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Rated: 13+ · Other · Western · #1825503
An old cowboy teaches some young cowboys a lesson
Snuffy Collins slouched in his rocking chair on the porch, enjoying our embarrassment. We were fools sure, but not of our own making. Our tormentor stood in the middle of the corral, hooves dug defiantly into the loose dust regarding us with the disdain of a truly wild creature.

The black colt had been among the dozen unbroken ponies we drove in a couple of weeks earlier. The contemptuous gleam in his golden eye, combined with the arrogance of our youth ensured that we left him until last.

As top hand, I had first shot at breaking him when it came time for the inevitable showdown between man and beast. The youngest of the boys roped the colt and threw a jacket across his face. When he settled, they gently slipped a hackamore of braided hair over its head. Finally, they threw the saddle onto the pony’s black coated back. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, the boys were able to draw the cinches tight under his belly, anchoring the saddle for me to mount.

Pulling my gauntlets on, I stepped forward and grasped the pommel. With practiced ease, I pulled myself up into the saddle, ignoring the nervous sidestepping of my new mount.

“Let him go, boys”, I shouted. The boys pulled the old coat from the colt’s face and retreated to the safety of the railing fence.

No sooner than I had uttered those words, I found myself sailing through the dusty air, my limbs flailing impotently. I landed face first in the dust a few feet from the assembled cowboys. I staggered to my feet and climbed the rails to the jeers and laughter of my buddies, my shoulder as painful as my pride.

“Thank you kindly, Burt.” It was Abe Bean, next in seniority. “I didn’t think I was gonna get a run on this old hurricane deck.” He grinned through his greying whiskers when as he climbed into the saddle and whipped the makeshift blindfold from the colt’s face.

The horse lurched backward, throwing its hindquarters in the air. Grinning, Abe held firm, for a moment. When the hind hooves bit into the dirt, the horse went forward, and Abe went backward. He cartwheeled to the ground, landing flat on his back in the dust. He lay cussing for a moment, before rising and staggering to safety among the laughing cowboys.

And so it went. The black colt thrashed and bucked his way through the outfit. Snuffy hooted and chortled from his shady position, offering some of the younger casualties gems of sage advice like “Next time don’t fall off” and “My grandma rode bronc’ better than you.”

The sun still rode high when the black bronco ran out of able bodied victims. The good natured laughter had given way to pained moans and cussing.

Snuffy leaned back in his rocking chair and pulled his watch from his vest pocket. Frowning, he said, “I didn’t think it was dinner time.” He put the watch away. “What’re y’all doing lollygagging around for?”

“Lollygagging?” I gestured around with my good arm. “It’s the god damned battle of Gettysburg. Or the burning of Atlanta. Or something.”

“You call yourselves cowboys. You let an animal beat you.”

“That’s an outlaw, Boss. He can’t be rode by any man.”

“Outlaw?” He screwed his weather beaten face up as though the word was poison. Rising from his rocker, he said “I’ll show you a god damned outlaw.”

Mrs Collins was in the kitchen with Myers and Austin Green, stitching the younger brother’s right eyebrow back together. “Norbert,” She called out when she heard him get out of his rocker. “Norbert, you better not be thinking of riding that horse.”

“No, dear, I was just talking to Burt, out here.”

“Well, just see you don’t.” She ignored the howls of her patient. “You know it makes your sciatica act up.”

Like a duck with a bad back, Snuffy hobbled over to the corral, whispering. “Get that damn outlaw ready.”

The less maimed boys gathered in the black colt, whose flanks were now thick with dust and sweat, and threw the ragged jacket over his face to calm him.

Snuffy climbed the fence and cautiously approached the standing horse. Whispering in the creature’s ear, he climbed into the saddle.

“Let him buck, boys,” he called, and the boys pulled the blindfold away.

The colt stood for a moment, staring at the walking wounded assembled in front of it, and then leapt upward, its body rippling from forequarters backward.

Snuffy held his seat though, and let out an excited “yeehaaa” as the colt touched down. Undaunted, the colt sunfished, arching his back toward the sun while thrashing its body side to side in the air.

Daylight was clearly visible between Snuffy’s bony butt and the saddle as horse and rider rose and fell, but still he stayed on.

The colt twisted as he touched down, and the rear girth strap gave way. Feeling the pressure released, the horse snorted, and threw its hind quarters upward, the forward motion dragging the saddle up on to its sweat flecked shoulders. Snuffy had no time to shift in his seat before he was thrown forward, landing against the muscular neck, his face buried in its dusty mane.

When he didn’t fall, the bronco reared lifting its weight up and back, trying to shake him off. Spitting out the squashed wreckage of his cigar, Snuffy clung to the reins. He was secure until the braided hair of the hackamore gave way, sending him tumbling backward in the saddle.

A collective gasp rose from our group, and a few of the less crippled of us leapt down from the fence to go pick him up. They looked up and retreated as the colt flashed past them, Snuffy grasping its bushy tail with one hand, and a foot hooked in the stirrup.

A rising pall of dust obscured our view of the struggling pair. Snuffy’s hat appeared above the cloud, followed closely by one of his boots. Both disappeared abruptly as the bronco lost its footing and rolled, taking Snuffy with it.

Another involuntary gasp rose from our group, followed by a relieved sigh as the pony came up again, with Snuffy firmly attached to its mane with both hands and nothing else. His filthy hat was squashed down on his head and one boot had disappeared in the melee.

The enraged beast threw itself and Snuffy against the fence rails, splintering the wood. Sensing liberty, the horse forced its way through the newly made gap. Once it had cleared the splintered wooden railings, the black horse made a break for freedom, with Snuffy still clinging tight to its neck.

The struggling pair disappeared between the tack shed and the bunk house in a swearing cloud of dust and hooves, leaving a single crumpled boot standing forlorn in the corral. We stared at each other and the rapidly diminishing pall of yellow dust, not sure just what to say. "Well," said Abe as he pushed his sweat stained hat back on his lined forehead. "That's something you don't see every day."

"We better go find him, I guess," I said as I slipped awkwardly between the railings and headed for the battered Ford truck parked in the shade of the house. Abe climbed through the open side of the cabin and set himself down on the seat next to me as one of the younger, less maimed hands turned the crank handle. When the motor rattled to life I pulled the throttle and we were shuddering across the yard.

One of the boys passed Snuffy's boot to Abe as we swung past the corral. He peered into it. "Well, his foot ain't in it; that's a good sign."

The forty dollar saddle was laying smashed a little way on down the road. We lifted it on the wooden decked tray of the truck, careful to avoid getting stuck on the wickedly spiked splinters that punctured the ripped leather.

We found Snuffy's hat a mile down the road, squashed flat. "Better check he ain't under there," I said as Abe slid stiff-backed out of the cab. He sat it on the wide bench seat between us, and we drove on, following the trail of dust that wafted gently in the still summer air.

A few minutes further down the road, we spied Snuffy himself hobbling in our direction beside the road, a dusty boot in his hand. "Goin' my way, boys?" he asked when we pulled up.

"That's some shiner, Snuffy," said Abe in response. "You look like you gone ten rounds with Jack Dempsey."

He fingered the dark swelling under his right eye. "Yeah, son of a gun got me a good one when I wasn't lookin'."

"Want your hat?"

"Just a second." He ran his fingers through the tousled grey shrubbery sprouting in all directions from his scalp, then pulled a twig from the mess .He took his hat and jammed it down over the untidy crop. "Shove over Abe." He winced as he climbed in.

" I don't see that outlaw nowheres," I said a little satisfied.

'"Outlaw, be damned." His dirty moustache bristled. "I rode that son of a gun half way to Cheyenne."

He was silent for a moment. "He didn't beat me. My sciatica started acting up and I had to get off 'fore it got too bad."

"uh huh, I hear y'all sayin' it boss." I said, unconvinced.

"Anyways, it don't matter. 'Fore I jumped, I talked him into finishing it off this time next year.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." He pulled a crushed cigar from his vest pocket and clamped it in his jaws. " I bet the lowdown son of a bitch is too scared show up."

Laughing, we turned for home.

WDC word count: 1641
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