Cowhand's love of nature is stifled by an injury.
The wood on the fire burned in the open field making sharp pops and cracks in the air, as long licks of its flame both lit the terrain, while fanning the early night sky above in its warmth. The indigo blue heavens above revealed the universe, a single star at a time as the Earth, cooling, seemed to sigh, letting the day's energy go in gentle relieving brisk breezes. Crickets unseen climbed the tall dry grass to begin their nightly, frenzied concert in the dark. From the shadows of the land an Owl,unseen, on occasion adds its hoot to the unending screech of the crickets which begin filling the air.
Two stood over the injured young man while one, on knees, tended to the fallen cowhands injuries. Men of the land, they were. The men standing kept their eyes on the land for Coyote, Bobcat and any that might stray curiously into the light. Indian born, they knew and loved the land. They were part of the land. Neither man spoke much. Many words weren't needed between them. The air whipped and howled in their ears as the dark blanket of night continued to limit their vision as night concealed the earth around them.
The third hand was, an older man, having left city life long ago, worked with much experience begins to dress the injuries of the young hand. There was a calm in his voice.
“You will be fine. You've broken it for sure, but it’ll heal. I will, have to put a splint on it.”
The young Cowhand pushing his weigh up onto his elbows, gritting his teeth, as he lifts his head, a bit, says “Do, what you gotta, Old man.”
They exchange short smiles. Then the young man letting his head fell back, prepared himself. He started to count the stars as they began coming out, to distract himself. Every night was beautiful he thought, and though he was in great pain, this night was no different. As the Old man continued to work, he glanced about. everyone and everything within the reach of the fires glow seemed to flicker with the dance of the flames. The sharp snap of a well consumed log breaks to spill a flame of ember into the night air. Longbow, the old of the two others, without words kneels to tend to it.
“OK. I’m going to have to straighten it up to put the splint on. I’ll kill off some of the pain with a shot, but it still going to hurt.” says the old man.
“I need a drink…. I need a drink, Give me a drink.” whispered the young man.
“Longbow, give him some of the whisky and hold his chest down for me.”
Without words or hesitation the cowhand summoned retrieved a small brown bottle and gently lifting his head, did as instructed.
“I’m going to count to three.”says the Old man.
The young man found and closed his eyes. Biting hard on a stick Longbow had handed him, Jerking his head around a little, he indicated, that he was ready.
The young man earlier had gotten his leg wedged between two rocks while lassoing a stray calf. He had the calf in his rope as his foot became caught. He had been warned about having the rope wrapped around his wrist, but paid little attention to it as it had the advantage of helping him hang on to the rope better. But today he learned its disadvantage, as the rope did not release him and his leg was broken when he fell towed by the calf to the side.
The old man removed a syringe he had injected him with and prepared himself to yank the leg hard. It was a bloody mess but he knew it had to be done, before he could wrap it.
Spitting the stick from his mouth, The young man speaks, "It's getting very cold, old man".
The Old man and the others exchange quick emotionless glances at each other, then continue.
Longbow gives him the stick again. The Old man says, "OK boy, it will just take a second…on three. Ready?
Even with the local anesthetic, the young man's body yanked back in a spasm that nearly threw Longbow off his chest.
A muffled Aghhh! Spitting the stick out of his mouth angered and in pain, he yelled, You son of a bitch, you said on three.
“And I did my friend, I did.” said the old man. The old man continued to tend to him. And when he was near done.
Longbow turned to the old man with solemn face. The old man saw in his eyes he wanted to know was there truth in the words he spoke earlier about his condition. The old man returned a half smile saying.
“He may not dance much at the ball…, but he’ll walk again.”
The old man finished applying the splint to his leg and then, wrapping his bruised wrist sat back and asked.
"See anyone yet John?"
The Indian who was still looking over the land calmly said, “No.”
The old man looked at his watch saying to himself. They can’t be too far away. As for the young man, he was trying to lie still as the periodic bolts of pain coursing through his body made him mentally leave the range behind. With each spasm his thoughts jumped to more complicated times, places and situations of his past. He had come to love the land and struggled not to leave it, even in his thoughts. He was, after all,... a Cowhand. And, as a Cowhand he embraced the ideas of the land as his mattress, the stones as his pillows and the sky his blanket. The life of a cow hand demanded much of the men and women that accept the challenges of living life on the range. But his emotions began to well within him, he knew he was going back to the concrete and asphalt, the sounds of motors, sirens and idle chatter.
All was quiet, for awhile; none spoke. They all waited. Nature, spoke to them now. It was as they loved it… peaceful. Then John broke the silence.
He was staring into the Western sky. All took account, but the young Cowhand. The young man didn't need or want to look.
“You’ll see a doctor soon. You’ll be alright son,” said the old man, as the faint, egg beater sound of the company chopper grew nearer.
The horses stirred, made uncomfortable by the approach of the machine.
As the old man finished strapping the young man in, the young man grabbed his collar pulling him close, so to speak to him, under the deafening sounds of the choppers blades. The old man shouted back.
And as the chopper lifted from the ground to complete its mission, the young man strapped on its side closed his eyes. Feeling plucked from the ground and the world he loved. He cried while he could not be heard.
The three cowhands left behind stood quietly watching the machine leave, till the Earth had returned to its rhythm and then, without words, turned in for the night, each lying quietly by the fire.
Longbow glanced at the old man and smiled.
The Old man smiled back, “Yeah…, I liked him too.” he said. Well for a few months he’ll be free from our work.”
John then asked, “Hey Ben, what did he say to you?”
The old man laid his head down and said, "Oh, just that…, he’ll be back." And rolled over, to sleep, and the rhythm of the night returned.
Re-Written by Dayna Ferguson
Written for the Writers Cramp Competition. The original was the Winner of First Prize
On 11-4-11 this story prior to the inclusion of some edit's, made with the aide of some of you reviewer's out there, won the Writer's Cramp Competition.
The extension of this story was prompted by many of you who asked that I spend a little more time with it, and I have. I hope this satisfies. It took me awhile but I was away where getting to the site was difficult. But I have returned to write.-- 5-29/14