swore under his breath.

Ape stood straight and exclaimed, “Why yes he is!  This here is Six-gun Travis.  The fastest gun in the west!”

“He don’t look like a gunslinger.”  The child said, eyeing Travis up.

“Well I got the paper to prove it.” Abe said as he pulled out a folded copy of the story and handed it to the kid.

The boy’s eyes widened in amazement.  “Really?  That’s swell!  Hey mister!  Can I have your autograph?”

Travis’ face turned beet red as he made a move towards the barn when his coworkers grabbed him by the arms and pushed him towards the kid.

“Go on!”  They cajoled.  “Give the kid an autograph.”

“I ain’t got a pen!”  Travis protested as he reluctantly walked towards the boy.

“Gee mister,” the boy said as he stretched out his hand.  “I’ve never met a real gunslinger before!”

“You still haven’t.”  Travis muttered as he shook the boy’s hand.

“What was that mister?”

“I said Travis.  You can call me Travis.”  He lied, covering his true remarks.

The child shook his hand even more vigorous.  “Gee!  That’s Swell!”

Travis pulled his arm away before the kid could shake it off.  “That’s good enough, kid.”

The boy was rapt with enthusiasm.  “Can I get your autograph, Travis?”

“I’d like to help, but I don’t have a pen or paper to write on.”  Travis said rather relieved.

The child pouted for a moment before Abe thrust a pen in Travis’ face.

“Here ya go!”  He chipped.  “I got you a pen.  And some paper to write on, too!”

The boy’s face beamed brightly as Travis dourly grabbed the items.  “Thanks, Abe.”

“Don’t mention it.”  He quipped back.

Travis roughly signed his name as the child asked him,  “How do I grow up to be a great gunslinger like you?”

“It’s easy.”  Travis replied, handing over the paper.  “Say your prayers, do your chores, and eat your green vegetables?”

The child looked up with horror.  “All of them?”  He asked.

“All of them.”  Travis echoed while stealing a look at the child’s pretty mother.  “Especially the spinach.  It’ll make you strong.”

The mother smiled as Travis winked at her.

“Well, ok.”  The boy agreed unsure.

The mother took her son’s hand to lead him away.  “We have to go now, Tommy. The train’s coming.”

They hurried off as the boy waved happily.  “Thank you!  Good bye!”

The child tripped and almost fell off the platform when the conductor caught him.

“Pay attention, son!”  He admonished.  “What so important that you can’t see to walk?”

Tommy handed held up the paper and autograph for the conductor to see.  “That’s Six-gun Travis over there.  He’s the fastest gun in the west!”

The conductor scanned the article and signature before handing them back.  “Well I’ll be…”

Three weeks later a strange came to town.  Steely eyed and stone silent he cut a path of intimidation wherever he went.

He didn’t say much except for one word, “Travis.”

The townsfolk just shuddered and pointed the way, and in little time he had  found his man.

“Travis Morgan?”  He asked to a man holding a calf to the ground.

“Yes.”  Travis replied before looking up to see who was calling.

His face fell as he heard the stranger say, “I’m calling you out.”

The townsfolk scattered as the Stranger strode to the middle of the road.  Travis was pacing behind.

“But it’s not my fault.  I never said anything…”  Travis argued.

“Don’t matter who said it.”  The stranger stated coldly.   “All that matters is that people believe it.  Now I gotta fix it.  That means fixing you!”

“What if I pay to have the papers renounce me and correctly state that you’re the fastest gun in the west?”  Travis offered.

“Too late.”  The stranger countered.  “Too many people think otherwise.”

“What if I just run and never come back?”  Travis asked.

The stranger’s eyes tightened.  “I’ll just hunt you down.”

“But I don’t even have a gun!” Travis protested.

“Well then get one or I’ll plug you with your hands plum naked!”  Barked the stranger.

A store keeper ran over and handed Travis his gun and belt.

“It’s a shopkeepers model.”  He said as he helped Travis put on the belt and tie the leg thong.  “Short barrel.  Quicker to draw.”

“Stop squakin’ and get out of the way before I shoot you too!”  The stranger yelled to the store owner.

“How we gonna do this?”  Travis asked, mortified at the situation.

“Easy.”  The stranger drawled.  “I’ll let you skin leather first and then I’ll pull.  I recon you’re so slow that I could pull, kill you, and reholster before you even clear leather.”

Travis felt sick to his stomach.

“O.   Ok.”  Travis stammered as he put his shaking hand on the grip of the revolver.  “On the count of three.  One…  Two…”

Suddenly the gates threw open and the cattle in the corral stampeded right on top of the stranger.  Travis’ co-workers screaming and yelling behind to urge the cattle on.

After the dust and confusion settled, everyone stood over the broken remains of the stranger.  Antonio pulled the revolver from the stranger’s holster.

“Here.  Take it.”  Anotnio said to Travis as he handed him the gun.  “Something tells me you’re going to need it.”